Few people love developing an “elevator pitch” even though they may recognize their need for one and the importance of having a well-crafted one. I volunteer for a group of job seekers who meet every week, and no one enjoys the process of introducing themselves to a roomful of strangers. In fact, I know that some people try to sneak in after they think the introductions will be over, or they skip the meeting altogether rather than struggle through a 30-second self-introduction to a room full of self-appointed critics.
The urban myth about how the elevator pitch first originated is that in the early studio days, a Hollywood screenwriter would catch an unsuspecting studio executive in the elevator. Trapped, with nowhere else to go, the screenwriter had between 30 to 118 seconds to “pitch” his idea to the studio’s top decision-maker.
Today, you aren’t pitching an idea for a screenplay. For you, the stakes involve your next great break in your career. If you are on the job market, you need to develop a “pitch-perfect elevator pitch.” Your pitch must be compelling to the point of making you seem different from everyone else. Additionally, it must be delivered with earnest sincerity and not sound like it has been rehearsed in front of your mirror a thousand times—even though it may have (and should have) been rehearsed in front of you a thousand times or more.
My elevator pitch has changed and evolved hundreds of times (literally) in the last three years since I began my odyssey as a career transition and job search coach. As a result, I am particularly sensitive to the challenges that new job seekers experience when trying to craft their pitch. Don’t beat up on yourself if you find this particular task daunting. Everyone does.
That does not take you off the hook, however. You must come up with a clear, concise, compelling and persuasive elevator pitch or networking introduction if you need to traverse the job search terrain. Here are some suggestions that will help you craft your own unique and compelling pitch.
1. Start with the understanding that you are a multidimensional human being, and it is hard to reduce the essence of who you are professionally to one short paragraph.
Sit down and start the process by writing down everything about yourself in as many words, paragraphs or pages as it takes to describe who you are and what you could bring to the particular job or career that you want. This exercise will (a) get the jumble of ideas out of your head and onto paper and (b) create the rough draft of what will eventually become your finely tuned 30-60 second elevator pitch.
2. Once you have everything on paper, start editing it from the perspective of a potential hiring manager and strike out everything that isn’t specific to what you could bring to the position for which you are applying.
Edit, edit and edit some more. Let’s face it: most of what you wrote isn’t pertinent to the job, so strike it out. Be brutal in assessing what needs to go and what should stay. Stick to the facts and eliminate all “fluff words.” Everybody says they are “passionate” about something, so discard that word from your pitch altogether. Avoid any self-promotional adjectives that not only won’t attract the attention you want but will repel whoever you might be conversing with.
3. Consider what problem you solve and then offer an example to illustrate it.
In my case, I might say, “I am a Career Transition and Job Search Coach who specializes in helping individuals from various walks of life find a job or career that is personally fulfilling to them and is in alignment with their core values and their mission and purpose on this planet. One of my most recent clients just moved to San Francisco to work for Google. I helped him with his resume and his LinkedIn profile, and over the course of about six months, he moved from being stuck in a job that he didn’t enjoy anymore to a job in a great company in a part of the country that he has dreamed of moving to live. He is just one example of people I have helped move from being stuck to getting unstuck and into a job they enjoy and feel good about.” This “pitch” takes about 45 seconds to deliver.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
When you have your pitch narrowed down to the point where you describe what you do and how you bring value to a particular situation, practice it until it rolls off of your tongue easily and without strain. Practice it to the point where you feel it and know that it is your truth. Practice it in front of a mirror, with friends, and with anyone else who will listen. Record it so that you can hear it and fine-tune it.
5. Deliver it with a sense of confidence and ease at every networking event, job fair or interview that you attend.
The real trick to a pitch-perfect elevator pitch is that it is compelling and invites curiosity. You want the person with whom you are speaking to be struck by your confident demeanor and the content of your pitch so that they go, “Wow, tell me more!”
An additional tip for you to consider is to be mindful of the expression on the face of the person with who you are speaking. If their eyes begin to glaze over, or they break eye contact and start looking around the room, it means you have lost them, and something is wrong with your pitch. It’s boring, or it’s being delivered robotically and sounds over-rehearsed. You don’t want to lose people while you are making your pitch! You want to intrigue them and pull them into a deeper conversation so that you have time and space to elaborate on other aspects of who you are. Failing to get their attention during that initial pitch, however, means you still have work to do.
Perhaps creating an elevator pitch is painful, but it is a necessary component of every job search, and it is far too important to overlook or gloss over. Do the work, create a compelling pitch and see the results as you get to know people at networking events. You never know when you might be pitching to your future boss! Happy job hunting.
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT is a former educator turned Career Transition and Job Strategy Coach specializing in working with teachers who are experiencing the painful symptoms of job burnout. She also works with mid-career professionals from all walks of life who find themselves at a career crossroads either by chance or by choice. Learn more about Kitty at Boitnott Coaching, LLC.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock