I’m writing this post while traveling by train between Switzerland and Italy. My travels through Europe over the past ten days have been a great reminder of how important a personal elevator pitch is in this world.
Every time you meet someone, you have the chance to express who you are, share your unique experience and establish a connection. You never know who you are going to cross paths with and how they may be able to help you on your journey.
My boyfriend and I just experienced a great example of this while staying in Zermatt, Switzerland. The young man who was helping with our bags was very personable and shared his story with us. He was looking for advice on education and internship opportunities in the United States and we offered to help connect him with the right information and people who could assist him. Had he not struck up the right conversation with us, he would have missed this valuable opportunity. (The power of initiative muscle!)
Optimizing your personal elevator pitch
A personal elevator pitch is your personal story and shouldn’t be too hard for you to create, however it can be hard to keep it short and to the point. Without practice you can quickly go from a brief introduction to a long-winded, self-centered, potentially TMI, one-sided conversation.
Networking 101: Be better at listening than you are at talking. It is important to introduce yourself (and your carefully crafted personal elevator pitch will do just that), but make sure you are also asking thoughtful questions of those whom you are speaking with. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. If you can get them talking you’ll establish a deeper connection with them, and potentially even learn something new that will be of value to you.
A personal elevator pitch should be brief, but the length can vary depending on your situation. It is called an elevator pitch because you should be able to finish it in one elevator ride. If you are introducing yourself at a networking event, keep your pitch to 30 seconds. However, if you are at an interview, a length closer to two minutes is appropriate.
Remember, your goal is to package up everything that makes you amazing and hook them into continuing the conversation, asking more questions, offering up advice, etc.
The best way to optimize your pitch is to practice it out loud and to time yourself. You’re going to be delivering it verbally so you might as well practice it that way. Bonus points if you practice with a friend and get feedback on how your pitch can be improved.
If you’re not comfortable practicing with a friend, record yourself and watch it back. You’ll be surprised how much you catch yourself using filler words like “um” and “like”. These filler words take up valuable time in your pitch and detract from your professionalism, so get rid of them. Practice makes perfect!
Creating your personal elevator pitch
Below are the main questions your pitch should answer. When crafting your personal elevator pitch, make sure you touch on all these points and try to stick to this order.
- Who are you? Include your name, the school you attend, your year in school and your major.
- What are you pursuing professionally? Speak to your big picture goals (and maybe how they tie into your major, if applicable). Then also mention any near-term opportunities you are interested in that will help move you toward your big picture goals.
- What experience do you have? This is where you want to tailor the conversation and make it relevant to those whom you are speaking with. Also a great place to connect the dots on any mutual connections you may have.
- What are your strengths? Share any special skills you have (languages, technologies, leadership roles, etc.) Another important spot to tailor your pitch to the individual you are speaking with and choose relevant strengths to highlight.
- What is your close the loop? This is your conclusion or a specific ask. If speaking with someone that has a direct connection to your area of interest, you could ask them for the appropriate contact to apply for a specific internship opportunity, or you could offer to treat them to a coffee in exchange for a brief informational interview. If you’re engaged in a more indirect conversation with someone, you could conclude by reiterating a strength or past experience and stating what you hope to do next.
Following a strong conversation with someone, don’t forget to exchange business cards or email addresses so that you can follow up on any leads from your discussion. It’s never a bad idea to add them on LinkedIn as well. I recommend doing it the same day while you are still top of mind.
Repurposing your personal elevator pitch
Once you create, practice and refine your personal elevator pitch, you’ve taken a big step in setting yourself up for success. You will approach all future conversations with a lot more confidence and clarity on how to close. And you will also be much more prepared for future internship and job interviews.
Beyond the in-person opportunities to use your personal elevator pitch, there are a handful of ways you can repurpose it for your benefit.
- The Summary section of your LinkedIn profile. (I walk you through the creation of your LinkedIn profile summary in Day Two of my free video series, LinkedIn™ on Lock!, and you can sign-up for access here.)
- Cover letters when applying for internships or jobs. (Important to tailor these per opportunity so that you are highlighting relevant experience and strengths.)
- Scholarship applications. (Again, tailor information as necessary.)
A sample personal elevator pitch
Below is just one example template you could use. Fill in the blanks in [BRACKETS] with your personal information and adjust as necessary.
“My name is [NAME], and I’m a [YEAR IN SCHOOL] at [SCHOOL] majoring in [MAJOR]. After graduation, I’m looking to pursue [WHAT YOU ARE PURSUING PROFESSIONALLY]. This summer I’m looking for opportunities to [WHAT INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU CURRENTLY PURSUING]. In the past year, I have done [WHAT RELEVANT EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE]. I accomplished [WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED IN YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE] and have built strong skills in [WHAT RELEVANT STRENGTHS/SKILLS YOU HAVE]. I really enjoyed my experience in [WHAT PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE YOU HOPE TO CONTINUE PURSUING GOING FORWARD] and I’m seeking opportunities to put my [WHAT SPECIFIC SKILLS YOU WANT TO CONTINUE BUILDING UPON] skills to use upon graduating in [EXPECTED GRADUATION DATE (MONTH, YEAR)]. I’d love to stay in touch should you come across any opportunities that I may be a good fit for. Here’s my card, and I’ll send you a request to connect on LinkedIn as well.”
Your story will continue to evolve and therefore your personal elevator pitch will too. Start with a good base in college, and continue to practice your pitch every chance you get. Then go out and tackle each new life transition with confidence. For more tips on executing your personal elevator pitch, check out my video here.