An “elevator pitch” is an asset in your toolkit if you’re looking for a job. In case you’re not familiar with this phrase, in the context of job-hunting, an elevator pitch is an intriguing summary of your qualifications, two or three sentences only. Imagine yourself in an elevator with a hiring manager you’d like to impress. The doors close. She asks you to tell her your qualifications. You have just a couple of sentences (it’s a short building) to make your pitch. Hence the term.
“I’m a history major with an interest in Renaissance art,” you say. “My senior thesis is about the influence of the social climate in Italy on the work of DaVinci.”
That may be technically correct, but if you were wondering whether you’d lost your hiring managers at “I’m a history major,” you are correct. You did.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I AM a history major. What am I supposed to do? Lie?”
Of course not. But don’t say what you’re majoring in. Say what you know.
Let’s rewind. She asks you to summarize your qualifications. You say:
“I have excellent verbal and written communication skills, thanks to years of learning to write and speak in school. I’m also an experienced analyst—researching, organizing, re-shaping and presenting qualitative information. My education has prepared me for this. It’s the kind of work we do in the liberal arts.”
Now you’re stepping out of the elevator and she’s intrigued! You go into her office and have a seat.
“I see here you majored in history,” she says, scanning your resume.
“Yes. One thing I realized fairly recently about studying history is that it equips you with great job skills. We invest significant time in developing our analytical abilities and communication skills. Beyond that, we study culture, which I believe is an important thing in business, to have an understanding of the behaviors and expectations of people from many parts of the world…given that this is a global economy.”
She’s probably speechless by now.
Now would be the time to add to your liberal arts mix. Do you speak any foreign languages? People who don’t are often surprised to learn that speaking a language requires understanding the culture where the language is spoken. Play this up!
Have you traveled? While you were whever you were, how did your education help you, and what did you notice? Particularly if you observed something about commerce wherever you were.
“I spent several months in Germany. Their idea of customer service is very different from ours. At first it bothered me, but later I realized it’s a cultural difference, not an attitude. My German, by the way, is great thanks to that experience.”
It probably goes without saying that if you have studied about regions of the world that are emerging as economic powers (China, India), don’t keep that to yourself!
So save the part about the Italian Renaissance for later. Once she’s convinced you have relevant experience, you can bring up DaVinci and his social context. Then it’ll make you look smart and more interesting. But if you pull this trigger prematurely, you may just seem quirky and under-prepared to take on a paying job.