This article, Career Advice: Demonstrate Professional Expertise, by Dr. Lynn Friedman a master career counselor and psychologist in Washington DC was previously published in the Washington Post

You know the kind of setting in which you would like to work. You have created a risk free, non-threatening “free sample” that positions you in the best possible light. But, now, how do you create a persuasive pitch that allows you to sell yourself? And, how do you get past the secretary? Here are some steps to consider:

Identify the key gatekeepers at the organization. Ask around.

Your friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances may know and be able to identify key gatekeepers. Also, have a friend call and ask the operator or the secretary to identify the people in the relevant roles. Your friend can simply ask who is the head of marketing. Be sure to obtain the gatekeeper’s name, address, email address and fax number. Also, obtain the name of the gatekeeper’s secretary too!

Career Advice: Demonstrate Professional Expertise

Creating a pitch for your program.

Follow this career advice: demonstrate your expertise by articulating the benefits associated with your program. For example, if you are an accountant offering a continuing education program to attorneys, describe how they will benefit from the program. Link your benefits to the bottom line. Will they save money? Will they help their clients more effectively? Will they meet a continuing education requirement? What about your “free” program makes it of special interest to the gatekeeper? Make a benefit statement in a sentence or two. Write it. Test it out on your friends and colleagues. The key here is that your benefit statement should be extremely clear and easy to understand. And, remember to focus on the program’s benefits, not its features!

Create your personal pitch.

Your personal pitch should provide a response to the question, “Okay, so we believe that your program will be useful, but, why should you be the one to offer it?” In creating your personal pitch, you need to tout your most impressive credentials. This varies from business to business.If your most impressive credential is:


You may have done the program before, in a different place or in front of a different audience. You can say, “In the last 15 years, I have developed a program in which (now, add your benefit statement).Or, if you have no experience with your program but have considerable experience in your industry, “I have been a Certified Public Accountant for more than 15 years and I have discovered that an important, yet easy-to-rectify gap in most estate attorneys’ background is ___.

The prestige of the place where you work

If you can say, “Hello, Mr. Smith, for many years I have worked at_______as a _______. I have developed a program in which ___.”


Incorporate that into your personal pitch. You can say, “Hello, Ms. Jones, I am an attorney with extensive training in ___.”

The stature of the institution in which you earned your degree

Integrate that into your pitch. “Ever since I completed my undergraduate work at Harvard, I have been committed to ___.”

The reputation of your collaborators

Incorporate that into your pitch. “I have been working with a team of engineers from Hopkins and Georgetown to ___.”Now you are ready to make contact with your key gatekeeper. How do you get past the secretary? To contact the gatekeeper, choose one of three strategies: snail mail, email or a phone call. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Snail mail is formal. Email is less formal. Both have the added advantage of allowing you to carefully delineate your pitch, without any interruption. You avoid the secretary. Email makes it easier for the gatekeeper to contact you. Of course, not everyone appreciates the informality of email.

You may want to call the gatekeeper. Before doing so, role play your pitch with a friend. Ask your friend to play the most difficult scenarios, including that of the over-protective secretary.

To get past the secretary, try calling before or after work hours. People often answer their own phone when they stay late. If you do get the secretary, open the conversation by addressing the secretary by name, “Hello, Mrs. Smith, this is Bob Jones, I’d like to talk to Mr. Gatekeeper, please.” You may get lucky, she may assume that she should know you, after all, you know her, and she may connect you.

Alternatively, she may say, “May I ask what this is in regard to?” Say something like, “It is in regard to a professional matter” or “It is complicated, I am sure you understand.” Or, if you have sent an email, you can say “It is in regard to the email that I sent.” If you are refused, you may want to ask the secretary if she will put you through to the gatekeeper’s voice mail. If she will, use that forum to make your personal pitch.

Here’s more career advice: demonstrate professional expertise through social media.

Interested in career counseling, psychotherapy or the interface of career and psychology, Dr. Lynn Friedman, master career counselor and psychologist in Washington DC welcomes your call: 301.656.9650. To reach me most easily, please leave your day and evening numbers and the time that it’s best to reach you.

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