Health & Wellness

Get ahead at work in 30 seconds or less (formerly known as the "elevator pitch")

Federick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment / Today
How to Get Ahead in 30 Seconds (Or Why You Need an Elevator Pitch)

Every professional needs an elevator pitch. Whether you’re attending a networking event, building your reputation in the office or hunting for the next great job, it’s important to know how to succinctly and effectively communicate your professional image—or what is known in career speak as your personal brand. Everything from your knowledge and expertise to how you dress and what you say helps to define your personal brand. 

Here are six ways to build a pitch with power.

Star in your own commercial

You know what a TV commercial is—a quick (15 to 60 seconds) snippet of advertising designed to remind (or introduce) you to brands and help you associate certain characteristics with a product. So think of your elevator pitch as your own personal commercial: a short, attention-grabbing way to convey your personal brand statement. 

Stick to 3s

You’ll have about 30 seconds to explain to someone (1) what you’re great at, (2) what you’re passionate about, and (3) why that’s of value to the other person. Don’t try to stuff in too many details—just stick to those three important elements. (Most people won’t remember more than that from one conversation, anyway.) If you don’t know where to start, consider using this exercise on Breaking Down the Elevator Pitch. 

Show your value

Remember, your pitch needs to explain what you can do for the other person. Whether you’re negotiating a raise with your current boss or interviewing with a new company, you need to demonstrate your value and tie it back to your audience’s needs.

Know your audience

Consider who you’re talking to before you give your pitch—and adjust it as necessary. Ask yourself, “Will they understand industry-specific terminology or do I need to talk in broader strokes?” For example, you may find out another mom on your kid’s soccer team works in the same field. She is going to need a different pitch than the recruiter you’re speaking with at an industry tradeshow. 

Channel your inner diva

You’re pitching one product—you. You have to pitch your value with confidence to get the listener to buy what you’re trying to sell. So consider the whole package when you deliver your pitch—not just the words. This includes your posture, eye contact, mannerisms and tone of voice. You may have great things to say, but if you recite your pitch in a monotone voice or with a clear lack of confidence, no one is going to listen. 

Practice with passion

Practice your pitch out loud with a friend or use your phone or tablet to record yourself. The more you practice delivering your pitch out loud, the more comfortable it will feel. Don’t memorize it; instead, know the three main points you want to get across and practice communicating them in a variety of circumstances.

Breaking Down the Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is all about showing employers what you can do for them. In short, you want to explain to them: (1) who you are; (2) what you are great at and passionate about; and (3) how this is of value to an employer. Use the exercise below to brainstorm your pitch.

Who You Are

Write down a sentence to you introduce yourself. This typically includes your name and job title or primary function.

What You Are Great at & Passionate About

Think back to your job goals. Why are you targeting this type of work in the first place? What do you like about it or find interesting? Don’t start with the formal, politically correct response you assume the employer is looking for. This exercise is to help you brainstorm. Really, why do you like this type of work? Each time you write down a response, ask yourself “why?” again to see if you can dig any deeper. At the end of the day, why do you enjoy this job?

How has your previous experience helped prepare you for this role? Consider the different projects and assignments you’ve completed during your career—what results have you produced? If possible, review previous performance evaluations or other forms of feedback you’ve received. What key skills or areas of expertise make you good at what you like to do? 

How This Is of Value to a Potential Employer

Now that you’ve written down what you’re great at doing, it’s time to elaborate on the results you’ve produced. What accomplishments or contributions are you proud of? What were the tangible benefits? Try to think in terms of better, faster or cheaper. At the end of the day, what’s in it for the employer?

Now, review everything you wrote down. Read this aloud to a friend or family member to help brainstorm. What information sticks out to you? What’s memorable and shows your passion? How does it demonstrate your value to an employer?

Next, look for your hook—what's the nugget you want people to remember you for? This will become your tagline. For instance, when people ask me what I do, I start with the following: 

My name is Amanda Augustine and I am a Job Search Expert for TheLadders. My passion is helping people find the right job, sooner.

Then, depending on who I’m talking to, I usually use some form of the following:

For nearly nine years I’ve worked with TheLadders to educate and prepare millions of professionals for the job-search process through the development of coaching programs, live recruiting events and online advice in my weekly column, Ask Amanda. I’ve dedicated almost three years to testing various techniques to identify the best ways to navigate the job search landscape in today’s marketplace.

In addition to this pitch, I recommend creating a short list of stories you can use to demonstrate and quantify your work further, should the conversation require additional details. These stories should be simple talking points (think of the STAR approach) that you’ve thought through so if anyone asks you to elaborate, you’re not caught off-guard.

By taking the time to go through this exercise and craft your pitch, you will be better prepared to communicate your value through every phase of the job search.

Amanda Augustine is the job search expert for TheLadders. Follow her on Facebook and @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.