Thank you to Bridget at J.B. Chicoine Unsupervised and at Large, whose email comment initiated a train of thought resulting in this post.
In my years of employment at a corporate headquarters, I was never a fan of “office-speak,” those clichéd phrases that percolate through the ranks. Lines such as:” There’s not enough band width on this one” made me cringe. After too much, “thinking outside the box” I longed to throw the container away, and when asked to “pick the low-hanging fruit,” I sighed. We weren’t “employees;” we were “associates,” which, I guess, is better then what Disney refers to as: “cast members” but still, can’t we just call it what it is? Apparently not. Toward the end, I squirmed in my seat when someone on the other end of the phone line told me, “We decided to re-purpose the meeting.” Ugh.
Even before it became personal, I despised the term “downsize.” Then it happened to me; and horror of horrors, “outplacement” meetings became a tool toward my own “re-purposing” and I gritted my teeth when asked to produce an “elevator speech.” However, in the spirit of moving forward, I spent the first months refining my goals and paring them down into a statement that could be expressed during the length of a ride from the bottom floor to the top. “I am an HR professional with skills in communication, writing, staff development, budget management and talent acquisition” (the last one another expression that caused a shudder). Then I never used it.
Now as a self-employed freelance copywriter, I have another of elevator speech, though sometimes, it's a struggle to communicate those few critical phrases designed to elicit interest. This became clear Saturday. Over the potato bins at the grocery store, a former senior executive at my old employer who had retired before the large layoff that swept me away, greeted me. Once he determined I was no longer with our old firm, he asked what I am doing now, and I bobbled it.
For the record: the speech should go as follows: “I have my own freelance business writing firm. I work with individuals and small businesses and focus on resumes, marketing materials, print and web advertising, flyers and business letters.” Instead, I looked down, looked up, and stumbled through: “Well I’ve been doing my own thing, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m copywriting. Resumes, marketing materials; here let me give you my card.” He smiled, pocketed it without looking at it and then moved on after wishing me well. It was evident that during that brief exchange, my plummeting elevator had jammed between floors.
Pushing my cart to the check-out, I mulled over the many things I could have told him. In the last eighteen months, I’ve developed my own copywriting business, created and written regularly in this blog, have been published in two print magazines and one on-line anthology. I volunteered weekly for the Council on Aging, took two courses, and successfully completed multiple freelance writing projects including business letters, fliers, resumes, Web language and email communications.
I work part-time job at a cheese and gourmet food shop and am beginning the process to sell my photographs, via 5”x7” note cards on the Web. Oh, and there is one more thing. I haven’t told many people this yet, and it may go no further than the bottom of the drawer in which it currently sits, but I’ve finished the first draft of a novel. (The catch here is if the book ever gets beyond its current stage, it will need an elevator speech too.)
I know—even if I were riding to the top of a fifty-floor tower, this recitation would be way too long, but packing up my purchases and pondering it, I smiled in relief. The art of pushing elevator buttons may be beyond me, but at least I can say that I’ve climbed a few flights of stairs.
What is your least favorite office-speak phrase?