How to Craft a Magnetic Elevator Pitch
In many of my blog writings and conversations with students, one of the key tools that I promote is the development of a great elevator pitch.
Elevator pitches are vital to your networking success, and can be used in any situation where you need to neatly summarize your skills, experience, and career goals in a narrow window of time. These situations could be career fairs, networking events, interviews, or even chance encounters such as bumping into an important contact during an elevator ride (hence the term “elevator pitch”).
Since elevator pitches are so important, I wanted to break the process down a little bit more and discuss some of the components of a good elevator speech. Here are a few basics:
The purpose of your elevator pitch is to introduce yourself as a job candidate and/or business partner, explain what you have to offer, and initiate some next steps of the relationship. Think about how to convey your basic information (name, career field, etc.), your skills and experiences, and your career goals in an organized manner.
You should be able to deliver a pitch that can be adapted to last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Different situations may call for different versions. For example, during an interview your elevator pitch may be a 1-2 minute response to the prompt “Tell me about yourself.” At a career fair or networking event, however, you might have as little as 30 seconds to gain the employer’s interest. Consider what your core message should be and adjust the delivery to fit each occasion.
Your pitch should be conversational, not scripted. I recommend that you have an idea of some key points, but alter your exact approach based on the situation. Try listing out some of your information – key skills, strengths, experiences, or campus/community involvements – and think about how you might incorporate some of those into an introduction of yourself. If it helps, come up with some questions to prompt yourself (i.e. “So, Andrew, what do you do for a living?”).
Share Your Passion and Personality
Part of the reason for making your elevator pitch conversational is to demonstrate your personality. Likeability is a significant factor in networking success, and you are much more likely to flourish if you can develop connections that lead to real relationships. Find a way to deliver a pitch that allows you to be yourself while still maintaining a sense of focus and professionalism.
Keep It Positive
When giving a pitch about yourself, always focus on the things that you DO have to offer, not your weaknesses. Many times when I see students giving an elevator speech, they will say things like “Well, I’m interested in consulting, but I don’t really have any relevant experience.” Big mistake! If you offer new contacts reasons to doubt your ability in the initial meeting, how can you ask them to continue the relationship? Instead, think over your skills and experiences to reframe them in a positive, value-added light.
Be prepared to use examples from your resume to support some of the claims that you make about yourself. Instead of a generic statement like “I have great leadership skills,” perhaps you should be saying something like “Leadership is very important to me. I was the Vice President of my service sorority, Gamma Iota Beta, in college, and since graduating I’ve been very involved in the Rotary Club here in town.” You probably won’t have time to go into all of the details, but the whole idea is for you to bait the hook and offer leads for a deeper conversation.
Know Your Goal
Do you know your job search goal and your overall strengths as a candidate? If the conversation goes well and your contact decides to continue the relationship, you must be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. Having a specific goal or at least some sense of focus in your job search is paramount to successful networking!
If you do happen to hit it off with someone and gain their interest, think about how you might close the conversation. Never ask someone for a job during an initial meeting, but you might ask for a follow-up meeting, contact information, or more information about their company. If you do end up somehow asking for help, be sure to show sincere gratitude and offer to reciprocate if possible. Remember, good networking is about building ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships.
Now let’s put these concepts to use. Here are some sample pitches that illustrate the ideas from above:
Good: “I just recently finished school with my history degree at Midwest University. I had a great time there, made some really good connections and I was in a fraternity (Alpha Beta Omega) so I did a lot of service projects and gained some leadership experience through that involvement. My favorite was Relay for Life – we always had a very dedicated team for that event and I served as the captain for three years. That experience actually led me to my current pursuit, which is trying to land a position as a non-profit administrator. I really like giving back to the community, and I think my writing and analytical skills from my history major will help me with things like grant-writing, event planning, etc. I’m really hoping I can get connected with an organization somewhere nearby here in the Chicago area.”
This pitch isn’t perfect, but it’s an example of how to connect past experiences, signature strengths, and current job search ambitions. You’ll notice that this person gave a few examples that could potentially lead to deeper conversation, but didn’t linger too long on any one detail. The pitch is closed with some specifics about what the individual is seeking and where they want to live.
Bad: “Well…I just finished school a few months ago. It was a blast – I miss it a lot, especially the football games. My major was history. Not really sure what I want to do with that yet, I just liked the classes so I picked it at random. I wanted to be a high school teacher at one point. Now I’m thinking I want to work in non-profit, but I don’t really have a whole lot of experience in that area so it’s been pretty tough. I really want to start a family soon – my girlfriend and I are getting married next year – so I basically just want anything I can find right now.”
This pitch isn’t so great. For one, this individual doesn’t focus enough on their specific job search goal, and you can see that the pitch lacks organization. There are no specific skills mentioned, and the person is a bit too honest about their meandering career path. This speech is a likely example of what an unplanned elevator pitch might look like – a bit rambling with a few digressions into irrelevant personal details.
Could you come up with an elevator pitch right now if you had to? It’s more difficult than you might think. Don’t let opportunity catch you unprepared – think about what you might say to a potential networking contact now, so that you can be polished and professional when the time comes!