What’s Your Handle?

A picture of a door handle.


People pursuing career transition or simply a new job search need crisp, succinct ways of communicating what they’re looking for, and the skills, experiences and background that serve as their foundation.

I call it a “handle.” Something that gives somebody something to grab on to, or something that gives some stickiness – think of two sides of velcro sticking together.

Without it, there’s nothing for someone to grab on to – nothing that sticks – and the would-be recruiter, business partner or employer is left trying to hold water in their their hands. Instead of an open door, all you’ve left them is wet palms.

Similar (but not the same) as a brand, a handle provides you a framework to communicate your core story and for people to understand you in 3 minutes or less.

While the infamous elevator pitch or elevator speech is widely (and sometimes wildly) recommended to have in your repetoire, most of the time it’s a book title without the book; short and punchy but no substance underneath. As Gertrude Stein might note about most people’s elevator speeches, “there is no there, there.”

When I work with a client to develop their handle it’s based upon a deep assessment of what they done, what they might do, and the best way way to help them get from Point A to Point B (or C, D, or Z) with their career.

Your handle should have 3-5 key points; like the “shark cage” approached utilized by communications pro Tom Taggart, the idea is to have your key points reinforce each other and lead the conversant, such as an interviewer, to certain desired perceptions about you and your abilities.

The points, while independent of each other should, “layer.” Like good design, each of the key points should reinforce and inform each other. The takeaway for the listener should be a clear sense of what you’re about, where your skills and experiences fit into the career pattern called you, and where you might be headed in the your future.

Only when you have a decent handle can you make it easy for people to help you. Absent that handle, greased pigs can be easier to grasp than your story. Few doors got opened by greased pigs; a good working handle has been known to open more than a door or two.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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