You might not be in an actual elevator, but having a prepared, brief speech can help you in any situation.
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 from Friends. She was working as a waitress when a millionaire offered her a chef position. Don Draper of Mad Men was selling fur coats when he introduced himself to Roger Sterling. Chris Gardner from The 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 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 is packed with strong action verbs. 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 shadowing hours.”
Communicate your value by emphasizing the outcomes you have produced or the problems you have solved. For example, financial interns could share that they “remove clients from financial uncertainty and help them realize their dreams,” while marketing students could emphasize that they “increased sales by 16% during the first two weeks on the job.”
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 that keeps them wanting more. Prepare a few sound bites that you can integrate into the discussion depending on the context. The following questions will help you cater the conversation.
• 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 just 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. Financial advisers could say, “I graduated from the honors program at XYZ University where I 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…”
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.
As Matt Damon’s character states in We Bought a Zoo, “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” His character had the courage to introduce himself, and it changed his life forever. What are you waiting for? Prepare and practice your pitch today. Then, go out and introduce yourself.
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