Your next job – Pack your phrasebook

This guest blog post is from Miranda Birch, who draws on her journalistic background to help leaders to communicate more effectively. Here she shares what she learned about her own communication skills when she left the BBC. It could help you with that important job application.

Before I set up my own business, I worked at BBC Radio 4 on programmes like Woman’s Hour and Desert Island Discs.

As a producer, it was relatively straightforward if I wanted to apply for a job at another programme.

The role of producer had a set of core skills, which appeared on most job ads:

  •  Creativity: come up with original ideas, week in, week out.
  • Technical: edit programmes digitally, so no one can hear the joins.
  • Communication: write compellingly and concisely.  This included creating very short trails for Radio 4 announcers, so they could ‘advertise’ the next edition of your programme.

Lost in translation?

When I left the BBC and set up in business, I soon realised I had to translate my old radio skills for a new set of ‘bosses’ –  other business owners who had no idea who I was and couldn’t see how my 20+ years in programme-making  would help them to make more money.

In that sense these business owners are a bit like the panel members of your next job interview.

Your prospective bosses only have your CV to go on.

They’ll want proof of how the skills on your CV will benefit them. ‘Benefits’ for them might mean more money… or increased efficiency, reduced absenteeism or a more engaged team.

I had to replace my radio terminology with their commercial language.

Here’s an example to help you.

When I produced Desert Island Discs, I had to write a weekly 40 second trail about each guest. The topics ranged from nanotechnology to haute cuisine. So why should my new ‘bosses’ be interested in my ability to distil the best bits of a 45 minute programme into an advertisement of less than a minute?

Over time I created a phrasebook, which translated this ability to write concisely into clear benefits for other business owners.  I kept the phrases in my head, ready to use instantly when I was networking or pitching – my equivalent of a job interview.  This is what I rehearsed:

“In an overcrowded market, your business or you will only stand out if you express why you are different in a clear and compelling way. My trail writing experience at BBC Radio 4 makes sure you do that. Clients will instantly grasp your value because:

  • I understand your audiences and write from their point of view.
  • I find the angle that will grab their attention.
  • I simplify complex topics in a matter of seconds.
  • I use narratives to make you memorable.

In short: your business will get more leads and enquiries because of the way I write, shaped by my BBC background.”

How will you benefit your next boss?

When you apply for a new role, it’s worth starting from the standpoint of your prospective bosses.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What outcomes (benefits) do my new bosses want?
  • Which bits of my experience to date will deliver those outcomes?
  • What phrases should I use to convince them I can deliver?

Six years on since leaving the BBC, I still carry my phrasebook with me. It’s definitely helped. I am still in business and I love helping leaders to communicate what they are worth in a more compelling – and concise – way.

So good luck with your next job application and interview.  Tuck those phrases away and I’m sure you’ll do brilliantly.

To learn more about improving your communications check out Miranda’s blog.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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