Minute to Win It: Elevator Speech Essentials

Imagine running into the hiring manager of your dream job. Chances are you won’t be in an elevator. Perhaps you’re like Monica Geller (Friends). She was working as a waitress when a millionaire offered her a chef position. Don Draper (Mad Men) was selling fur coats when he introduced himself to Roger Sterling. Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness) was downtown attempting to sell a scanner, but he managed to share a cab with a Dean Witter executive.
No matter where you are, you will need to create and capitalize on opportunities to introduce yourself. Like these Hollywood characters, you can stumble on job leads through planned happenstance. From the supermarket to job fairs, you should always be ready to introduce yourself.
The elements of your pitch are simple. Essentially, it serves as your verbal business card and contains the components of any good narrative.

Introduction: The Hook

Your opening sentence should be captivating, specific and concise. You may only be given 10 to 20 seconds; you need to earn any additional time thereafter. Prepare a sentence or two that powerfully conveys your qualifications. For example, if you are a pre-med student, avoid saying that you have “always wanted to be a doctor.” Instead, say, “I am a biology major who has confirmed my passion for medicine while I’ve worked as a C.N.A. and completed more than 500 volunteer hours at the local hospital.”
Communicate your value by emphasizing the outcomes you have produced, the problems you have solved or the passion you possess. For example, financial interns could share that they “remove clients’ financial uncertainty and help them realize their dreams,” while marketing students could emphasize that they “increased sales during their first two weeks on the job though a new customer rewards program.”

Body: The Reel

Stop talking after you’ve delivered your hook. If you’ve written your opening line effectively, it should evoke an elaboration. They’ll be curious about how you achieved the results or solutions you mentioned. A momentary pause permits you to assess their interest. Plus, it conveys your genuine desire to form a relationship and share a conversation instead of gimmicky self-marketing. After all, networking is more like gardening than hunting. If you go looking for fast results, you often end up over-selling.
When you continue, share a couple of facts to keep them wanting more. Prepare a variety of sound bites that you can integrate into the discussion depending on the context. The following questions will help you prepare for these conversations.
  • What makes you unique and better than your competition? What do you want your listeners to remember about you? Research your industry and targeted organizations to speak to their needs.
  • Emphasize accomplishments instead of activities. What awards have you won? What feedback have you received from faculty and supervisors? Provide evidence to earn credibility with your audience.
  • What makes you interested in your desired position or their organization? What coherent passion unifies all of your qualifications? Share your career aspirations so they are able to help you.
Practice your pitch to convey confidence. The audience and setting will vary, so be prepared to tailor it. For example, pitches during job fairs are a bit longer. 
Example #1: “I graduated from the honors program at Augustana where I majored in business administration and generated more than $25,000 in revenue as the President of the university’s Investment Club. I also completed an internship with a Fortune 500 company and am now contacting premier organizations as I prepare to launch my career. I am especially interested in your company because . . ..”
Example #2: I am a senior double majoring in communications and journalism at Augustana and am seeking a full-time position in the field of public relations. For the past few years, I have worked at our student newspaper, The Mirror, where I worked in diverse areas, including editing, photography and advertising sales. I have also served in a lead marketing role for UBG, our campus event-planning team. Through these experiences I have gained a good understanding of best practices and current trends in PR. Using social media effectively as a business is crucial and I would be interested in learning more about your social media coordinator role.

Conclusion: Closing

End with a call to action. Ask if there is anyone else at the organization that you should speak with about future vacancies. Invite and arrange a future conversation. As you progress in your career, serve instead of sell. If you offer to help others, it is often reciprocated, and it generates more enduring career capital.
What are you waiting for? Prepare and practice your pitch today. Then, go out and introduce yourself.