Introduce Yourself with a Memorable Elevator Pitch

(Andrew Kornacki/U.S. Army photo)

You step into the elevator, and a nicely dressed individual turns to you and inquires, "What do you do?" Would you introduce yourself with a compelling and memorable 60- to 90-second message that would lead them to want to continue talking when the elevator doors open again?

How you introduce yourself is called an "elevator pitch" (also called an "elevator speech"). The technique of articulating who you are and what you do succinctly, and interestingly, is practiced by civilians daily. To compete effectively as you transition from the military, it's important that you, too, have a memorable elevator pitch.

Why Your Elevator Pitch Matters

To create and deliver a memorable elevator pitch, first acknowledge that this will feel awkward to you. In the military, you likely didn't worry about showing enthusiasm, being succinct and building a personal brand. Now, in the civilian sector, you do.

When I teach transitioning service members how to craft their memorable elevator pitch, I'm often confronted with the question, "This feels unnatural. Why can't I just tell someone what I did in the military and they'll ask me questions?"

If you lead with your military occupational specialty (MOS) or start describing the work you did while in the military, you run the risk of alienating the person you're speaking to. Remember: One percent of the American population served in uniform; 99% didn't. The odds are that you will be speaking to a civilian who may have absolutely no understanding of your military experience.

A memorable elevator pitch ensures the other person understands what you do and has an opportunity to follow up with comments or questions. This, then, starts a dialogue that could lead to a conversation and possibly a business relationship.

Elevator Pitch Basics

I teach this formula for an elevator pitch:

  1. First, say who you are and what you do. You might say, "My name is Adam, and I'm recently retired after 22 years in the Army as a personnel specialist. I'm looking for a new career in human resources with a technology company here in Cleveland."
  2. Next, put your personal spin on your pitch. Focus on why you enjoy or are passionate about your work. For instance, "What I love most about working in personnel is that I get to be part of starting and developing someone's whole career. I find the career life cycle absolutely amazing."
  3. Finally, give a quick example to paint the picture of what you do and what you're looking for. You might conclude with, "I remember this young man I met on his first day in boot camp. He was so brave and confident. In my role, I was able to help him build and refine his skills and talents to become the leader he is today. I look forward to having the ability to mentor and impact others in my next career as well."

A strong elevator pitch introduces you to the other person. You aren't providing your resume, job description or life story -- just a brief, interesting overview of who you are, what you've done and where you're headed.

Be sure to ask the other person to tell you about themselves, too. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. If you just continue talking about you, you're depriving them of the opportunity and could miss valuable information and insight.

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