Have you ever been in the situation where you meet a person who you have never met before, and they ask you for a description about yourself or what you were looking for. They were in essence asking for your “elevator pitch,” that is, key information about yourself delivered in a short amount of time. The information should be memorable. What you say will create an impression and will be what the person walks away from the conversation remembering you by.
These elevator pitches are wonderful tools to open conversations and provide the person you are talking with a short snapshot of who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for. They should be short (~30 seconds) and highlight key points that you want to get across. They should entice the person you are talking with to want to learn more. They should be clear, concise, and focused. A key point to remember, if the person you are talking with wants to learn more, then can always ASK for more details. These should also be practiced – you want this to come across as easy to deliver and seamless. If you remember anything from reading this article, remember, concise, focused, and practiced.
As you deliver your elevator pitch, you want to be respectful of the listener’s time and attention. Remember, people can only comprehend so much information at one time. Giving it to them in short snippets will help them remember what you are sharing with them. It will also make you look more prepared and savvy in the world of networking. When delivering your elevator pitch, don’ t make the most common mistake of turning this into a 10 minute dialogue about everything you have ever learned, about your entire research focus, or about why you don’t like what you are doing. If you barrage someone with too much information, it will probably turn them off and cause them not to engage in further discussion.
Below is an example of an elevator pitch that could be used for a postdoc who is looking to move into industry. The parts that are underlined are ones that you could replace with your information allowing you to tailor this for yourself.
Hello (PERSON YOU ARE TALKING WITH). My name is (INSERT NAME) I am a (postdoc) at (LIST University) studying (neuroscience – specifically Alzheimer’s diseases therapies). I will be finishing up in (6 months) and looking for a (research role) in a (smaller biotech) in the (Boston area). What is your background?
At the end of the pitch, instead of just finishing up talking about yourself, ask them about their background. This will easily lead you into a conversation, and it seems seamless.
Why does this example above deliver key elements about you? Well, it tells a few things.
1. Institutional Link: That you are a postdoc at a certain university. Maybe the person you are talking with also went there or perhaps knows people who are there. This could help with relationship building.
2. Thematic Link: It tells what you are focusing on – in the larger context. People like to hear disease or therapeutic relevance as compared to something like – I study intracellular neurofibrillary tangles. Most people will have no idea what this means. More than likely, they won’t know that this is related to Alzheimer’s research. Start high level – you can always dive deeper into specifics if the person you are talking with asks about it.
3. Timing Link: You mention when you will be finishing up which is helpful in case the person you are talking with knows of companies that may be looking for someone in ~6 months time. It’s always helpful to give people an idea of when you may be making a transition especially if you are a student or postdoc.
4. Aspirational Link: You tell them what kind of role you are looking for – Research. As compared to consulting, project management, etc
5. Preferred Organizational Link: You mention that you want to be in a smaller biotech. This enables the person you are talking with to start thinking about who they may know at smaller biotechs who they could potentially introduce you to.
6. Geographic Link: You mention location – Boston – great! Now the person can think about who they might know in Boston.
What you don’t do here is specifically ask for a job, which is wonderful. Asking specifically for a job makes the conversation awkward. If the person you are talking with knows of a potential opportunity, they will probably mention it to you if they like the dialogue that you are having.
People generally want to be helpful and like to do so. But they can only do this if you make it clear what you are looking for. If you are not sure about what you want, perhaps you modify the elevator pitch slightly to:
Hello (PERSON YOU ARE TALKING WITH). My name is (INSERT NAME) I am a (postdoc) at (LIST University) studying (neuroscience – specifically Alzheimer’s disease). I will be finishing up in (6 months) and looking for a (research role or a consulting role) in an (entrepreneurial company) in the (Boston area). What is your background?
It’s okay to mention that you are looking for a research role or consulting role – this is your time to explore options. By being specific, though, you allow the listener to understand more about what you are looking for. Perhaps they know of people in both types of roles that they can introduce you to.
By changing smaller biotech to entrepreneurial company you still show the listener that you are looking for something smaller. A smaller biotech is an entrepreneurial company, and there are many boutique consulting firms which are entrepreneurial.
Good luck as you go through your process. If anyone has any great elevator pitches or stories about how your elevator pitch worked well, let me know.