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When former Telstra boss Frank Blount left, one of the company’s top executives wanted his job. He hired a public relations company to raise his profile.

The executive got media coverage. Most of it was good. Yet another executive got the job.

While spending $10k a month PR consultant is over-the-top for most job hunters, the idea was sound – the best jobs go to high-profile people.

This means being a tall poppy.

Employers come looking

High profile people don’t need to find jobs — employers come looking for them.

A high profile alters the negotiating balance of power. Instead of a potential employee bidding down pay expectations to win a job, an employer must bid up to get top talent.

Being a tall poppy doesn’t come naturally to most New Zealanders. Australians are only slightly better at it.

We see tall poppy syndrome as negative. British, Pacific and Asian ideas about modesty influence our culture.

Americans with a long history of ‘winning friends and influencing people’ are better at it.

They know how to work a room at an industry function — the trick is to behave as if you are host, even if you are not. This means fighting back shyness and diving in to the social pool. It means coming with a pocket full of business cards and handing them out by the fist full.

Elevator pitch

Americans are good at selling — hence the ‘elevator pitch’. This is a compact 30-second sales burst to quickly get a message over to a corporate big shot when you’re travelling between floors in an office building. Some Americans prepare and memorise personal ‘elevator pitches’ to sell themselves to employers.

Self-promotion can get dangerously close to behaving like an Amway agent or a used car salesman.

Knowledge workers need to get beyond the sleazy ‘boy do I have a deal for you’ school of self-promotion into smarter territory.

Unless you work in sales, potential employers will be interested in your technical and creative skills, not your brashness. The key is to develop a profile as someone with desirable expertise. One good way of doing this is to learn how to speak in public and make presentations at relevant shows, conferences and seminars.