The elevator pitch for graduates

Even if you aren’t a graduate, elevator pitching is hard. So, let me start this post by doing what I’m about to tell you to do:

If you ever meet me in an elevator, tell me the top three most important things I need to know about you and what you want from me. Make it fast, make it entertaining and make sure I can get in contact with you again. I’m usually in elevators around Australia and New Zealand, I look like this and Successful Graduate is now offering bite-sized excerpts of the course. Sign up now.


A few years ago while managing a company-wide rebrand, I ended up in a meeting with the company’s directors discussing what they should and shouldn’t list on the back of their new business cards. As strange as it sounds to be having that conversation, the organisation I was working for provided several products and services and the directors were concerned the exclusion of certain aspects of the company may not be a good overall representation to external stakeholders.

While I appreciated their concerns, I pointed out that the audiences of many of our products were very different and consequently it was unlikely both would be at the same event. In short, I asked one director:

“If I’m from Audience A and you met me in an elevator, would you tell me about products for Audience B?”

To my thinking, it was better to give a prospective client less information and keep them focussed on what I wanted them to understand than it was to overload them with information that wasn’t relevant to them. The second option might be exact, but it isn’t precise.

If that sounds familiar, it should. We’ve talked about telling prospective employers what they want to know here and here. Those articles, however, were talking about how you should be writing your resume. As we point out, a hiring manager is directly asking you to tell them certain information in a job listing. If you’re at a networking event, in an elevator, at a cafe, or wherever you may be, there is a chance you’ll run into someone who can help you with your career, either through a job or mentoring. But how do you tell them what they need to know without them asking?

It isn’t guesswork. It boils down to preparation.


Know who you are

First, before we even get started, you should have a pretty clear of what your key attributes and skills are. If not, sign up to learn more now!

Know what you want

You should understand what you want to get out of the interaction. It doesn’t always have to be a job. It can be a new contact or maybe mentorship, but you should have a clear understanding of what you’d like to achieve from the interaction. This will form the foundation of your conversation.

Know to whom you are talking

There are a few of you who just threw up your hands at that point and asked “how can I research someone before I even know I’m going to meet them?” Let me explain.

Unless you bump into someone you have researched online (it does happen and I’ll cover that in a different post), you’ll likely know very little about the person you’re just met. Or do you? While you don’t know the person exactly, you should at least know about their company or industry and preferably have a decent understanding of the meaning of their position within the company.

These interactions also help the next interaction, both in terms of your confidence as well as a way to learn more about companies, industries, etc. Did the person you just chatted with mention a big event relevant to the industry in which you want to work? You’ve got a new talking point for your next conversation!

We at Successful Graduation can’t stress this enough: You should always be doing research.

Be interesting

This is one of the hardest things to do when meeting new people. Nerves get the better of us, we don’t like “performing” or we’re tired; there are many reasons why you might not make a good connect with another person. As best you can, however, you need to keep a person’s attention when “pitching” yourself to them.

This doesn’t mean you need to tell great jokes or interesting stories. You just need to say the things that are relevant to the person you are speaking to. This is where your understanding of yourself and your research on the person comes into play. If you are speaking to an accounting firm, what you got up to on the weekend isn’t entirely relevant to the conversation. If you were looking for an events management role, however, it probably would be.

Taking all these elements into consideration will help you start elevator pitching and networking. It’s easy to start but hard to master. Keep an eye out for my next post, which will give you more information on what you need to become a better networker.

Sign up to Successful Graduate today to learn how to become a master networker.


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