When you're job hunting, or just trying to make connections, an "elevator pitch" can be super helpful — but it's not just about finding another way to sell yourself as an employee, it can also be a great way to define your career goals. At any point in your career, you can use the act of writing an elevator pitch as a kind of "personal career statement" that sums up A: what you do B: why your skills are valuable and C: where you're headed.
Just What Is an Elevator Pitch?
OK, let's start with the basics. Think of an elevator situation. You're in there alone when the doors open and a potential employer steps in. Maybe it's your current boss' boss. Maybe it's someone famous you want to work for. Maybe it's Richard Branson, or Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, or Sheryl Sandberg. Just imagine someone who presents you with a limited opportunity to make an impression. You have 30 seconds….go. The pitch you give is your "elevator pitch."
Where Else Is an Elevator Pitch Helpful?
Besides the metaphorical elevator (which, let's face it, is a bit of a dream scenario), you can also use your elevator pitch in emails to potential employers to best explain what you're after. Use it when introducing yourself at career fairs or networking events. In job applications it's great for getting to the point. HR doesn't always have time to read your whole resume and get your life story…you need to distill it for them. Use something like an elevator pitch to give your career in a nutshell. You can use this kind of quick look at your career profile as the heading to your LinkedIn page, a personal portfolio website, or even on your Twitter bio or on your resume if you're not too wordy with it. It's kind of a handy little tool, when you think of it!
OK, So How Do You Write One?
Writing your pitch isn't so hard, even though it may seem daunting at first. It's easiest to think of it not as a whole, but as a sum of several parts. Let's break it down a bit:
- Start with your objective or career goal
This should be about where you're headed. Think long-term or at least, in the direction you're aiming for. If you're at the bottom, where do you see yourself in five or ten years? If you're not in the career you want, where do you want to be? This is your "I want to be" moment, so savor where your imagination can take you.
- What's memorable about what you do now?
Ok, Mr. "I have this great idea that's going to revolutionize this department/company/universe"…what are you doing about making your dream a reality right now? Are you pulling all-nighters in your garage tinkering? Are you working your way through school on the weekends? Are you opening a one-woman show all about math and love this Friday? Let's talk about the present for a second….about ten seconds, tops.
- What sets apart your value to this person?
You can't make things 100% personal right now since we're talking hypothetical celebrity in an elevator, so think generally now. What is the most unique thing about YOU, your brain, and your work ethic. Maybe you're trying a new method to get to the heart of a tricky work problem…an idea that you came up with on your own. Maybe you're working on a grant to fund a non-profit you'd like to set up to help an underserved part of your community that you're working with. What's the attention grabber in your life's story?
- [If you're in person] Try an engaging question
For anyone pitching to a live human (think elevator/networking coffee/seminar meet n' greet), you have to engage to be remembered. Think of ways you can parlay your skills and work experience to really stick in someone's mind. Ask them how they're using someone with your skill set, or maybe how they're tackling similar problems that you're working on. Ask them how they plan to handle X problem that you've identified already on the horizon for their field. Everybody likes talking about themselves, and if you give them that opportunity and seer your pitch into their brains at the same time, it'll stick better.
Practice Makes Perfect….But Not Too Perfect
You'll want to bring it all together now. Bring your parts 1, 2, and 3 (and possibly 4) together into one big "leave 'em wanting more" statement that is your elevator pitch. Maybe you mix it up and start with 4, go to 2, then 1, then 3. There are no hard and fast rules!
Now's the time to practice it a bit to make sure it sounds OK in your head. Say it out loud to the cat. Try using it on friends and see if they understand your goals. Don't over practice, so you don't sound like a bad actor, but make sure you know how to sell your skills properly to make use of that elevator ride.
Make Your Pitch Fit the Conditions
Think about different scenarios for a pitch. Different audiences (whether live or online) might change how you'd talk about yourself. Maybe you're in a room full of marketers…how would you make yourself stand out? Maybe you're in a room full of people not in your industry…how would you quickly talk about job roles they might not understand? Put yourself in different practice roles, and you'll find many more ways to talk about yourself…and make your pitch stand out from the pack.
Some Examples to Get You Going
Here are some examples to get your mind churning:
Do you follow any great illustrators on Twitter? I create illustrations for websites and brands. My passion is coming up with creative ways to express a message, and drawing illustrations that people share on social media.
Think about the time something really made you laugh. Did you know that laughter is a dopamine response in the brain that makes your whole body healthier? I'm in sales, but I work with my team to infuse more humor into the way we interact with clients. It's shown so much response that we've gained a great reputation across our clients as being easy to work with. I'd love to give you an example of our funny presentations. Here's my card. Can we schedule a quick conversation this week?
One morning, I woke up and decided life was too short to not follow my passion. So I registered my website: catscatscats.org and opened up a cat café right around the corner. We're always looking for investors who can share our vision of helping homeless pets find a new home, while serving award-winning coffee. We're huge on Instagram. You should stop by for a cup and a cat!
Did you know that over 768 million people don't have access to clean drinking water? Even right here in our city, we have to fight to get clean water. I'm starting a nonprofit organization, Clean Water Today, and I'd love to get some insight on how your organization has had success with messaging. What do you know about great media resources for non-profits?
I’m a communications professional with a knack for persuasive storytelling. Considering my colleagues often complemented me for my thoughtful and engaging presentations, I’m looking for insight as to how I can best position myself for a role in production or videography at social impact start-up. Because I’m inspired by documentaries, I want to help companies express their missions in compelling and relatable ways in the age of social media.
From The Hard Refresh:
I’m a web designer who’s making the Internet a more beautiful and positive place! My background in counseling helps me understand what the bloggers and small business owners I work with need. And, thanks to working in administration AND now being a stay-at-home mom, I’m great at coming up with solutions, no matter what you throw at me.
I’m a multimedia artist. I do photography, film production, and web design and development. And, luckily, I come from a corporate background, so I have the research and management skills to develop projects like the multimedia blog I just launched.
On the digital side, I make web designs, WordPress sites, and graphic designs. But I also create pen-and-paper illustrations, comics, and paintings. Because I’m so passionate about the arts, I also do “behind-the-scenes” work, like applying for grants, writing proposals, doing comic readings, and putting on festivals.
I’m a tech triple threat — designer, developer and digital project manager. My super power is my organizational skills paired with my creative background in photography, graphics, and social media marketing. And, currently, I’m part of a team developing a social networking app.
Have a great elevator pitch? Leave it in the comments!
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