Your Elevator Speech: Keep It Simple Silly

KISSSo often, when job seekers give their Elevator Speech at a networking event or when asked in a formal environment, they give an overly “slick” or a too detailed recitation.

A key to success in networking with others, is for them to clearly understand what you do and what you are looking for. If you come across as if you’re trying to impress them too much, or if they don’t “get” what you do, you won’t get results. Furthermore, if your Elevator Speech is too complex, you’re not likely to use it in situations where it might be most useful… like when you meet an old friend, neighbor, or co-worker on the street, at the grocery store, or at the mall.

When crafting, practicing, and using your Elevator Speech… it’s most effective when you remember to KISS (Keep It Simple Silly)!
Although an Elevator Speech is often used in various formal networking events, the most effective use is when you run into someone informally, and you get into a conversation about what you do. When you mention that you are looking for a job, the logical question in response is: What do you do? or What are you looking for?

How you respond to those questions will make all the difference in the world as to whether you get helpful referrals or a blank stare. Even in the formal networking environment, simpler explanations get better responses than complicated ones.

Often, people give too much detail about their experience or the specific type of job they are looking for. They use too much corporate lingo or acronyms. If the listener is in the same field, they may understand all that. However, in most cases, the listener isn’t in the same industry or field and most of it goes over their heads. They may nod in agreement because they may think they ought to know what you’re talking about, but they won’t be able to give any help.

Your goal is to make the complex simple. Make it easy to understand regardless of who’s listening, and don’t narrow down what you’re asking of them to the point that they can’t think of anyone for you.

When your job is simple, don’t make it complex! The vast majority of people have a basic understanding of what an accountant does. There’s no need to give too much detail. Your goal from the person is for them to refer anyone they know in your field, industry, or that might be a good connector. Don’t limit who they may refer to you. The more people you connect to, the better your odds of finding one with the best targeted referral for you.

Compare two descriptions, which is likely to be more easily understood by a “layman” and elicit more referrals?…

For the past 6 years I’ve been in Internal Auditing with 5 years prior to that in Cost Accounting. Most of my experience has been in a consumer goods manufacturing environment with an additional few years in food manufacturing.

Or…

For the past 11 years I’ve built a career in various aspects of Accounting. I’ve primarily worked in manufacturing environments, however, my skills are transferable to other industries as well.

If your career background is not as easily understood (i.e. a UNIX Systems Engineer), it’s important to make it easy to get an idea of what you’re targeting. Compare these two descriptions…

I’m a UNIX Systems Engineer specializing in Kernel development and PERL scripting. I’m also responsible for load balancing and capacity planning of Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX servers.

Or…

I’m a Computer Engineer specializing in UNIX operating systems. I make sure that the back-office systems always run smoothly and I prevent downtime.

Your follow up questions should always be something like…

Who else do you know that may work in corporate technology departments?
Who else do you know that might work for a manufacturing company?
Who else do you know in Accounting at any company, as they may know of other good referrals?
Who do you know that seems to be well connected into a number of companies?
Who do you know that seems to be a good connector to other people?
If you were in my situation, who would you talk to?
Who else do you know that might be worthwhile for me to talk to?

Brevity is a virtue. Generally, you’ll have someone’s full attention for a few seconds. Convey the vital information as briefly as you can or you will lose them. Shorter is always better.

An “Elevator Speech” is also often referred to as a “30-second Resume”. I don’t care for that term, because it doesn’t have to be 30 seconds and certainly shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds. If you can say it effectively in 10 seconds, there’s no reason to make it longer. Your description and follow up questions will have greater impact when they’re shorter rather than longer.

If your Elevator Speech is simple and short, you are MUCH more likely to use it when you get into a conversation with someone randomly, and you will dramatically improve your chances of getting meaningful results. Keep it Simple!


Author:

Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives.

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