Interviews and career fairs can be intimidating - how is it possible to cram all of your life experiences and qualifications into a tiny time frame and convince someone to hire you?
It's a lot to speak about in a short period of time, which is why an elevator pitch is the perfect segue way into a career conversation. Whether you are just starting college or you are launching your full-time career, the elevator pitch is (arguably) one of your most important tools, and after covering a few basic points, you’ll be all set to start conversing with a future employer (and potentially score that job!).
First - what is an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch is an introduction that takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute to get through, and it’s designed to be the launchpad for a conversation with a representative, potential employer, interviewer, etc. The name “elevator pitch” comes from the idea that if you were put in an elevator with the CEO of your dream company, you should be able to convince him/her that you would make a good hire before the elevator dings to a stop.
It's a fun approach to a potentially stressful situation, and a proper elevator pitch will leave a stellar first impression on the representative you are talking to, and give you the opportunity to begin a good conversation with a future employer.
Include a Strong Opening!
Think of an elevator pitch like a mini persuasive essay - you want your audience to be hooked from the moment you begin, and there are a number of ways to do this. Some websites will tell you to make your elevator pitch into something creative & “out-there” (someone from my school actually rapped his elevator pitch at a career fair!). While this can be a good tactic, it can be debilitating and risky if you don’t have an amazing idea right off the top of your head.
Don’t worry though, because your opening can still be strong and powerful without using a gimmick or a story! Instead, focus on making your initial interaction as strong and confident as possible. If you smile, offer your hand for a firm handshake, and introduce yourself with conviction, you’re sure to grab people’s attention without having to do anything over-the-top.
So, tell me a little bit about yourself...
“Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” is a fairly common question in interviews and networking events, and it is also the perfect time to use your elevator pitch. Use the initial statement as a guideline for what you’re going to include in the pitch - you want to answer the question, after all!
Make a list of a few basic points about yourself - your name and major for a start. Other things you can include are a succinct reason for why you chose your major, career goals that you may have, or particular “soft-skills” that you would like to highlight. Remember, you’re basically selling yourself, so include points that make you seem more appealing to your interviewer.
Work in two of the points that you made on your list into a sentence, and bam, you have the middle of your elevator pitch.
It's NOT One-Size-Fits-All!
No two people are alike, and that’s the perfect reason why you should be tailoring your elevator pitch to the person you are talking to specifically. In the case of an interview, be sure to speak on what you find most appealing about the job you’re applying for. You can even include some key character traits or skills that were outlined in the job description - that might get you some bonus points with your interviewer because he/she can see that you’re really paying attention. (i.e. if the job description says they are looking for people with “great organizational skills”, throw that into your elevator pitch!)
On the other hand, if you’re starting a conversation at a networking event, you can be a little bit more casual and simply end with a question about the other person. Don’t become a robot that just regurgitates information - that’s a recipe for awkward! Which brings me to my next point...
Go With the Flow
I highly suggest not committing your speech to memory word for word. You want to sound naturally confident and sure of yourself, and unless you are an actor, that can be difficult to achieve if you’re just memorizing words. Plus, conversations can get derailed fairly quickly in a real-life setting, and being comfortable with the most important pieces of information rather than an entire speech will help you stay on your toes in the case of an unexpected question.
Instead of memorizing your elevator pitch like vocabulary words, write a little sticky note out with all of your key points, and practice different variations of the pitch in the mirror a few times the night before your big day. Remember, confidence and comfort are key, and you want to exude confidence and comfort in who you are any time you’re trying to “sell yourself”.
Professional settings and elevator pitches may be stressful, but the most important thing in any scenario is that you remain 100% true to yourself at all times. Don’t let all of the preparation and nervousness detract from your personality and passion - after all, you’re pretty great, and you want your potential employers to see that too.
I hope these tips will help you craft your elevator pitch, and you’ll be equipped to take on any interview or networking event by storm. Good luck!
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