30-Second Elevator (Networking) Pitch – 102

In my prior posting on how to create a 30-second elevator pitch, I focused on getting you started with a basic 5-step template. The template is really designed for people with little-to-no networking skills who are merely looking for the next opportunity in their current career or industry. Its primary goal is to be easy to develop, easy to memorize, and easy to tailor.

But the starter elevator pitch template is not for everyone. For example, career changers and college graduates don’t need to focus as much on the past as on the possibilities. Also, as you get more experience, you will want to find a way to make your networking pitch have a value statement or to develop a “hook” phrase to capture attention. I’ll leave those and other discussions for my next post on networking — this post will focus on 30-second pitches for people making a significant career change or people looking for the first job right out of college.

The College Pitch

In general, the 30-second pitch is a brief introduction of a working professional that centers around their work history and their developed industry skills. With a college graduate, having little or no work experience, we must take a different approach. The strategy here is to connect your degree or studies to the needs of the people you are talking with and to target the future, not your past.

For the new college graduate, the best approach to start with is to always have the other people introduce themselves first! Allowing them to go first gives you a chance to see if they are in a field or industry that might be of interest to you in your job search. This way you can talk about their work and show enthusiasm about what they do, which is a real plus for your networking — people usually like to talk about themselves, so play it up. Then, when it’s your turn to give your networking pitch, you have context for your introduction.

So, what does a college grad’s elevator pitch sound like? It’s similar to the template networking pitch mentioned in the prior post. You have five basic steps: 1 – Your name; 2 – Your degree or field of study (optionally your school); 3 – Your targeted industry or firm; 4 – A statement of passion for the work/industry; and 5 – A request for a contact.  It goes something like this:

“Hi, my name is Bob. I’m a recent college graduate {from “name of college” if it’s well known} with a degree in {field of study or degree title}. I am looking to start my career in the {choice 1} industry or {choice 2} industry. These industries fascinate me because I see the potential of using my newly acquired skills in {mention degree or field of study} to develop relevant products and services. You spoke of {firm name} which is a leader in this industry. Would you know someone at {firm name} that I could talk to? I’d like to hear more about {firm name} to better understand how my {field of study} talents would be a fit in that industry.”

College Notes:

•  Unless your college is very well known (MIT, Notre Dame, Yale, etc.), leave it out for now. Make sure your degree title is relevant to the conversation, or just use a field of study so the listener can grasp it — for example, saying you studied “Computer Science” is better than saying you have a “Bachelors degree in New Media and Human-Computer Interactions”.
•  Listen to the speakers and pick up on the name of any firms or industries they just mentioned and use them in your pitch.
•  This is not the time to talk about courses or your education, just refer to it as a “newly acquired knowledge” or “research skills” to let them know you are talented and open to learning (but don’t say you’re “open to learning” — that’s a weak phrase).
•  Don’t talk about the part-time jobs you might have held while in school, as these can be distractions. Unless these are directly related to your job search (maybe a co-op position or a summer job in an industry-related firm), then save this info for later discussions.
•  Make sure to ask for a connection to someone that can give you more information — see if you can work your way to a phone call, a cup of coffee, or a lunch-time meeting with them.

The Career Changer

This pitch is a little tougher. Unlike the college graduate who probably has a very limited career, you may have 5-50 years of real work experience behind you. In most cases a career-changer is making a radical change, say from a computer programmer to a nurse, or from being a retired sales executive to a part-time tax return preparer. The challenge for you is to keep the conversation focused on your goals, not your past. So you must deflect questions about your past during the networking meetings (remember your past is a detraction at this moment) and keep things focused on your goal.

“Hi my name is Bob. I’m making a career change to the nursing profession. I realized a while ago that I had a strong passion for helping and educating people about their health, so I felt drawn to this field. I’ve recently started taking nursing courses, so I’m determined to move into this industry. But the opportunities are so broad – such as emergency room, doctor’s office, or geriatric nursing roles. I was hoping you could connect me with a friend or business acquaintance in the health care industry so I can begin to narrow down my preferences as I continue my studies.”

Changer Notes:

•  Remember, this is about developing contacts in your field of choice, not in your prior industry, so don’t even mention your old job or career.
•  A career changer must be driven “to” a new opportunity, not “away” from one. The phrasing of your network pitch is positive, forward-moving, and targeted. You can’t say “Well, I was thinking about maybe possibly changing my career to something somewhat different or about the same…”. The networking pitch is developed after you decide your direction, not while you’re pondering a change.
•  Help the listener envision you in the new role. Research the job/industry sufficiently so you can be knowledgeable enough to project yourself into the role with enthusiasm.
•  It’s all about getting more information. You aren’t looking for a job during this conversation, you’re asking for contacts in the industry so you can understand the various jobs, opportunities, and responsibilities.

Bottom Line: Start with the basic 30-second network pitch and tailor it to your needs. Career changers and fresh college graduates are examples of people that shouldn’t talk about their past (work experience or courses studied) in their 30-second pitch.  Your decision to move to a specific industry/role should have already been made–your networking time spent with others is not the time to explore career choices. Try to avoid talking about any roles (work or courses) other than the role/industry you are targeting, as this can confuse the other people to the point that they forget what you are actively pursuing. And remember to show enthusiasm in your elevator pitch about your new career of choice!

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See the Index of all my Job Hunter articles on my Backlog tab.

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