Despite the appearance of ‘fate’, tales of people turning chance meetings with strangers into career opportunities is rarely an accident. Sydney business founder, Trena Blair is a case in point. Seven years ago, she set her career off on a new trajectory after answering one question from a stranger sitting beside her at a graduation ceremony at the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
She answered the stranger’s question in eight words and in less than 30 seconds. These eight words turned the stranger into her first client. But they were no part of an off-the-cuff response. They were words carefully chosen and curated after months of thinking and defining for herself what her ‘pitch’ was.
As someone who has been advising expats on re-entering the Australian job market for the last 10 years, a clear position or pitch is an expat’s most valuable tool. But it is a tool that doesn’t come easy. Finding the right handful of words to sum up what could be a 10, 20 or 30 year career abroad is often the most challenging part of the entire job search process. Expats are often coming home from larger markets and have the added challenge of having to translate a career or expertise which may not exist or be valued in the same way back at home. Pitches or descriptions that assume prior knowledge overseas, may not work in Australia.
As a result, I often find expat jobseekers avoiding the positioning challenge all together and instead they distract themselves by focusing all their energy on the 1000+ word CV.
However, the risk with this is that avoiding the work on your verbal positioning ultimately undermines the quality of your CV. A CV without an underlying position is the equivalent of your career being a bowl of spaghetti being thrown at a wall to see what sticks. You are asking the job market to tell you what your next job and career role will be – rather than the other way around.
What makes a good positioning statement
You can’t google an off the shelf positioning – every person’s positioning statement will and should be different. I recommend that a good positioning statement should be a mix of capability, curiosity and connection.
For capability, this is where you articulate your skill, passion and relevance. For example: “20-year marketing specialist in FMCG.
Your positioning should also build curiosity and interest. “20-year marketing specialist in FMCG with a focus on developing insight led strategy and customer focused innovation.”
It should end with a call to action around connection and opportunities. “20-year marketing specialist in FMCG with a focus on developing insight led strategy and customer focused innovation.” I am always keen to connect with Australian organisations and specialists who are commercialising new products and services or expanding into new regions. “
Once you have your positioning nailed, here is where it can comes in handy:
- The first few lines of your CV. Research tells us that hirers spend on average 15-20 seconds on the first scan of a CV. Naturally, this isn’t enough time to digest your achievements – but enough time for them to digest a clear, single line positioning statement to understand what you are all about.
- Networking events. Often people’s first response to the question ‘What do you do?’ is to rattle off their most recent employer and role title. This doesn’t necessarily work if you are newly returned repat using a job title and brand that isn’t familiar to the Australian market. This is when a clear positioning, adapted for the local market can be more effective. And it stops you rambling! Invariably and often just to break the ice, an interview will start with ‘Tell us a little more about yourself’. A positioning statement is an excellent way to open this conversation as it gives you control over how the following conversation around your skills and experience is framed.
- BBQ conversations. ‘Tis the season to be asked at every Christmas barbeque and family reunion, ‘So you are back from xyz, what are you up to now?’ You can use a version of your positioning statement to answer Cousin Greg’s question at the Christmas table and you never know who Cousin Greg knows these days! When expats return, friends and family often genuinely want to help – but don’t know how. A positioning statement that is easy to digest can help them – help you.
I will be running a workshop on positioning for recently returned expats or Australians sitting overseas preparing to come home on Wednesday 24 November. During the session, I will be sharing a template and tools for building a crisp positioning and as always, will be on hand to answer questions and provide feedback. Tickets available here if you would like to join. And to hear more of Trena Blair’s story about how a 30 second conversation changed her career, download [insert link] her interview on the podcast!