Give An Elevator Pitch That Sounds More Like You & Gets You The Job



May 21 2015, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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Everybody dreads the elevator pitch. 60 seconds. Trapped in a tiny moving box with someone who could make or break your career. AND you’re supposed to wow them with a mini-speech all about you?? The stuff of nightmares. (::shiver::)

Okay, I exaggerate. But even if you’re not waking up in terror at the thought of having to tell someone what you do, you probably aren’t so proud of your elevator pitch that you’re ready to shout it to the world. But you should be!

And that’s because the elevator pitch is both unavoidable and invaluable nowadays. You aren’t just telling people what you do while you’re moving between floors—if you’ve 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 “What do YOU do?” question anytime, anywhere.

And potential employers and clients can decide in the blink of an eye where 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 sleezy or salesy (“I facilitate meaningful interactions by leveraging enterprise empowerment.” Puke. And… Huh?)
  • NOT underselling OR overselling your skills and experience

Here are the steps you need to create the perfect pitch, plus 7 real-life examples of revised elevator pitches (thanks to our awesome Skillcrush students who volunteered for this career makeover).

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And, to make it super simple for you to get your own pitch ready, just download the fast and easy worksheet that will take you step-by-step through the process of coming up with what to say to get the tech job you’ve 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’s not what makes coming up with a great elevator pitch so difficult.

The tricky part is coming up with concise yet cohesive story about yourself that is accurate AND positions you to get what you want, whether that’s a job offer, a business card, or just a firm handshake.

Here are a few methods that can help you connect the dots:

  1. Say as little as possible.
  2. Say as little as possible.

Here’s what I mean. An elevator pitch isn’t your whole life story, and it isn’t even the highlights. Instead, it’s the 1-3 things you want to emphasize about you and your ambitions.

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Cater your elevator pitch to the situation you’re in as much as possible. If you’re at a tech conference, it might not be the best moment to talk about your Etsy shop, and if you’re talking to a blogger you admire, it makes more sense to focus on your own blogging goals than the professional duathlon you placed 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.

  1. Decide what kind of work you’re looking for.
  2. Decide what kind of work you’re 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’s 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 rather than spending a lot of time on the dead-end job you want to ditch. And 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 5 years you spent as a banker.

  1. Figure out who you’re talking to.
  2. Figure out who you’re talking to.
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In the same way you should cater your elevator pitch to the specific situation, you should do as much as you can to craft your pitch based on the person you’re talking to. Your elevator pitch is only valuable if the person you’re talking to understands it.

So don’t throw a ton of developer acronyms at someone outside the tech industry, and on the same token, don’t over-explain Facebook marketing to a social media marketing pro.

  1. Ask yourself what problem you solve rather than what you DO.
  2. Ask yourself what problem you solve rather than what you DO.

So, instead of saying you’re a customer service specialist, say that you communicate with customers and keep them happy throughout their experience with your brand.

Or, instead of saying you’re a copywriter, say that you help entrepreneurs and businesses create content that converts users into customers.

  1. Describe what you do in one day.
  2. Describe what you do in one day.

If you’re ever thrown into a situation and weren’t expecting to need an elevator pitch at the ready, a good fallback is to describe your day-in-the-life. So rather than saying you founded a nonprofit, say that you create opportunities for underprivileged girls to learn to code.

  1. Include numbers and concrete details.
  2. Include numbers and concrete details.

And 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.

  1. Be quirky or unexpected.
  2. Be quirky or unexpected.
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Use an unusual word to describe yourself or tell about your unique talent or passion. If you feel like your elevator pitch is a little dry, try adding a memorable personal detail for some flair. For example, you might say that you’re researching biotech solutions to global water shortages, and add on that you’re also the leading hopscotch champion in your local club. Okay, that might have been a stretch, but I think you catch my drift.

  1. Take something out!
  2. Take something out!

You don’t have to say everything relevant at once. If you’re interesting, they’ll ask for more. Start with 1 or 2 tidbits about yourself and see what makes the person say “Ooooh, wow!” You’ll figure out what they’re interested in, and then you can share more information according to their interests.

  1. Turn it into a conversation.
  2. 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 taking a big gulp of air and spewing 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’ve 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’re hired!”

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If you’re having trouble connecting the dots or finding a narrative thread, maybe you need the skills that can tie it all together. It’s 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.

And, if you reading all these tips and still thinking, “Holy mackerel! There’s no way I can keep all of that straight!”, don’t worry. You don’t 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 a decade off to raise your kids, and now you don’t 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.

Well, I found 7 actual Skillcrush students and alumni who have their own special circumstances to explain. So take a look, and see if your story shares any similarities. Maybe you can take a page from one of their books…or, you know…3 lines.

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7 Real-Life Career Situations, with Elevator Pitches to Match


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.” But she says she’s 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?”

Sound familiar?? (Hello, little unsure voices in your head!) Well, fuhgettaboutit! If you’ve actually done the work, there’s no need to feel unsure. Don’t oversell yourself but DON’T sell yourself short. And, if you’re 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’m a web designer who’s making the Internet a more beautiful and positive place! My background in counselling helps me understand what the bloggers and small business owners I work with need. And, thanks to working in administration AND now being a stay-at-home mom, I’m great at coming up with solutions, no matter what you throw at me.


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 relaunch my fine art career.”

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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.” And, he knows he’s “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 (even if he got them from former jobs) and the work he’s interested in doing in the future.

New elevator pitch: I’m 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.


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 (both 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’re looking to move from one industry to another, find a way to show how the skills from your former (or other) life will make you better in your new career. In other words, you should own—not disown—your experience and skills, even if you got them from a job you’re hoping to leave behind.

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New elevator pitch: I’m a multimedia artist. I do photography, film production, and web design and development. And, 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.


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.” And she wants to “practice what I’m learning” and also make art and 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. But I also create pen-and-paper illustrations, comics, and paintings. Because I’m 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.


Old elevator pitch: “I’m a stay-at-home mom who helps people with technology on the side.”

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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’s concerned about having been out of the workforce for 15 years and says she’s just done “small jobs” in tech.

But there’s no reason for Monica not to talk about her work just because she’s not getting paid for it—yet! She’s built websites and 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’m a technophile and web developer specializing in testing, website maintenance, and tech support for small businesses. And I’m also passionate about being a mom and a co-owner of a medical business.


Old elevator pitch: “I’m an ESL teacher in Hanoi taking online courses in programming.”

Analysis: Amanda probably sums up your feeling 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’re both the square peg AND the round hole. But that diversity can be exactly what makes someone remembers about you when they’re looking for a solution to their tech problems.

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New elevator pitch: I combine different worlds in my work. I do physical design for textiles and surfaces and virtual design for websites. And I get my unique design aesthetic from my experience studying archaeology and teaching abroad.


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’s trying to leave her current job behind and “focus on creative projects as much as possible.”

It’s scary and not a decision to make lightly, but, once you’ve set your sights on a new career, it’s 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’m 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. And, currently, I’m part of a team developing a social networking app.

Photo credit: nationalrural / Foter / CC BY

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