Think pitches are only for salespeople and entrepreneurs?
In many professional situations—from job interviews to conferences to networking—you have to be able to say who you are, what you do and why you’re great at it in a very short period of time. It allows you to have some something interesting to say and talk about when people ask what you do. More than that, it can also be an entrée to that new business deal, your ideal job or an important collaboration.
The trick is making it short and easy to understand, yet compelling and memorable.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, try condensing all your education, work experience, expertise and passion into about 30 seconds. Not quite so easy.
The good news is that if you spend a little time crafting your career elevator pitch now and memorize it, you’ll be ready any time the opportunity to use it arises—which could be more often than you might think.
The basics of a good elevator pitch
It’s called an “elevator” pitch based on the idea that you might bump into someone important in an elevator—the CEO of your company, the CEO of the company you’d love to work for, Richard Branson, etc.—and you have only the duration of the elevator ride to explain who you are, what you do and why you’re amazing at it.
For that reason, it must:
- Be short. Aim for 30 seconds or less (about 65 words).
- Highlight your unique skills and qualifications.
- Answer these questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for?
That’s the pitch part of the elevator pitch—including something you’re looking for. It could be as simple as, “I’d love to buy you a coffee,” but you have to close with that request so that the other person is compelled to respond.
It’s important that your elevator pitch also feels natural, confident and conversational. That’s why writing it out ahead of time and practicing is important.
How to craft a great career elevator pitch
When writing your own elevator pitch, consider the following:
- Introduce yourself with your professional identity, rather than your job title. For example, are you a trainer, or a learning and skills development professional?
- Don’t talk about what you do; lead with whom or how you help. “I’m an engineer,” is much less compelling than, “I help make sure rockets don’t explode on launch.” Verbs such as teach, develop, help and create paint you as an expert.
- Avoid jargon. Explain what you do so that your 10-year-old nephew could understand it.
- Consider including your soft skills. These are skills that could translate to almost any profession and might include, good communications skills, strong writing skills, customer service, etc. This is especially important if you don’t have much professional experience yet, or if you are looking to switch careers or industries.
- Make the pitch more about them than you. Sound backward? It’s not. You want to convey how you can help the other person, rather than simply describing who you are.
For example, here’s mine:
I’m Bernard Marr. I’m a big data consultant, and I help companies demystify big data and put one of their most important assets, their data, to use identifying and answering the questions that will dramatically improve their business’s bottom line. I’m always looking for opportunities to answer questions and offer my expertise to interested audiences.
Once you’ve got a great elevator pitch written down, practice it until you know it by heart. Then, as the opportunity arises, you can customize it to the moment and the person you’re riding that metaphorical elevator with.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
This article first ran on Ragan.com in March 2016.