The elevator pitch: it’s your own personal 30-second advertisement. It’s a chance to promote yourself, your strengths and your experiences when you introduce yourself to a potential employer or professional connection. The “elevator” part of the name comes from the fact that you should be able to use this pitch to sell yourself in the time it would take to ride an elevator. Opportunities to give your elevator pitch will come at career fairs, networking events and even in the most unexpected situations, so it’s important to have it down pat.
According to Junea Williams-Edmund, associate director of civic engagement at Barnard College’s Office of Career Development, “the biggest mistake students make when preparing their elevator pitches is not preparing. Practice is key!” We couldn’t agree more! You don’t want to be caught unprepared and lose a potential job or internship just because you were too flustered to sell yourself properly. It can be nerve-wracking when someone asks you to tell him or her about yourself, but if you have an elevator pitch prepared, you’ll never struggle to answer that question again.
Always be sure to get the most basic information across to the person you’re talking to. “Include your name, your college, your graduating date, your major and career goals,” Williams-Edmund says. These pieces of information are essential to a potential employer. Your graduation year is particularly important it you’re a senior—a potential employer needs to know that you will be able to work full-time in the near future!
Make it clear to an employer what you’re looking to do. Don’t go into too much detail—after all, 30 seconds isn’t much time—but be sure to demonstrate your passion for your intended career field, whatever it is. “The goal is to just give a very concise overview of who you are and why you are interested in that company,” says Williams-Edmund. “Be sure to use powerful words that convey a strong message.”
If you’re talking to someone whose company might not exactly offer your dream job but who could still be interesting or beneficial to you in some way, show him or her that you want the job he or she is offering, not a different job that you’re trying to work your way up to. Employers want to see employees and interns who are passionate about what they’re doing—even if your job mostly consists of running errands and making copies.
Always relate your experiences to the field or position you’re talking about. Even if you’ve only had jobs or internships in an unrelated field, think about the duties you had in those positions and find ways to relate them to what you want to do. For example, if you had a social media internship, you probably developed strong writing skills and organization. Or, if you haven’t had any jobs or internships yet, think of any times you demonstrated valuable skills in a class or while working on a project. Make a list of skills and strengths you’ve developed from previous experiences and think about how they relate to what you want to do. Then, pick the most relevant ones to work into your elevator pitch.
If you’re considering working in more than one industry, or even looking into different positions within an industry, you may want to prepare different versions of your elevator pitch. Tailor them to different jobs the same way you would customize your resumé for different applications. Highlight the strengths and experiences that are most relevant to one industry for one pitch, and include those relevant to a different field in another pitch. Avoiding a generic pitch will show you’ve put some extra thought and effort into selling yourself and might give you that little advantage you’ll need to land the job.
Express Your Interest
Make sure to close out your pitch by expressing your passion and interest in the person you’re talking to and their field. Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York, says one of the most common mistakes students make in their pitch is “not being convincing enough.”
“Say it like you mean it!” she says. “Stand like you mean it! Look someone in the eye like you mean it!” Express your passion not just with your words, but also with your body language. “All of your body language in addition to the strength in your voice count a lot,” Salemi says.
It’s also important to be specific; Salemi says to avoid phrases like, “I’m looking for work,” or, “hire me.” “That comes across as desperate, and it’s implied by the fact that you have an elevator pitch in the first place,” she says. Express interest in the specific job or company.
If you’re talking about a specific job, don’t be afraid to tell the person you’re talking to that you would love to set up an interview. If you’re not discussing a specific job or are unable for whatever reason to take a specific job at that time, ask for their contact information so you can get in touch about an informational interview. An informational interview is a great way to make connections at a company you’re interested in and get a foot in the door, as well as to hear about what it’s really like to work there. Asking for contact information will also show that you’re genuinely interested in the person and his or her career.
We’re not saying you should memorize your elevator pitch word-for-word—reciting a speech might actually scare an employer off! Just make sure you know all the key points you want to make to avoid skipping over any important information. Preparing in advance will give you confidence when it’s time for the real thing. There’s nothing worse than meeting a potential employer and completely blanking on all the wonderful things you had to say to him or her!
Salemi says energy is “the most essential” thing to convey to an employer. “People may not remember precisely what you said,” Salemi says, “[But they’ll definitely] remember how you said it. Make a dazzling first impression!”
Williams-Edmund says to “practice your speech out loud, either in front of a friend or in front of a mirror.” She also says it’s important to stay calm; speaking too quickly “is a natural byproduct of being nervous.” To avoid this, Williams-Edmund says to practice your pitch slowly and clearly. Show that you’re prepared, but keep your pitch effortless and semi-casual to show that you can perform well under pressure or at a moment’s notice.
If you follow these tips, you’ll have a stellar elevator pitch in no time. Perfect your professional life story and you’ll be sure to land the job!