It happens in every interview. It happens at every networking event. It could even happen when you’re out walking your dog, attending a wedding, or at a family gathering.

Eventually, someone is going to ask you the dreaded question, “So tell me about yourself. What do you do?”

Your answer to this question is important. Depending on the situation, it could lead you to job opportunities, mentors, and contacts. It can sell people on you and your skills. It can show potential employers exactly what you can do for them. In 30 seconds, it can open doors for you and help grow your network and brand.

It’s your elevator pitch, and it’s super important that you have one so that when the inevitable question is asked, you’ll have a stellar answer.

Make The Right Impression

An elevator speech is a quick, punchy, persuasive message or “commercial” about you. It communicates who you are, what you’re looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization.

A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. With your elevator pitch, you have that long to persuade someone before one of you walks off the elevator. 

Who came up with this idea of a short speech, created to persuade a listener into getting on board with an idea?

According to a few sources, it originated in Hollywood. Ambitious writers would walk into an elevator where an oblivious studio executive is stood and in about thirty to sixty seconds would ‘pitch’ a movie or show idea to them. The strategy was to make a statement or series of statements that would last the entirety of an elevator ride which would then astonish the executive into giving them a shot.

As a student it is essential that you perfect your elevator pitch for three main reasons:

  • To use when you find yourself standing next to the admissions officer of your sought after school in an elevator.
  • To use when meeting an employer at a job fair.
  • To use when writing a cover letter or an email introduction.

The pitch can be used online in LinkedIn profiles and introductory emails too!

How to Develop An Elevator Pitch

It is important to have your speech memorized and practiced. Rehearse your 30 second elevator speech with a friend or in front of a mirror. The important thing is to practice it OUT LOUD. You want it to sound natural. Get comfortable with what you have to say so you can breeze through it when the time comes.

Make sure, the elevator speech is:

  • absolutely not longer than 25 to 30 seconds
  • or – in words – approximately 80 to 90 words
  • or – in sentences – 8 to 10 sentences

It should include the following;

1 – Introduction

You should specif who you are. Stating your first and last name while confidently extending your arm for a firm handshake will leave a good first impression on your target.

2 – Credentials

State what you have done or a are currently doing. This should be something that differentiates you from your colleagues such as your degree and performance, athleticism or other interest that you believe your target will be able to relate to.

3 – Interest

Show you interest in the field. You want your target to see that you are passionate about the job or program you are pitching for. You should also show initiative, by detailing the extra-curricular activities you have undertaken to improve your skills in that area.

4 – Question

This is how you should end your pitch. Your target will want to help so you should ask for more information about what they offer or ask for more time to discuss your plans.

Crafting the Elevator Pitch:

If you’re at a loss for how to begin crafting your elevator pitch, utilize the following steps to get a feeling for how you would phrase things. Afterward, change it according to what feels most natural.

Step One: Answer some key questions first.

The goal of an elevator pitch is to sell yourself and your abilities in 30 seconds. As soon as someone asks what you do, you want to give them a quick overview that intrigues and interests them. That means quickly giving them some key information:

  • Your name
  • What you’re studying
  • What you’re looking for

Depending on your situation, this can all fit into a single sentence. Something like:

“My name is Jane Smith. I’m a Bachelor of Commerce student at
Humber College . I’m currently looking for a co-op position in Toronto.”

Great, you’ve given them the facts. But there’s nothing there to hook your listener. It needs more.

Step Two: Take time to spruce it up.

You need to tell your listener why you’re awesome. What’s in it for them? What do you do that makes you suited to meet your goal—in this case, to find a co-op position?

Think about your transferable skills. What are your superpowers? By adding those in, your pitch could start to take shape:

“My name is Jane Smith. I’m a Bachelor of Commerce student at Humber College. Through my program, I have hands-on experience with supply chain management, and I lead my colleagues as class representative. I’m looking for a co-op position where I can put my skills to work for an organization in Toronto.”

Now you have a pitch that’s really shaping up. You have your name and program, an industry-related skill (supply chain management), a transferable skill (leadership), and what you’re looking for.

It’s just missing one thing.

Step Three: End with a call to action.

Like all sales pitches, your elevator pitch should end with a call to action for the listener. Often, this will take the shape of a question you ask. This gives the listener the opportunity to respond to you and drive the conversation along.

The question you end on should further your goal—in this case, finding a co-op position. Some possibilities are:

  • “Are there current opportunities in your organization?”
  • “Do you know of anyone looking for co-op students?”

So now, your pitch becomes:

“My name is Jane Smith. I’m a Bachelor of Commerce student at Humber College. Through my program, I have hands-on experience with supply chain management, and I lead my colleagues as class representative. I’m looking for a co-op position where I can put my skills to work for an organization in Toronto. Has your company ever brought on co-op students?”

This ending allows the conversation to carry on. It can encourage the listener to ask you more questions, opens the door for you to talk about the benefits of co-op and your program, and may give you the chance to talk about why you’d be the perfect hire at their organization.

Step Four: Put your elevator pitch to work.

Now that you’re armed with an elevator pitch, it’s time to use it.

First, practice, practice, practice so that you’re comfortable with it. Depending on the situation, you’ll usually have to modify it on the spot. If you have it committed to memory, that becomes much easier to do.

Remember: your elevator pitch is a key component of your personal brand. Because of this, it can find a home in all parts of your professional toolkit. From your LinkedIn summary to your Twitter bio, you want to reflect those same skills and abilities that you have in your pitch.

Some Elevator Pitch Examples From Students

Sample pitch #1

“Hi, I’m Amelia Malkin. I am a Junior Business Administration major in the Tepper School of Business completing a track in Finance. Last summer I interned with PNC Financial Services as a Sales and Trading Summer Analyst in the Derivatives Product Group. I’m now interested in pursuing a summer internship position with Citi in Sales and Trading where I can utilize my communication skills and solid quantitative abilities. My experience as a student athlete at Carnegie Mellon has helped me to develop a strong teamwork ethic, time management skills and the ability to stay calm under pressure and these abilities will help me to be successful in a financial services career. Can you describe some common projects an intern would get to work on in the Sales and Trading division?

Sample pitch #2

Hi, my name is Jon Ling and I will be starting my junior year in the Social and Decision Science major in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences with an interest in consumer research and product development. I am also the President of the undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association. I’m very interested in gaining experience in product development with a firm such as P&G, which continues to set the industry standard for analyzing consumer behavior and developing cutting-edge products. I’d like to learn more about internship opportunities within your organization.”

Sample pitch #3

Hello, I’m Julia Stuart. I am a junior in Mechanical Engineering with an interest in design and testing. I have completed several Mechanical Engineering projects such as the Astronaut’s Coat Rack and last summer I completed an REU at the University of Iowa on building robots. I am also the President of the Robotics Club on campus, where I lead a group of more than 30 students in various projects. I’m very interested in bringing my design, analytical and teamwork skills to Ford this summer. Could you please tell me about internship opportunities with your company?

In order to perfect your pitch, you should practice and be confident in it. Below is a template an elevator pitch you can use that will impress any employer, admissions officer or business executive you come across:

  1. Hello, my name is ____________ and I am completing a ____________ degree in ____________ at Kent State with a minor in ____________.
  2. I am interested in a career in (or position as a) ____________ in the ____________ field (industry).
  3. I have been involved (during college) in ____________
    (extra curricular).
  4. And developed skills in ____________. I have also had an internship position (employment) as a ____________ with ____________ and discovered that I really enjoy ____________.
  5. Could you tell me more about ____________. 

Even though an elevator pitch will be in a constant state of development (while you’re in school, at least) it’s important that you don’t deem creating one as a waste of time. During your formative years as a student, you’re constantly evolving and your elevator pitch will, in turn, do the same. Remember that this is okay. Even if it seems to change every month, you’ll be practicing the underrated skill of elevator pitch development and delivery. Good Luck!

Your Elevator Pitch and the 30 Most Important Seconds To Your Dream Career

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