Everybody dreads the 60-second elevator pitch. You are stuck in a tiny room with someone who could make or break your career. You are supposed to wow them with a small speech all about you?
Even if you are not scared at the thought of having to tell someone what you do, you probably are not confidence in your elevator pitch that you are ready to shout it to the world. However, you should be!
The elevator pitch is both unavoidable and invaluable, nowadays. You are not just telling people what you do while you are moving between floors. If you have ever been to a meetup, party, conference, or just run into your aunt’s neighbor in the grocery store, you know that somebody can ask you the infamous question, “What do you do?”
Potential employers and clients can decide quickly, whether to pursue hiring you or working with you.
Anatomy of a Great Elevator Pitch
Instead of becoming a social recluse and shelving your career dreams, you need to learn how to perfect your reply. That means:
- NOT sounding like a one-dimensional corporate drone
- NOT boring or confusing people
- NOT leaving people wondering exactly what is it you do
- NOT leaving out your personal passions and side projects
- NOT sounding inappropriate or too professional
- NOT underselling or overselling your skills and experience
Here are the steps you need to create the perfect pitch, and 7 real-life examples of revised elevator pitches (A special thank you to our awesome Skillcrush students, who volunteered for this career makeover).
To make it super simple for you to get your own pitch ready, just download the fast and easy worksheet. It will take you step-by-step through the process of coming up with what to say, to get the tech job you have been dreaming of.
9 Steps to Creating an Elevator Pitch That Gets You the Work You Want
As nerve-wracking as it is to literally pitch yourself to a colleague or role model, that is not what makes coming up with a great elevator pitch so difficult.
The tricky part is coming up with a concise and cohesive story about yourself that is accurate and positions you to get what you want, whether that is a job offer, a business card, or just a firm handshake.
Here are a few methods that can help you:
- Say as little as possible.
Here is what I mean. An elevator pitch is not your whole life story. Instead, it is a few things that you want to emphasize about you and your ambitions.
Cater your elevator pitch to your current situation. If you at a tech conference, it might not be the best moment to talk about your Etsy shop. If you are talking to a blogger whom you admire, it makes more sense to focus on your own blogging goals than the professional marathon you competed in last summer.
Instead of overwhelming listeners with your whole story, only include the parts of your story that are relevant to the specific situation.
- Decide what kind of work you are looking for.
What are you interested in? What kind of work do you want?
Before you can write an elevator pitch that will help you reach your goals, you need to know what those goals are. Once you know what you want, it is easier to portray yourself in a way that makes sense.
For example, if you really want to be a web designer, you should emphasize the web design work you already do. Try not to spend much time on the dead-end job you want to ditch. If you want to be a data-driven marketer, talk about your marketing background and how excited you are about data, before you mention the five years you spent as a banker.
- Figure out who you are talking to.
In the same way you cater your elevator pitch, you should do as much as you can to craft your pitch, based on the person you are talking to. Your elevator pitch is only valuable, if the person you are talking to understands it.
Do not throw a ton of developer acronyms at someone outside the tech industry. Do not over-explain Facebook marketing to a social media marketing pro.
- Ask yourself what problem you solve rather than what you do.
Instead of saying you are a customer service specialist, say that you communicate with customers and keep them happy throughout their experience with your brand.
Instead of saying you are a copywriter, say that you help entrepreneurs and businesses create content that converts users into customers.
- Describe what you do in one day.
If you are ever thrown into a situation and were not expecting to need an elevator pitch at the ready, a good fallback is to describe your day-in-the-life. Rather than saying you founded a nonprofit, say that you create opportunities for underprivileged girls to learn to code.
- Include numbers and concrete details.
On that same note, rather than saying you help girls “learn to code,” say you help preteens learn HTML and CSS. More details are more memorable.
- Be quirky or unexpected.
Use an unusual word to describe yourself or talk about your unique talent or passion. If you feel like your elevator pitch is a little dry, try adding a memorable personal detail. For example, you might say that you are researching biotech solutions to global water shortages, and add on that you are also the leading hopscotch champion in your local club.
- Take something out!
You do not have to say everything relevant all at once. If you are interesting, they will ask for more. Start with one or two facts about yourself and see how the person reacts. You will figure out what they are interested in. Then, you can share more information according to their interests.
- Turn it into a conversation.
Sam Horn, author of Got Your Attention?, throws the whole idea of an elevator “pitch” out the window. Instead, she likes to think of it as an elevator conversation. Rather than pitching your story, find a way to make your spiel relevant to your listener right away.
For example, if you are an email marketer, try something like:
Them: “What do you do?”
You: “Do you get any email newsletters from different brands you have purchased something from?”
Them: “Yes, I get SO many Everlane emails!”
You: “I work with brands to write email newsletters that will make you buy something again, and not unsubscribe.”
Them: “Oh wow! What a wizard! You are hired!”
If you are having trouble finding a narrative thread, then you will need the skills that can tie it all together. It is not unusual for our students, like Skillcrush alum and our very own Director of Content Randle Browning, to tell us that tech skills were the missing link in their careers.
If you reading all these tips and feeling overwhelmed, do not worry. You do not have to start from scratch when it comes to drafting a great elevator pitch.
Even if your situation feels unruly or unique, others have probably had the same trouble talking about themselves that you’re having. For example, maybe you took time off to raise your kids, and now you do not know how to connect the dots between your job as a sales rep 10 years ago, the interim doing the mom thing, and your current work as a WordPress developer.
I have found 7 actual Skillcrush students and alumni who have their own special circumstances to explain. Take a look and see if your story shares any similarities. Maybe, you can learn from what they have to say.
7 Real-Life Career Situations, with Elevator Pitches to Match
When you are a stay-at-home parent: Christine
Old Elevator Pitch: “I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I’ve recently started doing web design.”
Analysis: Christine says herself that this pitch “leaves out any excitement.” She says she has been scared to super-charge her elevator pitch because: “I feel new and not very confident yet. What if I sound more excited or describe it more and I actually have people interested in my services before I feel ready?”
If you have done the work, there is no need to feel unsure. Do not oversell yourself but do not sell yourself short. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you can definitely connect the amazing work you do raising a family, with the amazing work you do online.
New Elevator Pitch: I am a web designer who is making the Internet a more beautiful and positive place! My background in counseling helps me understand, what the bloggers and small business owners I work with need. Thanks to working in administration and now being a stay-at-home mom, I am great at coming up with solutions, no matter what you throw at me.
When you are multi-passionate: Donovan
Old elevator pitch: “I left college to work as an artist—things like mural and decorative painting, studio painting, model building—then I left that career to finish my degree in history at the University of Pennsylvania. I did that. Now, I’m going back into the arts and getting into web design. I’m looking for a job in arts administration while I get started in web design and re-launch my fine art career.”
Analysis: Donovan feels, “like my elevator pitch tries to serve too many masters because I’m thinking about both immediate goals and long-term goals.” He says his main goal is: “to have a fine art studio where I can paint and direct large art projects, and then web design and creative brainstorming with companies.” He also knows he is, “Good at both creative and analytical thinking.”
Instead of getting stuck in the past, Donovan should focus on the great range of skills and talents he has now and the work he is interested in doing in the future.
New elevator pitch: I am an analog and a digital artist. I use my fine art and tech skills to design beautiful website experiences and develop projects ranging from creating art to creative brainstorming.
When you are transitioning out of the corporate world: Michelle
Old elevator pitch: “I am a web designer and I transitioned from a background in law and human resources with a specialization in organizational development.”
Analysis: Michelle’s opinion of her pitch is that, “it leaves out quite a bit about who I am.” She also has experience in entertainment with performing and producing, as well as in event planning. As she puts it, “Essentially I am artist. However, I usually keep that separate from my ‘day job’ persona.”
If you are looking to move from one industry to another, find a way to show how the skills from your former life will make you better in your new career. In other words, you should own your experience and skills, even if you got them from a job you are hoping to leave behind.
New elevator pitch: I am a multimedia artist. I do photography, film production, and web design and development. Luckily, I come from a corporate background, so I have the research and management skills to develop projects, like the multimedia blog I just launched.
When you are a “maker”: Katie
Old elevator pitch: “I’m a web and graphic designer, artist, and illustrator.”
Analysis: Katie wants to avoid having to look for part-time work and instead land design gigs. She’s realizing that “I love making things, and websites are no different.” She wants to “practice what I’m learning.” She also wants to make art, comics, and continue pet sitting.
Katie has a fascinating combination of talents and interests, but her pitch is forgettable. She needs to bring out her uniqueness, as well as emphasize what diverse skills she offers.
New elevator pitch: On the digital side, I make web designs, WordPress sites, and graphic designs. I also create pen-and-paper illustrations, comics, and paintings. Because, I am so passionate about the arts, I also do “behind-the-scenes” work, like applying for grants, writing proposals, doing comic readings, and putting on festivals.
When you have a break in your career: Monica
Old elevator pitch: “I’m a stay-at-home mom who helps people with technology on the side.”
Analysis: As Monica puts it: “I do so much but it doesn’t fit into any PERFECT MOLD and not much of it is paid, so I usually downplay what I do.” She is concerned about having been out of the workforce for 15 years and says she has only done “small jobs” in tech.
There is no reason for Monica not to talk about her work, just because she is not getting paid for it, yet! She has built websites, trained private individuals and companies to use their technology, so she has every right to claim those digital skills are hers!
New elevator pitch: I am a technophile and web developer specializing in testing, website maintenance, and tech support for small businesses. I am also passionate about being a mom and a co-owner of a medical business.
When you’re on two different paths: Amanda
Old elevator pitch: “I’m an ESL teacher in Hanoi taking online courses in programming.”
Analysis: Amanda probably sums up your feelings about elevator pitches: “Think how much I dread being defined by what I do.” She goes on to say she has, “A silent interior life crisis over why I can’t just succinctly define myself as a job.”
If you have a diverse background like Amanda does, you can feel like you are both the square peg and the round hole. That diversity can be exactly what makes someone remember about you, when they are looking for a solution to their tech problems.
New elevator pitch: I combine different worlds in my work. I do physical design for textiles and surfaces and virtual design for websites. I get my unique design aesthetic from my experience, studying archaeology and teaching abroad.
When you’ve got one foot out the door: Chris
Old elevator pitch: “I work in real estate, working with clients and managing a boutique office. I’m also a freelance photographer and designer…” or “I work in real estate, working with clients and managing a boutique office, but I developed a social network with a couple Brit friends that just launched last year…”
Analysis: Chris admits that her elevator pitch has been a challenge for her. “It changes every time, because I vacillate between saying what I do now versus what I am working towards and it ends up being a rambling, inarticulate run on.” She is trying to leave her current job behind and “focus on creative projects, as much as possible.”
It is scary and not a decision to make lightly, but, once you have set your sights on a new career, it is time for to leave the past behind and focus on the future. So, make sure your pitch is up-to-date too.
New elevator pitch: I am a tech triple threat — designer, developer and digital project manager. My super power is my organizational skills paired with my creative background in photography, graphics, and social media marketing. Currently, I am part of a team developing a social networking application.
Image credit: CC by Congres in Beeld