“The things we create tower over us.” — Matt Dopkiss
I was watching an old college football game on ESPN Classic the other day. It was from the 80s.
My mom walked into the room.
“What’s the score?” she asked.
Not sure, I told her.
“How much time is left?” she asked.
No idea, I confessed.
“How many yards do they need for a first down?” she asked.
Uhhhhhh, I said.
There was no on-screen scoreboard. There was no clock. There was no yellow first-and-10 line.
I’d been watching this game for 15 minutes, and I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was looking at. I had a football game in front of me, that much I knew, but I didn’t have any context to understand it.
Early football games — and when I say early, I mean “as recently as 20 years ago” — didn’t give viewers even the most basic information on screen. And as a result, viewers like me often got left in the dark.
This is where you need to avoid your instincts. This isn’t the time to dish out a job title. You’re not talking to HR. You’ve got Bill Gates next to you!
You’ve been given a tiny window to wow him with your story.
But this situation isn’t just limited to people pitching a company or a product. Every single person needs to figure out their story — and how to pitch it.
So what’s your story? It’s a combination of your work and your passion. We need a little taste of what it is you make/build/do and a lot of why you do it. Your story is the thing that tells us why you’re great, and why we need to pay attention.
I’ve met Sam several times and each time I’ve been at an event with him I’ve heard his opening line, “My name is Sam Jones. I buy dead magazines.” He gets a stare every time. You can’t help but lean forward and want to hear what the next line is. He’s a master. He waits for a brief moment and lets the suspense build. He knows your next line in advance, “Excuse me? You do what?”
When I work with young reporters, I ask them how they’re pitching themselves for jobs. There are thousands of young reporters out there applying to the same small pool of jobs. To get one, you’ve got to stand out.
I encourage reporters to pitch themselves differently. Let everyone else send the standard cover letter. Instead, tell me: What do you do?
I build great communities around stories.
I use data to tell great stories.
I listen, I learn — and then I share with my readers.
Something like that can stand out. And when you brand it across your platforms — on your blog, your Twitter bio, your resume — it really drives the point home.
What you’ll learn is that it’s surprisingly easy to stand out. The masses are all doing the same thing. Even taking a few steps out of the mainstream will get you noticed.