Enter building, head left, take a right, and press the button.  Doors open, step in.  “Twelve, please.”  Button pressed, eyes met.

“Are you interviewing for that new firm on the twelfth floor?”


“Great.  What do you do?”

…And, GO!

Time to deliver–in the truest sense of the phrase–your elevator pitch.

What follows will either flow naturally or it won’t.  Either way, it’s rude (and in this case slightly awkward) not to answer the question when asked—especially if you have another 11 floors to go—so it’s best to say something.

What generally sets the responders apart is one thing:  forethought.  Aside from this textbook definition of the elevator pitch, there are plenty of other confined spaces, chance meetings, and networking functions that will afford similar opportunities.  So, with that in mind, why not spend a few minutes planning and practicing for it ahead of time instead of just trying to shoot from the hip each time?

Not sure where to begin?  Well, Harvard Business School published a great online tool that walks you through the process.  It is broken down by sections:  who, what, why, and goal.  Not only does it offer suggested words to use for each section, it also offers to analyze the pitch for you!

Here’s what it looks like:


Pitch Builder

It’s incredibly easy to use and, if nothing else is a great exercise that will force you to think through the pitch.  (For more on what to say and how to structure your 30 second spiel, this recent INC post also offers great tips.)

The moral of this post is that even though you may not ride an elevator with strangers every day, you don’t live under a rock either.  With that, social interaction is inevitable and, job-related or not, most chance conversations likely start with some version of “tell me about yourself,” and will eventually circle to, “So, what do you do?”  And, no matter what the social situation is, having a concise way to describe yourself can only help.  Someone who gives a direct answer will always leave the impression of being a more confident, competent individual than someone who fumbles through with a few shrugs.  And, if a new job is your goal, then confident and competent are certainly impressions you’d want to leave.

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