Library Archives

How To Open New Doors With An Elevator Pitch

I’ve heard of the elevator pitch before, but didn’t like the idea of ‘selling myself’ at networking events. I’m not that good at tooting my own horn, so to speak. So, why would I even entertain the idea now?

I went to a ‘Women in Business’ networking event recently. I had no trouble making conversation with various women, but I wasn’t prepared for succinctly answering questions about my occupation, my career direction, or myself; the entire purpose of the evening was to do just this. People, in particular events, want to know what makes you stand out, what you bring to the table, and why you’re interesting. It’s time that I learn the art of the 30-second pitch.

What is the 30-second pitch?

An elevator pitch, or a 30 second pitch, is a short summary to quickly and simply define you, your experiences and your direction.

How do you make a 30-second pitch?

  1. Introduce yourself – share your name, your education, and your current employment (if applicable)
  2. List your:
    • Major accomplishments or skills: use your LinkedIn profile and write down a few key points of why you’re great. Include your skills & accomplishments in a way that is meaningful to the person you’re talking to, leaving out irrelevant points. The goal is to be as succinct as possible.
    • Passions: what excites you in a day? What do you wish you could spend the rest of your days doing?
  3. Share your goals of where you want to go: what do you want to do, where do you want to go, what are you looking for?
  4. Share a story if you can. People create stronger associations with stories than they do with a sales pitch.
  5. Practice, practice, practice:
    • Make sure you’ve got it down to 30 seconds. Practice with your family and colleagues and ask for feedback. Practice until it feels and sounds natural and shows your real personality. In other words, you should feel and sound like this is a true reflection of you.
    • Consider your body language (posture, eye contact, volume, tone, facial expression, clothing, handshake) and how it impacts your message.
    • Keep it conversational. Use clear language – not everyone understands the company jargon. Pretend you’re trying to explain it to your parents.
  6. Try it: See if you feel comfortable and revise again as necessary.
  7. Ask for guidance: if you’re interested in learning more about an organization, or a person, ask if they can recommend words of wisdom for someone trying to break into their industry or organization. If you’re comfortable, ask for a card and follow up with that individual with more questions.

When do you use it?

Networking event
Career Fair
An interview: tell me about yourself
Professional organizations/associations when asked to introduce yourself

Last words

You need to keep the pitch real. It has to match who you are as a person. It cannot come across as a sales pitch. You are telling people, in 30 seconds or less, the essence of you. It should feel natural and you should feel confident when delivering it. If you don’t feel confident, go back and revise until you do.
ElevatorPitchCartoon

Give me an example!

Hi. I’m Andrea. I currently work as a social media strategist for NewToBC. I created the social media channels used by NewToBC to promote awareness of services available through BC public libraries and immigrant serving organizations that assist newcomers in their transition to life in Canada. From inception, I have gained approximately 1500 Facebook followers, 370 Twitter followers, and over 3000 views on our blog. What I love about social media is finding the right content that resonates with our followers that is timely, relevant and informative. I would love to learn more about how your company uses social media to engage with people about their needs and what tools you use to do this.
*If the conversation went well, I would then ask for a business card to connect with them at a later date when we both have more time.

The Burnaby Public Library has a wealth of resources on this subject. Why not pop over to their catalogue to see what titles they have?

Understanding Post-Secondary Education in BC

In my other work life, I work as an undergraduate advisor for a university. I often meet with people who have no idea where to begin. I get asked a range of questions like:

  • What is a certificate, diploma, or degree?
  • What is a major, a minor, or a concentration?
  • If I take this degree, what job will I get?
  • What do I do if I’m not admitted to the university I want?
  • When should I be applying?

I have come to realize that a lot of people don’t really know where to find the information they’re looking for. They don’t know the multitude of options available to them, and they often make choices that make me cringe because I know better alternatives are out there. Today’s blog is a brief introduction to the tools I use when discussion the various options for people exploring public post-secondary education*.

Step 1:

Find the program. Understand what you should be considering as you explore education.

Step 2:

admission

Find the admission requirements for the program. Speak to the Advisor of that program. Know exactly what is required for admission and when the admission deadlines are (usually around the end of January for a September start). Take a tour of the campus to make sure it feels right.

At this point, you may need to:

  • Have your credentials translated: Many people use the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES) through BCIT. Make sure this is required as it can be an expensive and unnecessary process depending on your goals.
  • Have your credentials evaluated for equivalencies: Many people come to me with their credentials from another university. While I would love to say that all of the courses will transfer into the program of choice, I am unable to say how coursework will be evaluated until someone has applied to the university/college (paid the application fee and submitted all required documents). At this point, the admissions office will evaluate for transferability/equivalencies and then inform the student their decision; then, I am able to provide the guidance required.

Step 3:

If you don’t meet the admission requirements, look at ways to get them:

  • English – many schools offer a multitude of learning options. You may want to be in touch with your local library to find conversation circles to practice your English, or inquire where you should be looking for more information. Richmond Public Library offers English Circles on Fridays and Sundays.
  • High school continuing education – Look to your local school district’s website to see what type of continuing education options are available. Often, high school courses are offered for a nominal fee.
  • College transfer – Many colleges will allow students admission as a mature student (over 21 years of age) into their General Arts & Science programs. Students can then take the required number of courses required to transfer to a university (usually 8 courses). The courses taken can be counted directly towards the program requirements of your intended university program so long as you are careful in planning. The BC Transfer Guide articulates how courses transfer from one institution to another in BC.

Step 4:

Check back with the advisor of the program you’re intending to be admitted into to ensure you’re on track. Also check with the advisor of the program you’re in (if you’re transferring from another school) to see what advice they have. The more you ask questions, the more you understand.

Step 5:

Take the program, but get involved in other ways. Completion of a program does not equal an employment outcome. You must have experience alongside your education to be considered when applying for a job. Things you should be exploring in ANY campus:

  • Co-operative Education – allows you to gain work experience related to your degree choice.
  • Career Services – assistance with resumes, cover letters, employment search techniques, and so on.
  • Volunteer experience – all experience is good experience, paid or non-paid.

At any point during the process, you can check in with an advisor if you need clarification. This is what we do. If you’re not getting the answers you seek, ask again or find another advisor.

*It should be noted that there is both public and private post-secondary education in Canada. I am biased. I feel that our public education system outweighs the private education system for a number of reasons:

  • Private education is more expensive
  • Private education is not transferable to a public institution
  • Private education often has a lower employment success rate as employers do not recognize it as much they would public education

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I will answer you as best I can. If I don’t know, I will direct you to someone who will.

Stop Preparing. Start Doing. Today!

I think, sometimes the largest challenge that we have in the job search is that we spend so much time preparing ourselves so perfectly, that we miss opportunity when it presents itself. We attend employment workshops, we go to employment centres for advice, we learn LinkedIn, we complete assessments to determine what type of career we should be aiming for, we read up on networking, we learn what it takes to create the perfect resume, cover letter, and what types of jobs we should be applying for. Then we stop short of pulling it all together to apply for that perfect job. What is the point of having all of this knowledge if you’re not going to use it to help your search come to fruition?

We tell ourselves that we lack the right skill-set, experience, or expertise. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time to apply. We make excuses to stop ourselves from achieving our dreams. What if, instead of arming ourselves with more knowledge about what we should be doing, we just did it? What if, we apply for that perfect job with our imperfect resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile?

The reality is, the perfect cover letter or resume doesn’t exist. The perfect experience may, in fact, be not entirely what the organization is looking for – when presented with alternatives, many hiring managers do an about-face about what an ideal candidate looks like. We are each unique. We each bring something to the table. Sometimes, we feel that what we bring is not up to par with what is already there, not realizing that the hiring manager has never been exposed to this particular flavour of experiences. We compare ourselves to our imaginary counterparts so we can tell ourselves that others are better than us. We kill our own dreams.

I think if we force ourselves to sit down and just do it, we could do what it takes to find that perfect job. Make small changes as you go, but keep applying. Apply for the job you want, even if you’re not 100% qualified. Contact someone for an informational interview and learn more about your ideal position. Get in touch with the governing organization of your profession, if there is one – ask if there’s a way to get involved/get a membership/attend events catered to that career. Work on your LinkedIn profile. Ask people to review your resume and cover letter and offer feedback. Trying to everything is overwhelming – so much so that we don’t do anything.

So pick one thing you’ve learned recently and actually do it.

  • Define yourself – let your true self come out on paper
  • Narrow your focus – pick a range of jobs that you would really love to do
  • Contact your local library to see what resources they have that can assist you: The Vancouver Public Library Career Commons has a comprehensive list of materials to help you get started (but don’t get stuck there!). They also have a TON of workshops (don’t get stuck here either!).

When you’re done that one thing, do the next. Eventually, it becomes second nature to do it as you learn and grow and prosper into your dreams. Leave a comment to tell me what one thing you did after reading this post. I look forward to reading what has worked for you!

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”

-Dr. Seuss