Your Self-Introduction or Elevator Pitch
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In my experience, most job seekers and working professionals struggle with how to deliver an impactful self-introduction or elevator pitch. I’ve coached hundreds of students and professionals in this area. Here are tips to help you with your own content and delivery.
The way you introduce yourself to others is important in a number of contexts. Here are a few…
- Delivering an elevator pitch during a chance networking encounter
- Responding to “Tell me about yourself” in casual networking or during interviews
- In emails, phone calls, or meetings when you are offering information or seeking information from others
- The list goes on…
You have opportunities to introduce yourself verbally and in writing all the time. Yet we are averse to self-introductions. As my podcasting partner and I shared in episode 2 of our podcast series, we would often rather experience bodily harm than engage in networking conversations or worse yet, networking events. The goal here is to distill the ambiguity down to a few tangible steps so that you can feel more confident about the way you introduce yourself.
Follow a formula
I recommend PRESENT, PAST, FUTURE. This is how it works.
Present – What I Do Now
First focus on what you’re doing now, i.e., role, position, organization, and articulating it in a positive way. I do/am X, work for ____ , where I have the opportunity to ______. If you are miserable in your job, I suggest reframing it more constructively (e.g., I’m ready for more of a challenge, I’m looking to grow my capability, or I’m interested in an organization that offers more development and mentoring opportunties, etc.) – NOT this place is a sweat shop or my manager is worthless. That’s hyperbole, but you get the idea.
Past – Brief Synopsis of Past Experience
Convey a brief and succinct overview of your past experience and don’t feel obligated to cover everything. Pick and choose the most relevant and transferable experiences. Ideally, each of your educational and work experiences will build on one another. You can also break your past into categories. For example, I segment my past experience into my recruiting, coaching, and development experiences. More on this on tip #2. The important part is to keep it brief – no more than 2 sentences. You will put an interviewer or networking contact to sleep if you detail all of your work history and education chronologically.
Future – Your Next Career Move and The ASK
The future or “the ask” is typically left out. Don’t leave your conversation partner hanging. It’s important to help others know what you want to do and how they can help you get there. Even if you aren’t sure of where you are headed, you can absolutely say something like “I’m still early in my career transition or exploration process.” (Your next move) and “I’d really like to learn more about your own career transition into X” (The Ask). In an interview context, the future is likely more narrow, i.e., “I’m excited about the potential opportunity to work with you and the team in X role” You know you’ve left out the ask when your conversation partners says something like, “So, how can I help you.” If so, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just thank them and come back in with the ask.
Tell a cohesive story
Clients often struggle with how to connect their experiences in a cohesive way, especially with regard to the PAST part of the formula. Until we have a conversation, they have a hard time seeing how one role or job connects to another and how each of their experiences have built on one another, largely because they are “in the weeds” of their current role/organization. You can think about it in a few ways, e.g., what you learned from each progressive experience, how each industry or functional experience led to your being a more effective generalist or general manager, or how your formal or informal educational/development experiences influenced the roles you took on or the work you did. This is an area where gaining insight from a trusted colleague, friend, or career counselor can make a significant impact.
I worked with a client recently who was asked to complete an online interview where he was fortunate enough to know the questions he would be asked ahead of time. I advised him to read his introduction 5 times out loud, then practice in the mirror 5-7 times without notes. Finally we practiced together in our session together. In the career management class I teach, I have students write their self-introduction and then engage in a speed networking exercise to practice. Both the client and my students were skeptical about practicing so much . In both cases, my client and the students, were grateful and appreciative – their rehearsal made a big difference in their confidence and delivery.
Summary – The Self-Introduction and Elevator Pitch
It’s critical to prepare a self-introduction or an elevator pitch that can be adapted for the situation. You can use it in casual networking encounters, phone screens or interviews, and for non-job seekers, in meetings, phone calls, or emails when exchanging introductions with others.
What are 3 steps to a great introduction or elevator pitch?
- Follow a formula – I recommend that past, present, and future version
- Tell a cohesive story – Connect your past to your present by explaining how your jobs and educational experiences build on one another
- Prepare – It won’t sound rehearsed if you practice the key points and work on making it sound natural when testing on others
Check out my related “Ask a Therapist” video on Facebook Live, each Sunday at 2:00 PM Central Time.
- On October 30, 2016