In our last issue, the Tip Jar addressed the importance of networking. According to Brad Karsh, founder and president of JobBound, 64 percent of people get their jobs through networking, so it can really pay (literally!) to get good at it. An important part of networking is having a quick, but effective introduction of yourself prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Having an “elevator speech” should be one of the key tools in your skill set for job searching, networking, and plain old making friends with new people. It’s also a great way to begin responding to the much-dreaded interview question, “So, tell me about yourself.”
The term “elevator speech” or “elevator pitch” got its name because it should be brief enough to take place in the average length of an elevator ride. The other philosophy is that you could run into the most important person of your life (professional life or otherwise) and be too to say anything. Either way, the message is be prepared. OK, so how do you do it?
If you Google “elevator speech”, you’ll get more than 300,000 sites in a fraction of a second. That’s just a single search engine with a single phrase. It doesn’t count Bing (or any number of other search engines) or using “elevator pitch”, “elevator speech examples”, etc. To help you narrow it down, here are the basic components:
- What/How do you contribute?
- Who are you?
- What are you doing/What would you like to be doing?
Sounds simple, right? Let’s check out a few examples...
“I’m Jill and I’m looking for a job working with kids.”
Or, how about:
“I’m Bob and I graduated from Bennington with a focus in architecture.”
Yes, these are both introductions, but how much do you really know about Jill and how inspired are you to help her? Bob’s introduction is more likely to generate a conversation (if it generates one at all!) about his coursework at Bennington rather than what he’s doing now or wants to be doing.
Let’s try these instead…
“I help children find their inner Picasso. I’m Jill Smith and I’m an art educator currently volunteering with an after school program. I’m really interested in working with a non-profit in an urban area working with underserved children.”
“My goal is to help preserve the earth for future generations. My name is Bob Green and I’m exploring options to work in the green design/building field. Would you mind giving me your business card, so we can talk more in depth about your work in the field at a later time?”
I’m thinking you’ll agree that these versions are more interesting and indicative of where each of these people would like to move in their careers. I’ve heard that, in his “elevator speech”, an IRS agent once introduced himself as a government fund raiser! A great idea on his part since most people would rather run the other way than talk to someone with the IRS.
There is an overwhelming number of suggestions and formulas for creating a great introduction for yourself. None of them will fit everyone, so the most important thing is to find a way, or a combination of ways, to introduce yourself in a way you’re comfortable with. Wait! That’s not the most important thing; it’s the second most important thing.
The most important thing is to practice, practice, practice! Yes, practice. That means say it out loud, do it in front of a mirror, and try it out in front of friends who will give you honest feedback. The thing is that the more you practice, the less you will sound as though you’ve been practicing. Your introduction should roll off your tongue at the first opportunity you have to use it.
Invest some time and a little creativity in yourself to come up with a great “elevator speech”—one that tells others about who you are and what you do and is interesting enough to help them remember you. Seriously, wouldn’t you remember a government fund raiser?