No matter how much you’ve accomplished in your last role, it doesn’t necessarily mean prior successes will translate into a positive career step. Regardless of planned career progression and personal career planning and development, it is often the case that the best jobs only come around once in a while, and not always when you’re expecting them. How prepared are you to act on an unplanned opportunity if one should cross your path?

Through the searches we have performed, we know a thorough plan of preparation and evaluation means that you will be well prepared for an opportunity, especially when you don’t expect it. What if a recruiter called you today? Would you be ready?

We see many talented people miss out on their dream job because they aren’t ready when the opportunity presents itself. To avoid this disappointment, follow these important points:

1. Is Your Elevator Speech Working?

Do you even have one? While a basic elevator speech is simple in concept, it is not an easy exercise to master. Can you really tell people about yourself in a couple of sentences and feel like you didn’t leave anything important out? It’s also critical that your speech sounds natural, unrehearsed, and leaves the other party saying, “tell me more”, and not “let me out!”.

For those professionals early in their career, it is easy to feel lacking in experience, which may lead to an overreach on accomplishments and industry knowledge. It’s also rather common that these professionals sell themselves short on the talents, qualities, and characteristics which is where they should be focusing. This could lead them to be too heavy in trying to highlight an area of potential weakness and leave out areas of strength.

For those who have accomplished a great deal in their career, how do you begin to fit it all into a short speech? Or worse yet, a candidate says, “I don’t know where to start.” In these situations, it is imperative to clearly understand the desired role, and highlight experiences in your prior history that mesh well with what is wanted by the organization. This may require you to do some research, reach out to your network, or talk to a recruiter or search professional who can help you gain more insight into this role so you can tailor your elevator speech accordingly.

Having a strong elevator speech also helps during the interview process. If you look at it from this perspective, interviewing for any role with will probably entail interviewing with 4 to 6 people, and for any role of greater significance, potentially ten or more people. Many of those interviews will begin by asking repetitive questions, and you will need to establish yourself and your background again and again throughout the day. Telling someone about yourself becomes easier if you have an idea of what you want to convey than trying to reinvent your statement from scratch each time. As an applicant under constant scrutiny from the interviewing team, they will debrief and share their thoughts and impressions of you. Consistency will help you come across as reliable and genuine, and your clear and concise elevator statement will shine throughout the interview process.

2. Do You Know What You Really Want?

Wait. Think about that question again, and this time more slowly. If there were a six-figure plus check sitting in front of you right now, could you answer that question and not feel any hesitancy or regret?

When working with candidates, we want to know their ‘bottom line’; in other words, what are the non-negotiable items in your next career? As you should suspect, this goes well beyond just the financial implications of the next opportunity, and this is something we all struggle with to some extent in our careers. You first have to do your homework about the organization. You should have a clear understanding of their mission and values and how those will align with you and your experiences. You should consider who you will be reporting to and what your work-life balance expectations would be. You would hate to find you’ve earned the title and pay you’ve always dreamed of only to be miserable in the next step in your career because you didn’t do your research.

3. Don’t Just Tell Me You Can do the Job, What Is Your Vision?

Your past successes have set a platform for you to have new potential opportunities for the future. Now that you have your elevator speech down and define your bottom line, what’s next?

Bring a vision of what you want will bring to your next opportunity. A candidate that can do the research and share a vision of how they will bring success to their next role will have the edge. Always think about what you are going to do next and how to share that with others. It is important that the people you may be interviewing with have an idea of where you see your story going. This accomplishes two things: first, this lets them see you as a leader. Second, it gives them a flavor of cultural fit. If you’re aligning with them, they understand your story, and they are with you, the relationship has a better chance of success in the long run. If there isn’t alignment you may have avoided a bad career move.

4. Your Resume….Is It Ready To Go?

As we shared in one of our previous pieces “4 Reasons Your Resume Will Get Shredded“, your resume is still your calling card. It is the basis of conversations that recruiters and potential employers will use to learn about you. Make it the tool it needs to be to help you in your next career move by making sure it is always updated and ready.

If you work on these 4 items, you will be prepared should that opportunity arise on short notice and a step ahead of your competition for this next role. Homework, self-reflection, planning, and forethought will help make you stand out even in the most competitive of searches when opportunity presents.

Larry Trilops

Larry Trilops

Co-Founder, Managing Partner

Larry Trilops is the Principal Advisor for Square Up Executive Search and Healthcare Advisors. Square Up is a healthcare firm that searches for leadership talent for organizations and provides advisory services to clients, focusing on ambulatory strategies, innovations, and program implementations. Our years of experience and expertise differentiates the talent and solutions we provide to clients.