As you enter professional networking events and find yourself waiting in those long lines to talk to a potential employer, you may realize that those few minutes you get with an employer are crucial. In those few minutes, you need to express your interest to the hiring manager and tell him/her anything else about you that will make you stand out as an applicant.
How are you supposed to cram all of that information into a few minutes of conversation? The simple answer is that you should have an elevator pitch ready to go when you get there.
An elevator pitch is a common tool that both professionals and students use to summarize themselves in a short period of time. If you’re not sure that you need an elevator pitch as a high school student, here’s some brief points about what an elevator pitch really is and why a high schooler may want to write one.
What is an elevator pitch?
“Elevator Pitch” is a metaphorical way of describing a very brief spiel about yourself. The term was first used by an executive at Vanity Fair and is derived from the following scenario: If you were on an elevator ride and only had those thirty seconds to a minute to sell your qualifications to someone, you should be ready to give a brief summary of yourself.
More generally, an elevator pitch is a brief speech on the important, impressive, and memorable aspects of your academic and professional career. It highlights your most impressive and relevant past experiences, your main interests, and your short- and long-term goals.
An elevator pitch is extremely useful to have on hand if you ever find yourself needing to give a summary of yourself with limited time or space. In fact, there are many situations you may encounter in which that will definitely be the case.
As already mentioned, networking events and job fairs provide the perfect opportunity to use an elevator pitch. Often, you only get a few minutes at a networking event to chat with a hiring manager or someone who could help you professionally. If you have an elevator pitch handy, you can ensure that you hit all the major selling points about yourself in those few minutes that you have.
An elevator pitch may also be helpful for you on college and job applications. For example, many college applications require a personal statement or interviews. While an elevator pitch is too short and vague to count as a personal statement, it can be used as a to showcase all your interests at the start of your college interview. After all, if you already know what you want to highlight about yourself, all you will have to do in crafting your personal statement is elaborate
Similarly, job applications sometimes provide an option for you to give a brief summary of yourself, either on the application or in the form of a cover letter to your resume. Like the college personal statement, these few-paragraph summaries would be much easier to write if you already knew your main selling points from crafting an elevator pitch.
How to Develop an Elevator Pitch
The first part of the elevator pitch is the easiest part. This is a brief sentence or two giving your name, what your current occupation is, and why you’re there. In your case, you’ll say something along the lines of, “Hi, my name is [name], I’m a [grade] student at [name of high school], and I am very interested in [name of position or college].”
The next part of the elevator pitch requires a bit more thought. This is where you want to highlight any interests and goals that would make the hiring manager or college consider you as a candidate or simply take notice of you. While you likely have many interests and ambitions, you want to pick two to three universal ones that will work in most networking situations.
For example, if you see yourself becoming an economist, the interests you pick should be at least slightly related to social sciences. Your goals should involve getting a bachelor’s degree, a masters or Phd, and doing research work.
Lastly, you should have at least one past experience or example of how you have tried to pursue your interests and achieve your goals. The aforementioned economics student would be sure to mention anything along the lines of working at a bank, think tank, or research group.
The examples and past experiences you bring up do not have to be work or professional experience. In fact, as a high school student, you likely do not have that much work experience to speak of. Instead, you can draw on any clubs or extracurriculars that fit.
You should never try to make up an interest or a past experience. If you find yourself without an example of how you’ve pursued an interest or goal, choose a different one.
How long should an elevator pitch be?
Once again, the old metaphor of having a conversation in an elevator holds. You need to keep your elevator pitch short and concise, so that you can say everything that you need to say without boring a potential employer or college. Nobody wants to hear a person ramble about themselves for too long.
If you’re worried about the length of your elevator pitch, write or type it out. If it is longer than the average introduction to a high school essay, trim it down. If it’s shorter, feel free to elaborate a little bit more. Keep in mind that most high school essay introductions do not go past half a page. You can also try timing it aloud; an elevator pitch should last no longer than a minute when speaking at normal speed.
When to Use an Elevator Pitch
While an elevator pitch can be a great summary of who you are as a person, it’s not great for every social situation. For example, you shouldn’t use your elevator pitch if you are meeting someone in an informal setting like a college orientation. An elevator pitch is mostly for professional use.
However, as mentioned above, professional networking events and college applications and interviews are perfect places to utilize your elevator pitch.
One setting where an elevator pitch would be extremely useful is a college fair. This is not technically a professional setting, as you are not interviewing with the college advisors you meet nor are you necessarily going to apply to their university. However, college fairs generally have long lines of people waiting to talk to a single college representative. You will likely only get a few minutes with each college representative, so an elevator pitch is useful to keep the conversation succinct while still saying everything you want to say and leaving a positive impression.
Attending a college fair? Check out the 15 questions you should be asking.
In fact, in a college fair setting, you may want to keep your elevator pitch shorter than usual. The college representatives at each table are trying to see every student in a very short period of time, so you may have even less time to chat with the college than you may anticipate.
It is also worth noting that an elevator pitch could also be useful when you are meeting your guidance counselor for the first time. Many college applications require counselor letters of recommendation. If you give them your elevator pitch, you will have inherently outlined the main goals, interests, and accomplishments that they should highlight in your letter of recommendation.
In general, you should use the elevator pitch in any networking session where you may have to mingle with adults. You may not always have to use it, but it is good to have it ready.
An elevator pitch can be a useful tool in professional settings as long as they are done right. If you follow the right format and know which instances to use it, an elevator pitch can genuinely impress an adult or future employer and leave a great first impression.
As a final tip, make sure you practice your elevator pitch. All of the sophistication goes away if you try to give your elevator pitch and have to pause and stumble the entire time! That being said, don’t over-rehearse. You don’t want to sound mechanical and robotic by regurgitating a script. Keep it natural.
Still confused? Come see us!