Whether you call it your 30-second Commercial, Elevator Speech, or Personal Marketing Pitch (which is the official Career Horizons lingo), every job seeker needs to develop a clear, concise message they can use to quickly educate people about their career interests and objectives.

Unfortunately, many of the standard “sound bites” candidates employ leave quite a bit to be desired and have the opposite effect intended, turning potential network contacts off, and driving them away, instead of enlisting them as positive, useful allies in one’s job search campaign.   These ineffective messages are often plagued by common flaws such as being too long, too unfocused, too needy, or simply too “canned” to impart any real stickiness or lasting marketing value.

So how can you improve this mission-critical message?  Here are three tried-and-true tips to keep in mind:

1)  Focus on the future, not the past. In general, people have a very short attention span when it comes to listening to somebody rattle off their career history.  So after ticking off just one or two key former moments of glory, shift your message out of the past and into a forward-looking discussion that outlines the types of problems you want to solve for employers in the weeks, months, and years ahead.  The moment you catch yourself reciting your resume, you’re in trouble!  Remember, you’ve already been paid for everything accomplished in the past.  What problems will employers pay you to solve for them now?

2)  Avoid “scripting” your message at all costs. With virtually all job search communications, you merely want to think through and create a rough outline of key talking points to address, not write the entire message out word-for-word.  The moment you start trying to develop a script — or worse yet, to memorize one — you’re sunk!  Not only will you sound like a robot (written English sounds much different than conversational English) but you’ll be saddling yourself with way too much performance anxiety.

3)  Go out on a limb and add an emotional component. After listening to hundreds of different job seekers describe their goals, it’s clear to me that one key element separates a great, inspiring answer from a lackluster one.  Those people who sprinkle compelling emotional language into their communications — “The kinds of problems I’d love to solve are…” or “The business challenges that fascinate me the most are..” — always end up setting themselves apart from the pack.  At a certain level, our personal lives and careers are becoming increasingly intertwined, so nothing makes a more positive impression than a person who infuses energy, enthusiasm, and passion into what they do for a living.

As always, practice makes perfect — so once you’ve assessed whether your career infomercial stands to benefit from the above suggestions, make sure to run through it until it flows smoothly!