The job hunt involves online searches, applications, and editing your resume and cover letter, but the search shouldn’t end there. Developing your skills and networking are also vital parts of a successful job search strategy.
While attending an event might make you squirm with anxiety, it offers a prime opportunity to build your network and your job search confidence — and possibly an invitation to interview or share your portfolio. That’s why you should have your networking elevator pitch at the ready. Here are a few tips for building, perfecting, and owning your 30- to 60-second spotlight.
What is an elevator pitch?
Imagine walking into an elevator with the owner of your dream company. You have limited time to position yourself as invaluable to them — that’s why it’s called an elevator pitch.
You must snag the attention and interest of a prospective employer, taking only 30 to 60 seconds to express your intent, skills, and unique attributes. Your goal is to convince this employer that you can solve one of their problems or otherwise contribute to their success with authenticity, expertise, and confidence.
Making a lasting, positive, and professional impression in this way shows you respect the employer’s time and responsibilities. Plus, you’re more likely to stand out and secure an interview for the position you covet.
Think of an elevator pitch as a snapshot of your professional self and what you do. It’s more than a summary, and you shouldn’t say it in a monotone voice like a bio listing publication credits. Whether you just graduated or are a seasoned professional, you possess accomplishments that reveal what you can offer in your next position.
What goes into a successful elevator pitch?
Opportunities to share your elevator pitch start with simple conversation or a handshake. The spotlight is on you once you’ve piqued their interest. Know the purpose behind your pitch, and build it by explaining who you are and what you do. Gain attention with a question or statement. Communicate your unique selling point and your goal. Leave with a card or meeting. Those are the elements of building a networking elevator pitch, but it’s easier said than done. Here’s a breakdown of each part in further detail.
1. An elevator pitch includes intent
As with a casual conversation, professional conversations center on connection. The difference is that you’re doing the talking with the elevator pitch, and your intent must come through clearly. It’s more than, “I want a job at your company.”
That’s your goal. Knowing your goal matters, but what is the intent behind it? What’s at stake? This will guide your pitch creation.
2. Who are you? What do you do?
Briefly but cohesively explain who you are and what you do, but make sure you do so with excitement. If you’re bored, they’re bored.
Above all, be authentic.
3. Hook them with your elevator pitch
Who is your audience? What information, fact, or detail would interest them? What interests you? Hook them with a statement or question. Work it into your pitch. What sets you apart is an intrinsic part of your hook, which leads into your unique selling point (USP).
4. Get in your USP ASAP
As soon as you hook them, don’t hold back! Go right for your unique selling point. Your USP communicates what makes you different and how you offer skills that solve a pain point that is unobtainable from any other resource. Your hook should flow right into your USP, but be careful with the conversation flow if you ask a question.
5. If you pose a question, listen
An elevator pitch doesn’t mean you drone on and on about yourself. If you pose a question as a part of your hook, be prepared to listen and actively respond to what the other person says. It’s bad manners to pose a question without expecting a response and launch into the rest of your pitch. At that point, you might as well be selling snake oil.
Actively listen. Create conversation. Your pitch becomes part of an intriguing and engaging conversation.
6. Make Opportunities for Future Connection
Depending on who you speak with and how the elevator pitch goes, consider how you will close. You’re not closing a deal. You’re making opportunities for future connection. Trade business cards or name cards. Ask for an opportunity to follow up.
How to write an elevator pitch
Ideally, your pitch should run about 30 seconds long, and your longest elevator pitch should only go for a minute. That’s a short amount of time to make an impression, but that’s what it takes when competing against a large number of people.
That said, you’ll start with much more content and switch the details around like putting a puzzle together. You’ll find pieces work in certain discussions that don’t work in others, and it may take trial and error to find what works best for you. Make friends with flexibility, and variate your pitch depending on the different people you meet.
Your pitch isn’t a summary of your resume — remain relevant to keep them interested, and you won’t be the one asking for a business card. Give them something to remember you by but don’t ramble and don’t push too hard. Be sure to prepare in advance, such as checking out who will be speaking, gleaning the event schedule, and arriving early to get acquainted with the environment.
Jot down ideas as they come to you and hang on to your notes. Index cards are helpful, and you can move them around. You can also use an index card app to organize your pitch for effective storytelling — with the options right at your fingertips.
Practice with a friend over coffee, slipping in bits of your pitch into the conversation. You’ll soon become a networking ninja with the ability to naturally and authentically variate and introduce your pitch into a talk — even about the weather. It’s important to utilize your pitch in this fashion because you’re competing with others, and they’re all around you.
Elevator Pitch Example
Next time you find yourself on a 10-floor elevator ride with a leader you admire, don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Remember these tips, and try something like this:
“Hi, [their name], I recognize you from [place of employment] and admire [something specific about their work]! I’m [your name], a recently relocated teacher from [town] — four hours from the closest big city.
I’m moving on from an incredibly rewarding but one of the toughest teaching assignments in my career. After [the school district] consistently placed in the lowest percentile for the last decade, I was brought in to help. The students didn’t lack intelligence — they needed resources! Imagine: outdated textbooks, a barren library with slow internet and an abysmal student to computer ratio in this age.
So, I gathered concerned teachers and parents and petitioned the local government. We built a new computer lab, put computers in the library and updated textbooks. The dropout rate is now down, the students are scoring over 20% higher, and I aim to bring that same enthusiasm and dedication to my next teaching role. It’s amazing where we find ourselves. I’d love to talk more specifically about those students and your school.”
Of course, this is just one example. Tailor it to suit your situation and skills, and the employer will hopefully offer you an interview or at least encourage you to apply for an open position within the company.
Remember, lead with the essential information, stay authentic and go for the close — and keep in mind that your goal is to create an opportunity for a future connection. Your perfected elevator pitch can help you make those connections and hopefully land you a great new job.
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Additional networking tips
Millennial career expert Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career blog focused on helping you find happiness in life and at work. For more advice from Sarah, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media @SarahLandrum.