It’s all too easy to fumble your response to the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself.” Even if it’s not an interviewer asking you that question directly, when presented with the chance to explain your work in simple terms, most of us end up giving convoluted, boring, or incomplete answers.
Many career opportunities are as simple as one of your contacts “thinking of you.” But in order for someone to think of you, they have to understand what you do in the first place. Here are the basics of why you need an elevator pitch for your career, and how you can write one that is sure to stick in people’s minds.
Remember the purpose of an elevator pitch
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of an elevator pitch, here’s the lore: Imagine you’re in an elevator with an interviewer or someone who can help your career. You only have the 60 seconds until they reach their floor to explain what you do, so you better do it in the most concise, compelling way possible.
So when it comes to creating an elevator pitch about your current career, you need to figure out (1) the most compelling information and (2) how you can get that across in the most concise fashion.
Learn how to prioritize information
Cutting down to only the most crucial information is often a surprisingly a hefty task. As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Especially when it comes to summing up your own career, you might feel like you’re always leaving something out, or that you need to pad your description to make yourself seem more impressive.
Start by making a list of everything that could be relevant to your career elevator pitch. Think education, work experience, skills, and strengths. From this list, cross off anything that is not absolutely critical to the other person’s understanding of what you can do for them.
Once you’ve narrowed down the most essential points, it’s time to organize and frame them so they’re easy to understand and remember.
Be interesting, but use plain language
Your pitch needs to be easy to follow. But when you’re passionate about what you do (or you want to seem like you are), it’s easy to lean on complicated jargon or industry-specific terms. Resist the urge to get technical, or else you might lose your audience.
Whoever you’re pitching yourself to won’t be able to “keep you in mind” if they couldn’t understand what you said in the first place. If you find yourself throwing in a lot of complicated explanations, reframe your pitch away from you do technically and into what can do for other people. You’ll realize the jargon becomes unnecessary.
Create a few different pitches to choose from
Who isn’t a multi-hyphenate these days? I know have a roster of different pitches depending on what kind of elevator I’m in. Whether I’m trying to be kept in mind for a writing project, or get booked as a standup, or trying to impress my partner’s family—the way I organize information will change for my audience.
However, if you think that having multiple different pitches will complicate things in your brain, then stick to polishing the most essential version of your career description.
Practice your pitch
Now that you’ve crafted a compelling definition of who you are and what you do, make sure to rehearse your speech. Don’t memorize it word for word, or else all anyone will remember is that you sounded like a nervous robot. The bottom line is that there’s no excuse for having nothing prepared when given the opportunity to pitch yourself. Give the people something to remember so that when an exciting opportunity comes along, they’ll be sure to “think of you.”
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