ASCB Career Development Article
Developing Your 30-Second Value Statement
By Alaina G. Levine
Every time you engage someone in conversation, you are communicating something about yourself. Whether this is your first interaction with a person or your 97th, one thing remains the same with every discussion: it is essential that you communicate your promise of value. Most of the time, you don’t have an hour to go into detail about your thesis. You may have only a few seconds to share what your special skills are and why another party should be interested in learning more. This is the essence of the 30-second value statement.
Also called an elevator pitch, 30-second commercial, or brand statement, the value statement is simple – it articulates your unique problem-solving abilities, and your promise to deliver excellence, dependability and expertise in whatever you do. It is a critical element of career advancement – you need to be able to concisely and quickly explain to others your talents and the benefits you provide in order to convince them to partner with you – whether it is for a job, fellowship, internship, information exchange, or research collaboration.
Professionals in every occupation find it challenging to distill all of their value into a swift, precise and concise statement. But scientists have a unique advantage. By your very nature, you are top-notch problem-solvers and you already have experience convincing others of this fact, either through grant proposals, job applications, and even poster presentations. You can easily take your longer declarations of value and convert them into an easily-digestible 30-second value statement that will encourage others to want to learn more about you and how you can solve their problems. Here are some tips to think about as you craft and deliver your 30 second statement of value:
1) Note the strategic connection between your promise of value (also called a brand), your attitude and your reputation, and all three work together to influence career progression. The trio serves as the foundation for networking, cultivating mutually-beneficial relationships, and accessing and assessing hidden opportunities.
- Your brand is about expectations- it represents the excellence others can expect from you, and how you will deliver on that promise. It encompasses your unique skills, experience, accomplishments and the benefits you provide another party.
- Your attitude is the calling card of your brand – it demonstrates how others should treat you and vice versa, and it solidifies your professionalism, or your seriousness about your craft. Your attitude is extremely important because it is communicates your brand to new and known parties alike. Do you approach discussions with energy, enthusiasm, confidence, and professionalism? Do you arrive on time for appointments and work hard to solve the problems until they are resolved? Do you practice proper etiquette in interactions, meals, and online? Or do you do the opposite? Perception equals truth in the minds of the publics, and we want to ensure that your attitude communicates the truth about your brand. Know this: hiring managers will make decisions about your brand based on how they view your attitude, so make sure that you always interact with others in the most appropriate, professional, and enthusiastic way possible.
- Your reputation is what people know about your brand - it is the linchpin in your career advancement goals. Your reputation is your most important asset- the more decision-makers know about you, your promise of value, your talents, expertise and attitude, the more they are going to five you access to hidden, game-changing opportunities. These could be positions that are not advertised, invitations to serve on committees or in leadership roles, and chances to interact and partner with major decision-makers.
2) Note what a value statement should include:
- Your unique blend of skills, experience and expertise
- Your problem-solving abilities
- Your overarching goals
- The benefit you provide the other party
- Your competitive advantage
A basic template for your value statement can include:
- Your name – say it clearly, slowly and loudly so others can hear it, especially if it is challenging to pronounce (like mine!)
- Your current position – “I am a postdoc in the lab of Dr. X at the University of A. Our focus is B and C.”
- Your experience – “I am currently working on Y”
- One or two strengths and accomplishments
- Your goal – “I am looking for an opportunity in Z, where I can utilize my D and E skills and expertise.”
- The benefit to that person and/or their organization – “I can solve your problems by…”
- Note that your value statement will change slightly depending on the audience, interaction. And venue.
As you begin to build your value statement, think about who the audiences will be. You should develop a boilerplate value statement, as well as customized versions, depending on the venue, the needs of the other party, and your immediate objectives. For example, the value statement that you deliver at a career fair while interacting with recruiters will differ from one you articulate to a potential PI who engages you during your poster session at the ASCB Conference, or a “stranger” with whom you chat on an airplane. Furthermore, the way the value statement is communicated will also depend on the ecosystem – if it is via correspondence, social media, in-person or during an interview.
- Practice, and be prepared to expand and discuss your accomplishments further.
Rehearse different versions of your value statement depending on the audience and ecosystem. And once you start delivering your value statement, if you do it well, others will want to know more about you. So be ready to follow up and go into detail about any of the information you share.
- Enter the first ever ASCB “Elevator Speech” Contest!
For the first time, ASCB is sponsoring an “Elevator Speech” Contest to be held at the 52nd Annual Meeting in December 2012. Participants will have either 60 seconds or 120 seconds to deliver their value statement which will be videotaped and judged by ASCB members. And even if you won’t be attending, you can email your video to email@example.com to be considered. This is the perfect opportunity to craft and practice your value statement for professionals in your community. Take advantage of this awesome chance to learn how to appropriately communicate your value! More information can be found on the ASCB Annual Meeting website.
- Learn from the questions your peers asked during the webinar.
During the recent webinar, several participants asked questions, including:
Q: How does one make the value statement of interest to cold calls?
A: A cold call, or cold email, is an interaction with someone with whom you have not previously met. It is a very important step in building a relationship, and ultimately a win-win partnership, with a professional. It sets the stage for every interaction you have with the individual and their organization now and in the future, and since first impressions are so critical, we want to ensure that the value statement you deliver during a cold interaction is one that truly represents your brand and attitude and serves to solidify and amplify your reputation in a positive light. The key to making the value statement of interest to someone you haven’t met previously is understanding the audience and their needs and respecting their time. Don’t simply call someone and start talking their ear off. Always begin every phone call with “My name is X and I am a postdoc in Y. I was interested in speaking with you about a. Is this a good time to chat briefly?” If they answer in the affirmative, then this is when you deliver your value statement. If they answer in the negative, ask if you can make an appointment for an informational interview, and then follow up with an email where you delineate your value statement.
Q: For industry interviews, during questions and discussion, after the value statement, do they want to know what your ideas for new projects would be or just how you would fit in well with their existing projects?
A: It is probably a little of both. They definitely want to see that you will fit into the culture of the organization and be able to contribute value to their group immediately. They need to know that you are a team player and that your values align with theirs. But of course they are also interested in your creativity and expertise and how those attributes can advance the organization, perhaps even in a new direction.
Q: Business cards are not common in academia. How do you think that would be received in events like at ASCB?
A: Although business cards are not very common in academic circles, they are still a mark of professionalism. As an emerging scientific leader, it is important for you to demonstrate your professionalism and dedication to your field and craft. Therefore, having a business card will not hurt you at all. In fact, after chatting with a new contact at the ASCB Annual Meeting, the act of handing them your business card and asking for theirs so you can follow up with them in the near future, will most likely be treated with respect. And of course having that card handy, with your contact info and even a couple of words or phrases outlining your area of expertise, will be appreciated and noted as a sign of someone who truly means business.
Alaina G. Levine is a science and engineering career consultant, writer, Contributor to National Geographic, professional speaker, and comedian. She is president of Quantum Success Solutions, a science/engineering career and professional development consulting enterprise, and the author of over 100 articles in publications like Science, Scientific American, Smithsonian, New Scientist, COSMOS and IEEE Spectrum. She can be contacted through her website at www.alainalevine.com.
Copyright, 2012, Alaina G. Levine