This weekend I volunteered at a career fair, helping high schoolers think through their resumes & interview skills. Let me say that of the many ways that there are to give back and get involved, empowering youth to follow their dreams is my absolute favorite.
One session covered the elevator pitch: the brief statement that somehow captures who you are, what you’re good at, what you want and why people should care. For many, this pitch is a cruel and unusual professional necessity. I remember the dread of having to craft my own in college. Judging from my group of students on Saturday, I wasn’t alone in the feeling.
Yet the elevator pitch is so important to master, because it’s a tool that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your career. As you pivot and narrow down your goals, your pitch will have to adjust as well if you hope to open the door for new opportunities. Plus, there is real power in knowing what you want and how best to speak on it.
And I promise that once you have a basic framework, it’s really not so bad.
You can always do a quick Google or Youtube search to see hundreds of pitch examples. If that feels overwhelming though, here’s the best place to start.
1. A pen and paper.
Seriously, don’t try to do this without taking notes. You’re taking your career, background, hopes and dreams, and trying to condense them into 60 seconds. Even if you did come up with a great pitch on your first try, you risk forgetting your talking points the second (or fiftieth) time around.
2. Your name.
Use your first and last name when introducing yourself. Younger professionals tend to stick to their first name, but by clearly stating your full name, you convey a greater sense of authority and confidence. It also makes it easier for the other person to remember you!
3. Your status.
Talk about where you are professionally. Are you a high school student with an interest in fashion, a chemistry major at Brooklyn College, or a paralegal at a personal injury firm? Maybe you’re in between jobs right now, looking for your next step. Whatever the case may be, you want to share your current status so that the other person can get a sense of your experience and skills. (Bonus points if you can incorporate any major accomplishments into this.)
Tip: For high school students, talk about your school and any student clubs, sports teams, or community groups you may be part of.
4. Your goals.
Where do you want to go next? This is the most important part of the pitch because it gives your audience an idea of how they can help. That’s why you should try to make this as specific as possible. Talk about those plans to go to law school or to break into the entertainment industry, and be sure to quickly say why.
Tip: Don’t know what you want to do yet? Assuming this is true, you can talk about wanting to learn. Whether you’re exploring industries, job functions or general pathways, people love to share their expertise with those who want to listen.
5. Your skills.
There should be 1-2 key strengths that get addressed in your intro. It’s okay to use nonspecific things if you’re younger – like working independently or in groups, Microsoft skills, etc. But if you’re in college or already working, then these skills should be specific and relevant enough to quickly showcase your value. If you’re great at data analysis or working with diverse groups, say it. If you’re a web design or social media expert, say that too. Think carefully about which skills are relevant, because this can impact the takeaways from your conversation.
6. Your close.
This will depend on your situation. If you’re at an interview, end the pitch with a quick statement on why you’re interested in the role. Or if you’re at a networking event, close out by expressing interest in the other person’s experience. Think about what you want out of your conversation (as well as what you can offer) and close with the possibility.
Based on the above suggestions, here’s an example of what a basic elevator pitch could look like:
(#2) Hi, I’m Dee Jones. (#3) I’m the author of EmployedforGood.com, a blog based on my nonprofit experience, that offers career advice and thoughts on giving back. (#4) I started this blog to equip professionals in every sector with the tools they need to succeed and help others. (#5) I personally work best when I’m manipulating spreadsheets and (#6) I’d love to exchange tips and stories about work and volunteering.
Regardless of whether you’re still in high school, about to graduate college, or many years into your career, a flexible and well-crafted pitch can only help your career and self-confidence.