Most professionals are familiar with the concept of the “elevator speech,” that moment they are trapped in the proverbial elevator with the CEO and have one minute to impress him or her so much that their career is immediately hyper launched. Or, it could be the entrepreneur with the amazing business idea who gets the chance to give a mini pitch to the VC who holds the purse strings.
Many people practice this brief summary of their accomplishments and goals so they are ready to shine when that moment comes around. But job hunters should prepare one, also, so they have a short, focused spiel ready to share when someone asks them what sort of job they are looking for. Here are some tips to help you prep yours so the next person you talk to knows exactly what you’re looking for … and how they can help.
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1. Create your basic pitch
The basics are, well, pretty basic, says Damian Birkel, founder of Professionals In Transition. You want to keep it short and engaging, without feeling like you’re doing a deep dive into your entire resume and job history.
Feel free to try out his formula that articulates your background in a succinct fashion: “Hello, my name is __________ (Drop this first sentence in a casual conversation). I am a (name of target position). My areas of expertise include ________ , __________ and _________ . I am looking to work at companies like _______________ or ________ .”
The goal is to share enough to spark a follow-up conversation without sounding salesy or desperate. Rather, you are trying to tee up interest for them to want to know you better and/or to introduce you to someone else, with the ultimate goal of scoring a meeting for a 20-minute live or virtual coffee, says career coach Pat Roque.
2. Make it a conversation
If you have more time after you’ve made your brief statement (very long elevator ride, or, ideally, a networking event where you can continue speaking), keep the conversation focused towards the background of the person with whom you are speaking, suggests Beth Cabrera, executive vice president at KNF&T Staffing Resources.
For example, are there particular skills this person has that you’re interested in developing at your next job? Does this person work in a vertical you would like to pursue your next opportunity? How about the industry — does he or she work in a space that you’ve always wanted to learn more about? “Try to tie things together this way so you aren’t making the conversation all about you, but you’re still being clear about your next career move. It’s ok to drop a few lines about where you would like to see yourself growing, but save the details for another time.”
This works well because people like to talk about themselves, notes Jeff Monaghan, director of marketing for staffing firm Akraya, Inc.
And once you’ve talked about their job — and they’ve ultimately asked you about yours — the time is usually right to move the conversation in the direction you’re looking for. “Once you feel that they have a good understanding of what you do, let them know you are looking for a new opportunity at another company, and to please let you know if they hear of anything,” he suggests.
3. Stay casual
No matter the situation, you want to sound like this is effortless so practice, practice, practice. And you’ll want to tone it down even more if you’re talking to friends or acquaintances in a casual situation. That’s because in no way do you want to imply that they should help you, or that you are desperate to find a new job, notes Birkel. “Coming on too strong will make them uncomfortable and will extinguish the conversation,” he says. “What you are looking to do is tap into their natural network; maybe to talk with their friends who are also like-minded people who may, in turn, refer you to their friends. This is how you build your network one person at a time.”
And use basic job titles when chatting with someone, in case they don’t really know what a “data ninja” or some other specific job function does, says Lisa Barrow, CEO of Kada Recruiting. “It can be difficult for candidates to step out of the weeds of what they do and really simplify the role that they have and/or the role that they want, but that’s how the person can know how to connect you.”
4. Listen to what they need
This might be a lot to ask of the elevator speech, but ideally, by now, it’s turned into a conversation. At that point, you want to remember it’s not all about you. In fact, definitely in an informal setting, you don’t have to talk as much as you would in an interview, notes Maryna Shkvorets with Persuasive Speaking for Introverts. “A better approach is to ask a few questions about the company or the position and just soak in the details. Let the other person get excited talking about what they’re looking for,” she says.
Another similar strategy is to get to their pain points. You can even come right out and ask what their current challenges are, says Vince Repaci, senior coach at professional development firm LOVR Atlantic. “Getting to the point where you can get an honest answer to this question is the aim of any encounter. If you can help with the problems they have already identified as pain points, your chances of getting an opportunity are much higher.”
5. Follow up
Finally, make sure you’re taking care of the most important part of networking when job searching — the follow-up. No matter how great your 30-second intro is, it’s obviously unlikely to elicit a job offer, but it will ideally pique interest. So once you’ve finished your spiel and the proverbial elevator “opens,” or the chat otherwise comes to a close, make sure to ask your new contact for their business card. It’s always better to be the one with the digits so you can do the follow-up, rather than expecting them to.
Then if it’s a contact you want to pursue, send them a short email that reminds them of where you met and gives the pertinent details of your career and then makes the ask, whether it’s for another meeting at their convenience or an introduction to someone else at their company.
Because after all, that’s the goal — to find one more person to talk to. You never know when it will be the right one.