The Art of the Elevator Pitch

woman in elevator

Almost everyone hates giving an “elevator pitch” about themselves, but in today’s job market, they are a necessary evil. Even if you are happily employed, it’s a good idea to always have an elevator pitch ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Why is that? Well, as a 21st-century employee, you are actually a mini-entrepreneur. Your “brand” is yourself and your career, and you are responsible for keeping your “business” competitive and responsive to the market. Like an entrepreneur or consultant, you need to be in marketing and sales mode at all times, even if that is not your niche as an employee. You need to be able to illustrate for potential employers (and those you network with) who you are, what you do, where you’re going, and why it matters to them–and fast!

The problem with elevator pitches is that they are disarmingly short–talking about yourself for 30 seconds can’t be that hard, right? But in reality, the perfect pitch is anything but simple. Crafting a great elevator pitch is more art than science, and there are 8 main lessons you’ll need to learn if you want to do it right. Learn them well, and your elevator pitch will be among your greatest assets as a job seeker and 21st-century worker:

  1. Always be ready to give your pitch. You never know when or where you’re going to meet the person who could find you your next assignment. You might run into them at a job fair, in line at the grocery store, at your gym between sets, anywhere. Be ready to give your pitch whenever and wherever you are, and make sure to…
  2. Practice, practice, practice! You must come off confident and poised no matter the circumstances. Even if you’re sweaty and disheveled or just there to buy breakfast cereal, when someone asks you those four little words (“What do you do?”), you need to snap to attention and have that pitch ready to deliver.
  3. Be succinct and relevant. People are busy and somewhat self-focused, and they have short attention spans. Your elevator speech needs to focus mainly on what you accomplish for others, in the context of your own career ambitions. What value do you offer, and where are you trying to go next? This isn’t a time for empty bragging. You want to talk about your transferable skills, but you need to focus on why your accomplishments will matter to your listener. 
  4. Say as little as possible, and don’t say it all at once. If your value proposition is highly technical or difficult to explain, start by asking a question that makes your world relevant to them and their experience. Then, tell them a miniature story. Be responsive to what parts they express interest in, and give them more of that information as you go.
  5. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes. Like your resume, your “pitch” should be personalized to the person and situation you are facing. Don’t over- or under-explain to them, and  make sure the words you use are easy to understand. This means no jargon! Make yourself relevant to your listener as quickly as possible, and don’t confuse them.
  6. Know what you want and go for it. You only have one chance to make a great first impression, so know what your goal is and make the conversation count. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea no matter how hard you try, so focus on attracting the people who will be intrigued by you and don’t worry about those who won’t. And remember…
  7. Your words are only one part of your elevator pitch. Look your listener in the eye, smile, and own it. People will remember how you made them feel more than they will recollect the content of your speech. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to…
  8. Be memorable. Just because people may not remember every single detail you mention, that doesn’t mean you should not offer them. They will remember you if your details and delivery were memorable, and that’s what you really want! Give them specific details, and don’t be afraid to show your personality a little.

Looking for an opportunity to road-test your new elevator pitch (and maybe land a new job in the process)? Mark your calendar for Career Marketplace’s upcoming job fair in North Canton on Wednesday, April 13th!

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