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VOL. 129 | NO. 164 | Friday, August 22, 2014

Angela Copeland

Minimizing Jargon

By Angela Copeland

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Recently, my doctor explained a topic so complicated that even my two advanced degrees weren’t helping to decipher what she was talking about.

“If we were talking about marketing, I’d completely understand,” I said. “But, unfortunately I don’t. Can you explain this to me again in a more simple way?” My doctor paused, laughed, and said, “You know, this is how I feel when my pest guy comes to tell me about my lawn. I have no idea what he’s talking about!”

We’re all experts in something. And hopefully, your experience and expertise are relatively unique. Your specialty gives you something to tout on your resume and talk about in interviews. You can share your latest accomplishments at networking events and among friends and family.

Effectively communicating details about your career helps you to find work – sometimes in unexpected ways. I’m sure you’ve heard about someone who learned of a job while at the dentist, at a party or on an airplane. Often though, others aren’t experts in your field.

The same holds true for certain job interviews. If you’re working with a headhunter, they may not be fully versed in your specialty. If you meet with an internal recruiter from human resources, chances are they talk with people in all areas of the company.

Using complex jargon in order to sound impressive can often leave those around you wondering what you do. And, they certainly can’t help you to look for a job if they don’t understand you.

I’ve always thought the most impressive people are those who can talk to anyone – from the young to the old and from the front desk to the boardroom. They have an ability to read their audience and to know the right time to use, or not use, complex lingo.

When you’re preparing your elevator pitch, you want to explain who you are, what your background is and what you’re looking for. Ideally, it should take 30 seconds or less and be very straightforward.

Practice your pitch to perfect it. Start in front of a mirror, then move on to friends and family. Parents, grandparents, or friends who work in different fields are a great proving ground. Find out what they understand and where their questions are.

Look for opportunities to explain things simply and briefly. When you want to explain a complex idea, think of comparisons you can draw from that most people will relate to.

The last thing you want to do is lose your one chance to effectively deliver your pitch because you made it too complicated. Not only will your audience not understand you, but it may take too long. You may also be perceived as someone who is full of themselves or who brags unnecessarily.

The next time you explain what you do, think back to the last time your doctor tried to explain a complex medical idea and remember to simplify. Avoid leaving someone feeling as confused and uncomfortable as you felt.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” She also hosts the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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