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.

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?

NaNoWriMo (It’s National Novel Writing Month)


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get the novel out of your head and put it down in writing? November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): a challenge to write a novel of 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th; a call to let go of your excuses and your fear and just write by the seat of your pants. If you’ve ever had a fleeting thought of writing a novel, now’s the time.

This program offers direction and encouragement to get you writing creatively and vibrantly through:

  • NaNo Prep – resources to help inspire us, challenge us, and prepare us to write a novel.
  • Pep talks from authors – Kami Garcia informs us that our excuses of being too busy are lame, our ideas don’t suck, our muse is not MIA and we ARE qualified to be writers.
  • Conversations with others – you can reach out to others in your region, join forums and discussions online
  • Earning badges – who doesn’t love a little external reward?

There are also programs for both youth and adults are being offered at various libraries throughout the Lower Mainland to help you get started. To list a few:

Burnaby Public Library: invites youth to submit the first chapter of their original novel to any BPL information desk or through email. The first chapter will be judged by BPL Librarians. One winner will be selected from each category: Younger Teens (grades 8 – 9) and Older Teens (grades 10 – 12). The winners will receive a $50 gift certificate to Metropolis Metrotown! The winning chapter will also be featured on the BPL Teens webpage.

Fraser Valley Regional Library (Maple Ridge): opening-up our Teen Area every Friday evening in November to provide space for like-minded writers to ply their trade together.

The New Westminster Public Library: offers a catalogued list of books written during NaNoWriMo.

Surrey Public Library: invites youth to join local author Denise Jaden and fellow teen writer Linda Xia for two hours of writing activities and discussion, Wednesday, November 5th from 4:00-6:00pm at the City Centre Library, Teen Lounge.

The Vancouver Public Library: will enter participants who complete this challenge in a draw where 3 winners will be chosen to have the first chapter (up to 5000 words) of their NaNoWriMo work read by an SFU Creative Writing consultant.

West Vancouver Memorial Library: invites you to come to the library and write like the wind!

Now if you’ll excuse me, it would appear that the prep section of the NaNoWriMo website is calling my attention. Will you join me?

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.