If you’ve ever been on the job hunt, you’re familiar with the daunting prompt, “So, tell me about yourself.” This can come up during an interview, at a networking event, or even just in everyday life. While it may seem unnerving, it’s actually an opportunity for everyone from first-time job hunters to seasoned workers to dazzle potential employers or professional contacts by preparing what’s called an “elevator speech,” also called an “elevator pitch.”
You’ve likely heard of an elevator speech before, but what exactly is it? Well, imagine you’re in an elevator on the way to meet a friend and in walks the CEO of the company you’ve been dying to work for. Are you going to just stand there in silence or jump on this opportunity? Make the most of this and other professional networking situations by having this networking tool in your belt. It might even help you land your dream job! Keeping in mind that most employers are busy and you don’t want to take up too much of their time, this speech really shouldn’t go over 30 seconds (about the time it would take to ride the elevator).
There are three essential components to keep in mind when crafting your elevator pitch; who you are, what you offer, and an actionable ask.
Who you are:
This is your short, sweet, and to the point introduction. You want to give your potential contact the most comprehensive view of who you are, your character, and your goals. Wondering where to start? Mention your name, your field, current and/or past positions, and your ultimate career goals.
If you need a little more fodder, consider mentioning your alma mater. You never know who may be a fellow [insert university mascot name here]! You can also delve a little deeper by mentioning what motivates you, your values, or people in the industry you admire.
What you offer:
This is the most important element of your elevator speech. Here, you highlight your unique talents and expertise while clearly communicating what you have to offer this employer. Take the specific skills and learning experiences you’ve gathered and emphasize how you can apply that to their company. For example, if you are a public relations specialist, instead of just saying, “I’ve worked for many reputable companies over the years with over 50 clients,” say, “I’ve created meaningful relationships with various media outlets for clients and boosted their public image by hundreds of thousands of fans according to social media engagement figures” Wherever you can, use emotional language coupled with data and numbers to illustrate your success. This is the best way to appeal to a wide swath of employers. Don’t want to sound too cocky about your skills? Use language like, “I’ve been told by past employers that…” or, “Many have said that have a knack for…”
An actionable ask:
Once you’ve established yourself as a confident and accomplished candidate with much to offer, it’s time to kick it up a notch with a strong closing question. This is an opportunity to move the conversation (and relationship) forward. Some examples include, “Do you have any suggestions as to how I can find a role in [given company or industry]?” or, “Are there any opportunities available in your company that my skill set would serve?” or even just offering your card and asking for theirs. This may seem a little pushy, but it is the best way to make a lasting impression and keep things moving forward.
Once you have these three essential components, make sure to memorize your key points and practice, practice, practice! The more you rehearse, the more it will sound conversational and relaxed, and the more confident you will be when you deliver it. And yes, this means reading it out loud to people you trust and asking for feedback. You can also make multiple versions of your elevator speech, some shorter or longer to cater to specific situations. Bottom line: Elevator speeches are key in any and all career situations, and if you don’t have one prepared now, get to it!