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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?

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

Finding the first job

It’s easier to find a job when you have a job, or so the story goes. When you’re a newcomer to a new country it’s a bit more complicated. Most often, you’re not coming with a job in place.

You have to get a job:

One of the most difficult things for newcomers is getting that first job. You know what you were before you moved here: Engineer or Teacher, Doctor or Lawyer, Plumber or Carpenter and so on. You arrive and find that your qualifications need to be assessed and the process is long and complicated; or you find it difficult to have any response to your search for employment.. You hear: ‘you don’t have the Canadian Experience,’ ‘your qualifications don’t meet the BC professional requirements,’ or ‘you need to take one or two courses to have your credentials articulated as equivalent to BC standards’ (only to find that the one or two courses are near impossible to get). You find that you don’t know what you are anymore, or how you can make your old life fit with the new.

As your dreams of landing a job in your trained career wanes, it’s important to remember that sometimes, you need that first job to then get the job you want. The first job gives you a pay cheque. The first job counters the ‘Canadian experience’ argument as you begin to live Canadian workplace culture. The first job gives enough breathing room to let you figure out the rest.

My advice to newcomers on finding the first job:

Set your ideal target and set your bottom line:

  • Apply for the jobs that you want, and that you’re qualified for. Apply for the jobs you want, but think you’re not qualified for. The worst that will happen is…nothing. You won’t hear anything back from your prospective employer, or you may hear any of the above variations of why you’re not qualified. The best – you’ll get the job.
  • Apply for the jobs you don’t really want (your bottom line), but could do for short periods of time. Plan to accept a job you don’t necessarily want with a goal of continuing your search. Temporary employment provides breathing room to look for new employment, contacts in the community, and experience. It also looks better on a resume when applying for other positions – employers tend to prefer hiring those who are employed.

Talk to as many people as you can:

  • The folks at your BC Public Libraries are well equipped to refer you to the appropriate resources, whether it be employment assistance, translation of documents, language training, online resources and so on.
  • Contact the organization or governing body of the career field that you wish to work for. A simple Google search for Association of _______ (fill in the blank), BC will likely put you in touch with the governing body of your career. Call them. Ask them if to tell you what you need to know. Ask if you can volunteer in some capacity. The more you connect with others, the more you learn what you need to know to transition to your career in BC.
  • Look for a MeetUp group to connect yourself with others with common goals.
  • Connect with current employees and ask if they are willing to provide you with an informational interview. It may seem awkward, but most employees are willing to share insights into what their job entails. This also builds new connections.

Ask for feedback and practice:

  • Have others review your resume and cover letter to gain feedback. Make modifications if you feel a valid point has been demonstrated and you feel comfortable with the advice.
  • If you have been declined for a position, ask them to provide you feedback. A simple question such as ‘do you have any feedback on how I performed in the job interview?’ will let them know you’re motivated for possible future positions. Take notes of what is said and take time to reflect on how you can improve.
  • Research possible interview questions and have prepared answers for as many as you can. The process of thinking through an appropriate response will save you time and energy in the interview and will help you relax.

There are many more steps to securing employment; especially in a targeted career. The keys to securing the first job are to be open to alternatives, understand that this position is not permanent, and use the resources around you. Consider this practice for your move into your ideal career.