What is An Elevator Pitch and Why Do I Need One?

John Krautzel
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Whether you accidentally run into an idolized CEO or you're deliberately mingling at a networking event, you often have a limited time frame to introduce yourself as a professional and pique your listeners' interest. This is where an elevator pitch comes in, boiling down your goals, accomplishments and identity to a few brief sentences. Developing a strong elevator pitch can make the difference between continuing your ongoing job hunt indefinitely and scoring your dream job.

An elevator pitch is a short introduction to your professional identity, refined to include only the most pertinent information. The listener may only have a minute to chat, so a good elevator pitch should be no longer than 20 to 30 seconds. This is enough to leave the other person desiring more without using up his attention span. Bear in mind that this pitch can't, and shouldn't, be comprehensive; one of its purposes is to encourage the listener to contact you later to find out more about your skills, work history and professional goals.

When developing your pitch, put together five to 10 of your top accomplishments using a "problem, action, outcome" format. Decide whether you want to be noticed for your creativity, your expertise in the industry or your leadership skills, and choose your accomplishments based on your desired image. Finish the pitch with a mention of your goals to give the other person a taste of your long-term vision. If the pitch is too long, keep refining until you have a short paragraph that lasts no more than 30 seconds when you read it aloud. When editing, remember to avoid overly technical jargon, and don't be afraid to infuse the pitch with your own personality.

Keep in mind that a solid elevator pitch should be tailored to what employers want to hear. Hone in on what you have to offer a company, using benefit-focused language. Once you've refined your pitch, read it aloud to make sure it sounds like natural language you would use in a professional conversation, as written language often includes longer, more complex sentences and words that aren't common in everyday speech. While practicing, remember to keep the delivery upbeat and confident, conveying to the listener that you fully stand behind everything you're saying.

You can also adapt your elevator pitch for different situations. For instance, you may not want to give a colleague the same pitch you would give an interviewer. This also gives you the chance to add any jargon you'd like to use when speaking with other industry professionals.

An elevator pitch is an essential tool to have in your job hunt arsenal, but it's useless if a new contact you've just met can't get hold of you. Remember to have a few business cards on hand wherever you go. Finally, always deliver your elevator pitch with sincerity to make a positive impression.

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Job Camp at Flickr.com



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