Networking: The All-Important Elevator Pitch

Networking: The All-Important Elevator Pitch

In this week’s podcast – Part 2 of a career Q&A with college students Melizza and Jolana – they asked me about the critical elements of an elevator pitch.

For the uninitiated, an elevator pitch is what you say when you introduce yourself in a networking context. The name comes from the idea that you might be on an elevator with someone and have the span of just a few floors to introduce yourself before he or she exits the elevator.

I like illustrations, so here are a couple good ones:

“My name is John Smith, and am graduating this May with a degree in marketing from Florida State University. The marketing internship I had last summer at Big Tech Company, plus my work as Vice President of Marketing for Important Campus Organization, has prepared me well to tackle an entry-level position in a tech company like yours.” (takes 18 seconds to say)

“Hi! I’m Jennifer Jones, and I am a junior communications major looking for an internship this summer. I’m currently serving as communications chair for my sorority and I do the social media for a local pet adoption organization. I’m particularly interested in an internship with Sports Equipment Manufacturing Company because I was a competitive high school athlete and play several club sports here at the University.” (takes 22 seconds to say)

Here are the important components of an effective elevator pitch:

  1. It should be no more than 30 seconds long.

  2. Write it out, practice saying it out loud, and use a stopwatch to time it. Shorter is better.

Customize, slightly, depending on the situation.

If, for example, you are going to your university’s career fair, there is no need to tell them what university you are attending (unless there are multiple universities sponsoring the career fair).

Also, there might be certain situations where you’ll want to tell them a bit more about your major…or the internship you did last summer…or a particular leadership role you’ve had.

A firm handshake is everything.

I used to teach the art of handshaking when I was director of a university career center; it’s a skill everyone needs but few are any good at.

Your hand should be perpendicular to the ground, connect thumb joint to thumb joint, grasp the other person’s hand firmly (but don’t crush), and pump once or twice.

As you are handshaking, make eye contact and smile.

Don’t immediately hand your resume over.

When you do this, the person is likely to pay more attention to your resume than you. Save the resume for last so you can maintain eye contact.

Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to say after your elevator pitch.

You are essentially lobbing the ball into the other person’s court at this point, so there’s no way to anticipate what he or she will say. Try to relax, be present, let your personality shine through, and engage.

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