Whether it's an interview, a networking event, or just a casual conversation with someone you've just met, the “Tell me about yourself/what do you do?” question never gets any easier. No matter the name, as Idealistcareers.org puts it, “Elevator pitches will always be a necessary evil of the job hunt.” They can give direction to the rest of an interview, and if you pull it off just right, they are an excellent way to show off some stellar time management skills.
As it goes, elevator pitches should be to-the-point and not more than 30 seconds. Your skills or value proposition should be crystal clear. And last but not least, your elevator pitch should include your goal – what you're looking for out of all this.
To break it down, there are three main steps in prepping a personal elevator pitch. Once you have the key points down, it is easy to customise your pitch to suit your every networking/job-hunting need.
Step 1: Identify your skill set
What you do is the basis of your elevator pitch. While throwing around impressive-sounding job-specific terminology is unnecessary, you must be able to pinpoint and communicate what you are capable of.
List out your professional achievements, transferable job skills, responsibilities, and in case you're still in university, your major and other co-curricular activities.
What are you good at it? Prioritise the items you have come up with in terms of significance and go with the skills you are you really adept at.If you don't know how to start, try terms like: 'Excel in,''Accomplished,' 'Savvy,' 'Expertise,' 'Proficiency,' etc.
Step 2: Provide supporting evidence
After you have stated your skill set, you need to back it up. You can't just say your area of expertise or interest is 'Graphic design' and leave it at that. However, if you follow up with: “I specialise in website graphics” or “I work mostly with logos and branding,” you give the other person a clearer understanding of what you do.
If you're working with a more abstract skill such as communications, a possible supporting statement could be: “I have a knack for persuasive storytelling.” Or “You are a great team player because you can see both sides of an argument.”
Play with terms like 'Talented at,' 'Effective,' 'Penchant', and choose what sounds the best or the most appropriate.
If you're absolutely not sure what your strength is, think back to some of the feedback you've received. Or look at job descriptions for different jobs in your field and pick one that really attracts you. Ask yourself what really drew you to this role and jot that down, for example, “The opportunity to do _____ is what really attracts me.” Fill in the blank.
Being able to clearly and concisely deliver your value proposition not only makes you more believable, it also helps a potential employer or collaborator picture where you might fit into the project or company or industry.
Step 3: State your goal
If you're making an elevator pitch, you need to know where you're headed with it. The endpoint is that you want something. Is it a job? Is it to gain experience? Is it to pick up a new skill? The person at the other end needs to know how they can help you.
Frame your goals with phrases like: 'Gain exposure in,' 'Hoping to find a role in,' 'Recommendations as to how I can improve in,' 'Opportunities to develop,' 'Looking to write on,' etc.
You can't be afraid to ask for what you want. Think of it this way: what you seek is seeking you. You are essentially a solution to a problem that the recruiter needs solved.
Step 4: Explain your reasons
What really keeps you moving ahead? Compensation is not the motivation – it is the by-product. Because at the end of the day, why you do what you do is more than that. Studies have shown that decision-making is actually deeply rooted in emotions. That's why you need to be able to explain what inspires you and motivates you to take action.
Consider who you want to help or inspire; who benefits from your work or who you cater to; and why you enjoy the work you do. Use words like: 'Because,' 'I believe,' 'I want to inspire', 'I am inspired by,' 'I owe it to,' 'On behalf of.'
Whether or not you're aiming for humility with your statement of motivation, remember that it must come from your heart. Insincerity is easy to pick up on, and predictable, run-of-the-mill answers will impress nobody. This is your chance to really differentiate yourself. So take some time with this last step and be sure to add a distinctive personal touch.
What your pitch should resemble
Now your elevator pitch is not going to be anywhere near as long-winded as it might seem at the end of this article. So let's put all the four steps together and see what an actual speech might look like.
You're at a personal branding event and you bump into a fellow attendee. You ask her what she does:
“I'm currently working as an HR Manager at ABC Limited. My supervisors frequently praise me for being able to consider multiple perspectives and negotiate conflicts. I'm looking for advice on how I can further cultivate my expertise because my ultimate aim is to help organisations develop more ethical and inclusive cultures.”
You're at an alumni and students workshop for business students and you run into a participant. You ask him what he does:
“I'm currently studying at NEW University. My teachers say my forte is my ability to make the conceptual practice and I'm interested in joining in an entry-level position at an NGO. Because non-profit programs and fellowships were a crucial part of my development, it's important for me to give back and help others develop to their highest potential.”
And there you have it. Now it's your turn to construct your very own elevator pitch. Follow the four steps and come back to the pitch once in a while to improve on what you have.
The writer is Sub-Editor of the career publication of The Daily Star. She is also a junior at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka