Much of today’s communication is impersonal, digital and 140 characters or less. However, being able to communicate verbally in real time is still an important skill, especially when one is engaged in a job search.
I am a big proponent of everyone having an “elevator speech.” Contrary to the label, it need not be expressed in an actual elevator. This “sales pitch” could equally take place at a party or at a Shabbat “kiddush.” There are two main contexts for an elevator speech. The first is for networking, when introduced to someone new who might be a helpful connection. An effective elevator speech will plant a seed in the memory of the person to whom you are introduced. The second is during a job interview, in the event that you are asked “tell me about yourself.” Either way, some variation of the elevator speech should be in your back pocket at all times.
An elevator speech is a “business card plus,” and the trick is to make it smooth and concise, preferably 30-45 seconds. Remember, it is not an autobiography, and try to avoid TMI (too much information).
If you are unemployed, your elevator speech might result in specific inquiries about your situation. So, be prepared for what might be predictable follow-up questions. The contemporary version of what was previously known as “between jobs” is “in transition.” In today’s job market, identifying yourself as being in transition has less of a negative stigma than being unemployed.
The following is a structure of what I recommend to clients:
• Handshake, greeting and name, and eye contact (initially and throughout).
• Identify yourself professionally, even if you brand yourself as a recent graduate or student. Do not start with your entire life story or those things you think you can do or would be good at. Positive examples: litigator, financial analyst, professional accountant, Jewish educator.
• List a few occupationally relevant expertise items including skills, tools/ systems or experience. Positive examples: Quickbooks, PeopleSoft, grant writing, mobile app development.
• Briefly mention significant educational degrees and certifications. Positive examples: master’s in public administration from University of Baltimore, CPA, A-plus certification.
• Conclude with what type of role you are interested in, including specific job titles or industry sectors. Positive examples: financial analyst, construction estimator, office manager, social media specialist.
Some words to the wise:
• Avoid clichés such as hard worker, multitasker, communication skills, out-of-the-box, etc.; instead, focus on what you have done, your accomplishments and portable skills that you might offer an organization.
• Be honest, concise and focus on your positive (and quantitative) achiev-ements. It is not good form to bad mouth previous organizations for which you have worked and supervisors with whom you clashed.
• If relevant, touch upon some of the volunteer activities in which you have been involved, which convey an upbeat affect while between jobs.
• Try out your elevator speech in front of relatives and professionals in your field of expertise. Practice, refine and rehearse so that your elevator speech reaches the top floor.
Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., is executive director of Joblink of Maryland Inc.