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A Complete Guide to Writing an Effective Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch is one of the most important tools you can develop as a student. Here’s how to make sure yours is strong and effective.

College is all about making connections. And the good news is that people want to help you—but first, you need an easily digestible sound bite about yourself that gets them thinking about specific ways they or someone they know may be able to help you. Enter the elevator pitch. In the time it takes to complete an average elevator ride (approximately 30–45 seconds), you need to convey that you know what you want, you’re genuinely interested in learning, and you need their help. Whether you’re looking for a job, internship, or another position you want to put on your résumé, here’s how to formulate your elevator pitch.

3 main parts of your elevator pitch

Those first few seconds you approach someone are essential; you don’t have much more time than that. And if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything. Someone you know may know someone else who has a job opportunity that would be perfect for you. That’s why you need to be able to walk through these three parts of your pitch authentically: 

  1. “This is what I’m looking for.”
  2.  “Based on my experience and/or skills, I know I’ll be good at it.”
  3. Can you help me?” 

Be prepared to elaborate for a few more minutes if you get someone’s attention. You can start asking around even if you don’t have a formal elevator pitch yet; just get out from behind your computer and start networking! Jobs aren’t going to come looking for you, and the more you talk to people, the more chances you’ll have of finding out about available opportunities. You want a career in sales but don’t think it’s worth telling the nurse giving you a flu shot? That nurse likely has four business cards around her desk for salespeople wanting to sell her stuff. So just tell her! She may help you get in touch with them.

Related: Networking With Alumni From Your School

Elevator pitch fundamentals

To form your elevator pitch, you need to come up with examples of what you’re looking for, how you will add value, and why it will make you happy. Create three lists according to each category. 

What are you looking for?

Examples of what you may be looking for can be wide ranging, such as:

  • To add value to an organization with your strong work ethic and communications skills;
  • To leverage your excellent attention to detail that you’ve gained with years of studying Architecture, Math, Engineering, or another highly detailed discipline; or
  • To use your award-winning customer service skills gained from working part-time throughout high school and college.

How do you add value?

Employee value is an extremely important factor in the workplace. Employers want to ensure they’re hiring or taking on interns and employees who will positively impact their organization. Examples of how you’ll add value to a company may include:

  • You can proactively identify what needs to be done and complete required tasks while juggling several demands at once.
  • You have a track record of working well in high-pressure situations.
  • You’ve earned a high GPA while also working at least 28 hours per week.
  • You’re able to teach yourself required technology skills in school and professional settings.

Why will this role make you happy?

Your personal happiness in the role you’re seeking should not be overlooked. Here are some reasons to consider:

  • You enjoy things that require hard work and discipline, like learning new languages or running.
  • You’re creative and enjoy writing, cooking, exploring new media outlets, or watching social media evolve.
  • You’re adventurous and love to travel and try new things. 

The foundation of your pitch

Once you’ve finished these lists, you can create the foundation of your elevator pitch. Here are some tips for taking your lists from ideas to a speech: 

  • Look for themes: Related things you’ve mentioned more than once
  • Find out what these themes say about you: Do you love working in teams or accomplishing things on your own? Do you thrive under pressure or get anxious around deadlines? Are you happiest when you’re in front of a computer or out meeting people?
  • Ask yourself why: What makes each trait appealing? Are there passions in your “real life” that are behind your choices? If they’re genuine, they’re appropriate to put into your analysis.

Then assign skill-related themes to the items on your list to develop three to five bullet points for the second part of your pitch (“Based on my experience and/or skills, I know I’ll be good at it”). These could include:

  • Being detail oriented: You don’t make mistakes and can complete things to the best of your ability.
  • Staying organized: Juggling assigned tasks efficiently and quickly so you can take on more when you complete them.
  • Being a creative problem solver: Every part of an organization—operations, strategy, finance, human resources, and marketing—can benefit from creative employees who bring fresh energy and unique approaches to their daily tasks.

Related: 9 Tips for Developing Soft Skills Before Graduation

Focusing on the bigger picture

Don’t think too literally when creating your pitch. For example, you should talk about the kind of company you’d like to work for, not necessarily a specific company. You don’t want to say, “I want to work at Pepsi because they’re on the cutting edge of brand management.” Instead say, “I’m interested in how brand management is changing due to social media and would love to work with consumer-packaged goods.” Why? Because the person you’re talking to could lose interest quickly if they have no connections to Pepsi. This could also hurt you if that same person knows someone at Rubbermaid who hires entry-level positions.

You should also be specific about your skills, not necessarily how you would apply them or what field you’d prefer to employ them in. It’s better to say, “I’m great at keeping track of details and like working with numbers” rather than, “I want to go into finance.” Your target could have an exciting idea about how financial modeling is used within a human resource organization to forecast benefit expenses. A human resources department might need financial modeling from Economics majors, while a logistics operation may need communication writers who were English majors. Again, you don’t want to limit the opportunities that could come your way.

Getting comfortable with your pitch

Once you’ve written your pitch, you need to get comfortable stringing it together in a way that’s authentic and easy to rattle off whenever you run into anyone who might be able to help you. Practice it in the shower, while exercising, with your family and friends, or even to your pet. It may be time-consuming, but it’ll be helpful in all aspects of the job search process.  

The importance of examples

Telling someone you’re hardworking is nice, but adding that you’ve had two jobs since you were a sophomore in high school is powerful. Unless you have an example, you’re only giving adjectives anyone else could give. If you say on your résumé that you have excellent verbal and communication skills, you should be prepared to explain the context that allows you to make that claim. You can’t just say what you think someone wants to hear; employers want thoughtful reasons, specific experiences, and written examples.

Related: Infographic: Skills to Put on a Résumé to Land the Job

Once you have the basics of your elevator pitch, you’ll find it easy to refine and add to it over time as your skills grow and your career interests change. Learn how to do it once and it will stay with you forever! If you find the initial investment challenging, just stick with it. You’ll be getting returns on that investment far into the future.

Not sure you have enough career skills to formulate a good elevator pitch? Pick up some new ones with Our Best Advice on Building Important Skills as a Student

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