I talk a lot about the perfect elevator pitch. That’s because it's important and useful, surprisingly easy to craft, and yet horribly under-utilized.
You see, I go to a lot of career fairs. I frequently speak with students one-on-one, and it’s obvious when someone hasn’t prepared to give their elevator pitch.
The Three Types of Career Fair Interactions
Students who don’t have an elevator pitch will slink slowly by our company booth, darting their eyes back and forth between me and the floor. Their body language is awkward because they’re not facing me directly. They’re doing this weird little walk/slouch/hopeful turn/"please say the first thing so I don’t have to" kind of thing. They often forget to shake my hand or introduce themselves by name.
Students who have a pitch but have not practiced it will do the introductions, but then they talk forever. This happens at the expense of other students waiting in line. (And at the expense of my attention span.) Don't get me wrong, I love talking to students. But part of having a well-prepared elevator pitch is knowing when to stop talking and start listening.
Finally, those who have practiced and perfected their pitch will approach me, give a firm handshake, and tell me about themselves in 30 seconds or less. They then ask one or two brief questions about the company and listen politely. It’s such a delightful exchange that I’m almost always ready to forward that candidate’s resume on to someone.
Elevator pitches are useful for a variety of situations. You can give them at career fairs and other networking events, certainly, but they can also be used in your cover letters. (I should note that speaking and writing are two different things, but a well-crafted elevator pitch can translate nicely to an opening paragraph of a cover letter.) You can also use the pitch to reach out to new contacts on LinkedIn or even use it as your LinkedIn profile summary.
So let’s get to it. What should be in your elevator pitch?
The Four-Step Plan
As a general rule your elevator pitch should be 20 seconds or shorter. I recommend writing this out on a sheet of paper by hand. Make one box for each topic and keep your responses to one sentence for each category:
State who you are
Say what you do
Indicate what you're looking for
Record yourself and listen
Step 4 is the most important part. I know, I know: nobody likes listening to themselves on a recording. But guess what? You can record yourself in the privacy of your own home, play it back to yourself, revel in the embarrassment (“Is that my voice?!”) and then get over it -- because it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about. I promise you it will help improve your pitch almost instantly.
Be sure to add a greeting and a segue at the end when giving this pitch in person. “Hello” is the best opening. Something like “Can you tell me about your current openings?” is a perfect ending for the career fair situation.
Here’s my elevator pitch for an example. Feel free to use it as a template for your own!
Hello, my name is Jordan. I’m a communications professional with experience in academic and business writing with a focus on copy editing and content marketing. I’m looking to expand my professional network in the Tallahassee area. As you can see from my resume I have a strong track record of designing engaging content, writing and editing a variety of materials, and managing successful marketing campaigns. I’d love to get your contact information. Maybe we can get coffee next week to talk about our top marketing challenges.
That’s all there is to it. Now, craft your own and leave it in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,