Scenario: You’re graduating in May and you attend the Spring Career Fair held at your school. You meet a recruiter representing your dream company and they want to know a little bit about you. Are you prepared for an opportunity like this? Would you be able to concisely introduce yourself, your background and your career goals in 30 seconds or less? This is where your “elevator pitch” comes in handy.
An elevator pitch has a simple definition: it’s a basic introduction of who you are as well as your career aspirations. So why is this important? In most situations, you won’t have time to tell someone your life story or every accomplishment thus far. You want your elevator pitch to provide enough background information and enthusiasm so the other person wants to continue the conversation with you – potentially during a follow-up interview.
Here are a few tips that will help you jump-start your personal brand:
- Be authentic. Before you jump into your personal brand, take a minute to think about who you really are and where you want to be in five years, career-wise. What have you accomplished so far? What are your true passions? What are your goals? It’s often hard to analyze yourself without feeling like you are bragging or being egocentric. There are a couple of ways around this –You can take a self-assessment test online or through your college career center or, the easier and more convenient option, ask friends or relatives to describe your best qualities and greatest accomplishments. The people who are close to you should have no problem pinpointing the qualities that make you stand out among the rest.
- Learn how to introduce yourself. Once you feel like you have a good understanding of who you are, the next step is being able to communicate that to others with as much enthusiasm as possible. Because you never want to project arrogance, “Tell me a little bit about yourself” is a much harder assignment than it may seem. Learn how to say your name, your recent accomplishments and your career goals assertively, avoiding a sense of conceit.
- Practice and get Feedback. Once you have assembled a concise introduction, practice, practice and practice some more. Practice on your own in front of a mirror and, better yet, in front of your peers. Find a professional you trust – a friend, relative or professor – who will be honest with you and perform your introduction for them. Choose wisely because you want this person to be able to tell you your flaws and if there are any areas where you seem to be getting in your own way. For example, they might find that you say “like” or “um” too often. Bottom line, you need to practice until you feel comfortable telling your own story.
- Don’t sweat it. A lot of people feel uncomfortable or inexperienced in professional environments, especially a college student who hasn’t had much practice with interviewing. A common mistake when trying to cover up the awkwardness is making fun of yourself in hopes to make light of an uncomfortable situation– don’t do that. Everyone gets anxious during interviews and sometimes there is no way around it. Use the nervous energy to project self-assurance because if you are confident in yourself, other will feel more comfortable with you, making for a more pleasant interviewing experience.
- Market Yourself. Just as an organization or product needs marketing materials, you need them as well. In essence, you are a “product” in which a company might choose to invest themselves, so you will need a range of items to “market” yourself. The essential items include your resume, cover letters, contact information, professional online profiles, websites or blogs. Let’s focus for a second on what I mean by professional online appearances. It’s time to grow-up and find a job so lose the college drinking-binge pictures and inappropriate status/wall postings on your Facebook page. Choose a default picture that wouldn’t scare a potential job opportunity away – trust me, they look. Change your email address from “hotchick@yahoo” to something more suitable, hopefully you get the picture. If you don’t already have a presence on LinkedIn, create one. This is often used by employers as a research tool. Business cards are also a plus during a career fair or job interview. Don’t worry if it looks too simple – your contact information is all that’s needed.
Now, here are a few exercises that will help you develop your elevator pitch. What makes you unique? Ask yourself these questions and jot your answers down:
- Which of your previous jobs/internships or college classes provided you with experience relevant to your long-term career goals?
- What are your strongest skills?
- Career-wise, what are your strengths and passions?
- What kinds of companies or industries are you currently pursuing?
- What can you say about yourself that will set you apart from other entry-level candidates? What makes you memorable?