4 people talking together at a networking event.

“Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer says.

“So, what do you do?” asks the person you just met at a networking get-together.

First impressions can make the difference in building meaningful and important connections both personal and professional. You find yourself on an elevator with a person you’ve wanted to meet. What do you say? Be ready to say something!

The Elevator Pitch

It’s smart to prepare a brief summary of your background and experience. Often called an “elevator pitch” — because it should be short enough to give during an elevator ride — there are many situations when a short, pre-prepared introduction (no more than 30 seconds) will come in handy.

This introduction can be used:

  • When networking
  • In a job search
  • On career documents (in the cover letter, for example)
  • In job interviews
  • When a stranger strikes up a conversation with you in line at the grocery store
  • To request an informational interview

How to create your Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch should answer four questions:

  • Who are you? (education, work experience, skills, specialization)
  • What do you do?
  • What sets you apart?
  • Where do you want to go from here?

Tips for delivering an Effective Elevator Pitch

Here are some tips to make your introduction more effective.

  • Introduce yourself first, if necessary. Start your introduction with “Hi, I’m (your name).”
  • Write it out first. Then, read it out loud. Record yourself, either by yourself or practicing it with a friend. Watch it back, looking for words that you stumble over. Then edit it. Then read it out loud and/or record it again.
  • Be concise. Keep it simple, short, and direct — and don’t use jargon or buzzwords.
  • Adapt it for the situation. Customize it for the situation and the recipient. Have more than one pitch if you have more than one job target and use the right pitch for the right situation and audience. And remember, you don’t have to include everything — this is a quick summary, not a comprehensive retelling of your entire career history.
  • Practice it. Smile as you say it! And slow down when you talk — you want it to sound like a conversation, not a rehearsed speech.
  • Be future-oriented. — especially if you want to do something different going forward in your career. Talk about what you want to do — not what you don’t want to do.
  • Include something that sets you apart. Your introduction should be compelling — make it interesting. Think about what you want the person to remember about you.
  • Ask for what you want/need. Especially if you are using your introduction in a networking situation, end it with a specific request. Ask if they know a company that needs someone like you. Ask if they know any recruiters that work with candidates with your experience. 

Keep refining your elevator pitch, making little changes until you come up with something that is simple and effective. That way, you’ll never struggle or stumble when someone says, “So, what do you do?”

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