Sell Your Inner Suit, i.e. Project Management Skills

Mens suit tie by yeleyko.

picture by yeleyko | article via

The world always needs suits, that is, those paid to be in charge.  And usually they are paid much better than the non-suits, including brilliant litigators, genius writers/bloggers [like myself], popular performing artists.  In addition, we humans seem hardwired to want to remain in our comfort zone and suits provide that zone of comfort.  That's exactly the reason successful maverick boutiques have as front-people a suit or more.  Myriad times I have been counseled by BigFoots in the field of communications, "Jane, get a suit to go with you and your ragtag team on sales calls."

In the June 2009 edition of THE ATLANTIC "Do CEOs Matter?" the article confirms that it takes a suit to keep organizations and projects on-track.  No, it probably doesn't even require a leader, never mind a charismatic one.  The current conventional wisdom is that probably, given the macro picture then and the internal resources, a monkey could have profitably run GE during the Jack Welch era.  Welch was a nice brandname to have but a private-label one might have done just as well.  Current conventional wisdom also has it that it might have been those outsized CEOs with their equally outsized egos who got the global economy into the pickle we're in.

Therefore, there is a hunger for management types, yeah, the suits, those old-line Organization Men which are frequently underestimated today and dismissed as being way too in the box.  However, because of all that celebration of the mavericks like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, too many have attempted to sell themselves as non-suits.  That has led, I have found over and over again in my coaching, to lost opportunities in job searches, transitions to another field and lobbying for promotions.  On resumes, all versions of them, in cover letters, on the phone, and on in-person interviews they position and package themselves as not enough organization man and woman and an excess of visionary. 

How to gain access to and sell your inner suit?  Here is what I advise those I coach and my virtual team before we call on a prospect or attempt to cross-sell to a current client:

  • Management skills are inherent.  Otherwise none of us would have made it through adolescence.  Beneath even the worst outer chaos there is wiring for putting at least the important things in the right boxes.
  • Analyze the organization man and woman in your circles.  What mindset and behaviors do they have?  Describe those in terms or keywords that belong on resumes, cover letters, blogs and Tweets.  Which of those can you integrate into your menu of skills, with just a bit of fine-tuning?
  • Drill down into your own past, including childhood chores and paid jobs.  What have you managed?  What have you accomplished?  What of that can be quantified, such as "assisted senior management in restructuring processes, resulting in 34% cost savings" or "researched and implemented technology, saving Firm X 34% on data storage expenses."  Yes, it can work to include managerial homeruns from years back.  My earnings as an 11-year-old selling Wallace Brown holiday cards nailed me one account.
  • Distill from law school and legal jobs the managerial aspects and accomplishments.  Quantify those. 
  • In applying for anything, take on the role of a team member.  Using that platform, gently but confidently make suggestions for improving operations.  Do that briefly, offering a more detailed free proposal, upon request.
  • Always underscore cost savings.  That's what it's all about and will be for a long time.
  • Err on the side of presenting yourself as relatively buttoned-down.  They can always loosen you up. 

Society must be conservative.  If it weren't we would be careening from one banana republic to another.  There is only so much disruption it can absorb.  That's why there are very few who make it to where Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens, and Cirque du Soleil members are and manage to hold on.  Being a suit who knows how to smoothly speak the language of innovation is a better earnings bet.

Reflection: Jones Day Managing Partner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Laura Ellsworth probably is a better organization woman than a litigator.  I've observed her in both roles.