“Shut up…pitch it…pitch it real good!” If you just rolled your eyes, I’m okay with that. As a dancer for life (I actually performed to that song in high school), I had to invoke Salt-N-Pepa for a moment.
Hopefully I’ve lightened the mood now because I know everyone HATES the question “What do you do?” And what do we hate even more? Answering that question.
I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. on and off for many years and everyone here asks that question. I try not to, but I can never think of a better question because “what are your interests?”, “what projects are you working on?”, or “do you stay at home with the kids?” all sound just as bad, if not worse.
You must be ready to answer this question, whether you’re seeking a job, not currently seeking a job, or an entrepreneur. Why? It’s important to be open to opportunity at all times. I know someone who found a job by talking to the person sitting next to them on an airplane. I know someone else who found a job by holding the door for someone walking into church. You can’t predict where it will happen, so just “shut up and pitch it!”
In 30 seconds or less, you should be able to tell someone – in the line at the grocery store, when picking up your kids at school, at a cocktail party, at a work conference, or at a startup pitch competition – what the heck you do.
You need to clearly communicate your unique value in an understandable and memorable way.
How can you make your pitch stand out? Make your first line (after telling them your name and shaking hands) a question. For example:
You: “Hi, my name is Emily Banks. It’s nice to meet you.”
Other person: “Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you too. What do you do?”
You: “You know how a lot of companies lose money and time by not accurately tracking investments and how good or bad they are for business?” (notice she isn’t using industry jargon here; she’s using language anyone could understand)
Next, tell John exactly what you do: “I work on corporate strategy initiatives. I look at what my company spends in different departments and figure out what expenses were worthwhile and how to do better the next quarter.”
Now tell John how your work has affected your company: “It’s saved the company a lot of money [insert number, if possible] and staff spend more time on things that actually help the company grow and achieve our goals.”
This last part is so important because it gives John a mental picture of how you can contribute to another company’s success.
If you’re actively looking for a new position or even casually thinking about it, you must add a line to tell them that because they won’t know! The best way to do this is to ask for guidance. It’s flattering when someone asks for advice, and most people love to give it.
You: “I’m looking to take the next step in my career, and I’d love your advice about X.”
Your “call to action” or question that follows will depend on how much you already know about the person.
If it’s a person with a career path that interests you and/or works for a company you’re interested in, ask if they would mind telling you about either or both of those things.
If you don’t have a lot of time or they are clearly in a rush, suggest a brief phone call or offer to take them to coffee. If they say “sure,” ask for their business card and follow up as promised within a few days.
Before using your pitch, practice it alone, on video so you can critique yourself, and in front of friends and family. The more comfortable you are with it, the better you will be at marketing yourself. Be yourself – that is what will draw people to you.
And if you’ve already made a strong connection with someone and they ask what you do, you don’t need to use your pitch exactly as practiced. Tell them what you do and show curiosity about them. The Problem With Your Elevator Pitch–And How To Fix It
If you’re struggling with how to create it, break it down into small steps by using these nine steps: The Perfect Elevator Pitch to Land A Job
For questions to ask yourself when building your pitch, get our free guide 4 Ways to Boost Your Job Search Success when you sign up for our monthly newsletter at www.careervalet.com.