Elevator Speeches – Do You Really Need One?

Elevator Speeches – Do You Really Need One?

Elevator speeches — also known as “30 second commercials” — are a very important part of your job-search tool kit. How do you respond when someone asks, “What kind of position are you looking for?” Failure to prepare something to say in advance can leave you standing there, shuffling your feet uncertainly, and mumbling, unable to effectively communicate something substantive about yourself. Not the kind of situation you want to be in when competing with a host of qualified candidates who have taken the time to attend to all aspects of their transition.

Putting together an elevator speech is actually pretty easy. Make sure you know your audience since it is best to target your speech to the employer or industry needs. Start by putting together a bullet outline of your speech. Consider what you have to offer and what you want others to know about you. What are your key strengths? What problems are solved by the utilization of your skill set? How can you be a valuable asset to a potential employer? (Not sure how to translate your military skills? Read more in Translating Your Skills for a Post-Military Career.) Take each bullet and expand it into a sentence, then review what you’ve written to ensure it flows. Cut out any unnecessary words — don’t trap listeners in a long-winded tale about your entire life history.

Naturally, the first couple of times you use the speech it might feel a bit artificial and forced. But that initial awkwardness will dissipate quickly as you become more comfortable and practiced.  You’ll have ample opportunity to hone your delivery by using it at career and networking events, informational interviews, and even the grocery store. Introduce yourself with your speech using your name, what you are looking for, your most recent position and major responsibilities, and a brief description of your proudest accomplishment. Keep it in a conversational tone, and remember to stay within about a minute in duration. Then smile and be yourself!

And that’s the real power of a thoughtfully prepared elevator speech. It markets you as an individual by providing a quick summary of your skills and qualifications in a way that allows you to say who you are, what you’re interested in doing, and how you can be a resource to your listener. If you don’t have one, spend a few minutes to craft your own elevator speech. It’s a great investment of your time that will significantly boost your confidence and positively influence your networking effectiveness. 

About the Author

Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)
Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)

Cole served 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a wide range of command and staff assignments in the U.S. and overseas, with her last assignment as commanding officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific in Wahiawa, Hawaii. She joined MOAA in 2012.