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How to Develop a Killer Elevator Pitch

By Jodi Glickman

The elevator pitch isn’t just for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital. It’s also an incredibly useful tool for you as you look for a new job, explore opportunities in a new industry, or just consider your next move.

And while there’s been plenty written about that 30-second spiel and how to master it, the truth is, most of us still get it wrong.

The biggest mistake people make is this:

We lead off with what we’ve done in the past, instead of focusing on what we want to do in the future.

We’re so focused on reciting our resume - where we’ve gone to school, what we’ve been doing for the last five years, etc. that we forget about the most important part - the future, and what we actually want to do going forward…

My new book, Great on the Job, tackles the elevator pitch with a twist on the traditional strategy:

  1. Destination
  2. Back story
  3. Connect the Dots

Start with Your Destination

If you’re at a networking event and you’re looking to transition into marketing from accounting, people are going to be far more interested in why you want to work in marketing and why you’re qualified to do so.

They're not that excided about hearing all the gory details of your accounting experience.

You’ve got to make your story relevant to someone in marketing and pique his or her interest in you as a potential candidate.

“Hi, my name is Mark. I’m looking for a marketing role with a consumer products company. I’ve always been fascinated with consumer behavior and what actually drives purchasing habits ”

Start off strong - tell me off the bat what you want to do and why. Don’t make me listen to a three-minute review of your latest accounting projects or recent clients, as you may lose me before you even get to why you’re here in the first place, to get a job in marketing.


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Follow with Your "Back Story"

Once you’ve laid out what you hope to do going forward, then shift gears and tell me about your background.

What have you worked on in the past, and how is it relevant to what you’re hoping to do next?

You don’t have to recite your resume in reverse chronological order, nor do you have to focus every aspect of your background - you can pick and choose what is compelling or relevant for this particular conversation.

As the accountant-turned aspiring marketer, perhaps you’ve worked on a special marketing project for your firm, helped market a friend’s new on-line business, or were president of your marketing club in college.

“Officially, I spend my time working as an accountant, but my real passion is in marketing. I’ve spent the last year helping a colleague market his new on-line retail business and I love the work.”

Highlight the relevant parts of your back story to show that you’re actually qualified to make the jump to a new industry.

Then, Connect the Dots

Now that I know what you’re looking for (a position in marketing) and that you’ve got a non-traditional career path (not many accountants make the jump to marketing), you’ve got to convince me that it all makes sense.

Connect the dots for me about why you’d be a great marketer. Highlight the skills you’ve gained as an accountant that will be relevant to your new position.

Answer my objections for me so that I walk away thinking—“wow, that’s an interesting guy”, versus, “he has no shot at the job.”

“The truth is, marketing is very data driven just like accounting. I think my passion for the industry, my strong analytical skills, and my practical experience doing marketing for a new retail business make me a great candidate. I’d love to continue the conversation or send you my card.”

At the end of the day, your job with your personal pitch is to intrigue the other person, to get them to want to have another conversation with you or to pass your information along to someone who can help your cause.

By starting with your destination -- or what you want to be when you grow up, and then giving them some background about yourself -- you’ll do a much better job setting your “hook” from the get-go. And who knows, you might just get that new job in marketing.

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About the author...

Jodi Glickman is the founder of communication training firm Great on the Job, a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review Blog and author of the new book: Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead. You can follow her on Twitter at @greatonthejob.


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