Picture this: You're at a networking event and you find yourself face to face with the CEO of a local startup you've had your eye on. The CEO says, "Tell me about yourself." What do you say?
If you answered that with something like, oh, I'd tell her about my love for programming or I'd let him know how innovative I think his company is, most likely you need to re-evaluate your strategy.
Moments like this are what a job seeker dreams about. But in your dreams, you casually strike up a conversation, share a few laughs, and you walk away with a job offer. Sure, this can happen, however, most people need to prepare for what to say in this kind of scenario. Otherwise, you run the risk of rambling and losing this precious minute of undivided attention.
You need an elevator pitch (also known as an elevator speech), a few short, snappy sentences that explain who you are. More specifically, you'll share your background, your current motivations, and future aspirations. More subtly, a great elevator speech piques the interest of the person you're speaking to and gets them thinking that you might be a valuable person to work with.
Wait -- distill all of that down to a few sentences? It's hard enough to trim a resume down to one page! If you think this sounds difficult, you're right. It takes a little finesse to get your elevator speech down pat. But once you do, you'll find yourself navigating your networking events with ease, ready to introduce yourself with confidence and poise.
- Make it short. Around 3-5 sentences is your goal. Any more and you run two great risks: forgetting halfway through, or losing the listener's interest.
- Make it natural. This will come with practice. But also, remember, you're telling a story about...yourself! It shouldn't sound forced or generic.
- Make it real. Please -- don't lie, or embellish the truth. The goal is for the listener to be interested and engaged, which means that after you're done with your pitch, they'll start asking you questions. If you can't answer these questions, it will be embarrassing.
- Make it flexible. It's best to have a few different versions. You don't want to go around repeating the exact script to everyone in the room!
Breaking it down
First, who are you, professionally? You'll want to clearly state your job title, or rather, the job title you want. For most of you, that can be simply "Software Developer," but feel free to drill down deeper to more specifics like "Front-End Developer."
Next, you'll want to say something about your background, and relate it to where you are presently, and where you're trying to go. If you're changing careers, it's often good to mention this as well, just to get it out of the way right off the bat. Luckily for you, coding bootcamp students/graduates have a great conversation point right there:
"After working in finance for four years, I realized that while I enjoyed thinking logically, I wanted to actually use that logic to build things, rather than just use tools made by others. So I enrolled in a coding bootcamp, and it turned out that programming requires exactly the right combination of concentration, creativity, and execution that I was looking for."
Remember, you're signaling the value you can add to their company. So, from there, you're going to want to pick one thing you like/you're good at, and expand on it. For example:
"I discovered that not only did I enjoy the process of puzzling out a difficult problem, I found from doing a few group projects that I loved collaborating with a team to brainstorm solutions. I find it so satisfying when all our work results in a beautiful, functional product."
Finally, you sum it up with a look to the future: your goals and enthusiasm for the field.
"I just graduated, and I'm exploring my employment options right now. I'm really hoping to find somewhere where I can continue to create and learn with the same intensity that I have been over the past X months."
Practice, practice, practice
It's hard to overstate how important this is. Once you've written your elevator pitch(es) out, try them out! A lot of being able to express yourself confidently to strangers at networking events just comes from doing it over and over again. But you don't have to practice at actual events. Introduce yourself to your husband, your best friend, your dog. It won't be exactly the same, but it will still be awkward, and it will still be practice. And they'll be able to give you honest, workable feedback about whether it's working or not.
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