You’ve been dreaming about getting in front of an influential manager or investor for years and suddenly they’re right in front of you, asking you about yourself. How do you respond?
Always being ready for this kind of scenario with a predetermined answer is the idea behind crafting an elevator pitch. It’s a quick way to communicate who you are and why the person you’re talking to should care—all in only the short amount of time it takes for an elevator ride.
Many think of an “elevator pitch” as a message that can succinctly promote their organization, but it’s equally important that you have an elevator pitch crafted for the promotion of yourself, as well. Read on to learn how to develop the perfect personal elevator pitch to help promote your accomplishments and bolster your career.
What is a Personal Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch is a short but easy-to-understand explanation of you, your product, or your company. A personal elevator pitch is a compelling introduction of yourself, what you do, and what sets you apart from others in your field. It’s intended to quickly captivate your audience, and help open up a dialogue.
Why Do I Need an Elevator Pitch?
There are many uses for an elevator pitch. Some of the most common include:
In a Cover Letter: Use your elevator pitch as a way to either help you brainstorm the main points you want to touch upon in your letter, or use it within the actual text of your statement as a way of starting off strong. Using your pitch in this format is a fantastic way to highlight what drives you and what makes you special.
During an Interview: Often hiring managers will ask you to tell them about yourself during an interview. Having an honest, memorable, and well-thought-out answer can capture their attention and show that you know the value you can offer their organization. It can also help open a meaningful dialogue about what you’re looking for and whether this career opportunity will be the right fit for you.
At Networking Events: You’re likely to meet dozens if not hundreds of people at networking events, and having an authentic statement about yourself at the ready can help break the ice when starting a conversation. It can also help those you meet remember you and your accomplishments after the event has ended.
Looking for More?
Explore our Career Advice archives for tips and strategies to advance in your career.
How do I Write a Personal Elevator Pitch?
Step 1: Write It Out
Simply put pen to paper and jot down the answers to the biggest factors in your professional life, including:
- What you do for work.
- What inspires you most about your work.
- What your greatest career achievements have been.
- What your career goals are.
- What you are looking to achieve in the future.
- What special skills you have that could benefit your future employer.
Step 2: Consider Your Value
Review the ways that your education can add to your value as an employee, including:
- The transferable skills you have gained while earning your degree.
- The special projects (research work, co-ops, etc.) you may have worked on.
- The way your university experience advanced your knowledge in the field.
Step 3: Seek The Input of Others
Connect with those you’ve worked closely with during your professional career, and ask them to identify what distinguishes you from others in your field.
Often it can be hard to objectively see what skills you have that have helped others or that impacted an organization. These might be skills that are part of your job description—such as success in garnering press for your company or exceptional coding abilities—or “soft skills” that add value in other ways. For example, you might be adept at building consensus among disparate groups, or at coming up with creative solutions to business obstacles. No matter their input, considering the opinions of those who know you best in the workplace can help you determine the most relevant points to include in your elevator pitch.
Step 4: Determine Your Motivation
Think through what you really want to achieve with your next career move and why—even before you start writing. Your elevator pitch should not just tell people what you have to offer, but also provide some insight into who you are and what motivates you. Feel free to jot down bullet points at this stage to help formulate your ideas.
Step 5: Prioritize
Establish the top two to three points you’d like to convey, and write out a sentence that properly highlights each point.
- I’m skilled at helping bring history to life.
- I was inspired to teach history by my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Moss, who showed me how a great teacher can profoundly change your life.
- My students often ask tough questions, and I love the discussions those questions can open up!
Combine the above bullet points into a smooth, well-crafted pitch using transition points to help connect each idea. For example:
I’m a middle school teacher, and am always looking for ways to bring history to life in class. My own fifth-grade teacher inspired me, and showed me that sometimes your most challenging days can turn into opportunities to learn something new. That’s why I love when students ask me tough questions, because it can spark great discussions and gets the students really engaged.
Step 6: Practice & Get Feedback
Read your elevator pitch out loud to yourself, then share it with a trusted friend or colleague for their honest input. Once you have gathered this feedback and feel comfortable speaking your statement out loud, you should begin actively using it at professional events to see how people respond. Noticing how those around you are interpreting your message will help you determine if or how you might need to adjust it moving forward.
Step 7: Polish Your Pitch
Refining your elevator pitch should be an iterative process, and it may require several versions before you feel comfortable with what you’ve written. If you get stuck, you might also consider asking a professional editor to help you hone your message.
The Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Personal Elevator Pitch
Create your personal elevator pitch with the following tips in mind:
- Make it meaningful to the person you’re speaking with. Consider not just what you do, but how what you do could help the person you’re pitching to.
Here’s an example of an opening line in a less-effective elevator pitch:
I’ve been working in drug discovery at Smith Pharmaceuticals for 12 years.
Here’s how to turn that opening line into a pitch that means something to a future employer:
I helped discover and patent a billion-dollar diabetes medication during my time in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Tell a story. Paint a picture of what you do in order to help your pitch get noticed. This might involve highlighting an interesting accomplishment or simply sharing your unique perspective on your profession.
- Be specific. Future employers want to understand what your particular area of expertise is.
- Be authentic. Give potential employers a sense of who you really are. After all, you’re looking for a career opportunity that is a good fit for you, so giving some insight into who you are and what motivates you is important.
- Use a conversational tone. Avoid using language that’s too rigid or formal, and be wary of your statement coming off like a sales pitch. Even though your elevator pitch is, at its core, a way to sell yourself and your worth, it’s important to strike a balance between confident and casual.
- Go into too much detail. Your pitch should have only enough information to pique someone’s interest; it is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all you have to offer.
- Use jargon or industry language. Articulate what your skills are and what your value using layman’s terms, so that professionals from any field can see and understand your value.
- Take too long. Aim to get your point across in less than 30 seconds.
- Put too much focus on your years of experience. It’s not your longevity in a job that will make you noticeable but what you did with that time.
- Use cliche terms. Phrases like “state-of-the-art” and “thinking outside the box” are overused and can make a pitch seem dull.
Personal Elevator Pitch Examples
Each elevator pitch should be unique. Here are several examples to get you inspired:
Example #1: Highlighting Previous Successes
I’m a marketing manager who helped launch a successful nutrition app that sold three million copies in its first year. I’m looking to use what I’ve learned in the corporate world to help a health-focused nonprofit grow its donor base.
Example #2: Sharing Your Passion
I’m currently a corporate chef, and my favorite part of my work is concocting new recipes. I’m looking to become a personal chef so that I can continue bringing joy to my clients through food.
Example #3: Starting a Dialogue
Do you ever get the feeling your doctor has one foot out the door when you start asking them questions? As a practice manager, I actually work to build better relationships between patients and doctors. I helped my last practice earn a position as one of Boston Magazine’s list of Boston’s Best Doctors, and am looking to join a practice that shares these values.
Advance Your Career With a Well-Developed Elevator Pitch
Having a succinct personal elevator pitch is a fantastic way to make the most of interviews and networking events, and to open you up to new career opportunities. While it may seem like a challenging exercise to hone your personal message, it’s a very powerful way to market yourself.
Highlighting an advanced degree within your elevator pitch can also go a long way in setting you apart from the masses in these situations. Many of today’s employers seek candidates who believe in lifelong education, as this demonstrates your commitment to continual improvement. If you have already pursued advanced education, be sure to mention your degree within your personal elevator pitch in a way that doesn’t feel forced, but that clearly establishes your credentials in the field. For those who have not yet completed advanced education, consider one of the 200+ degree and certificate programs at Northeastern to help set you apart from the crowd.