Working Strategies: Taking the ‘elevator speech’ to another level

Jul 14, 2016, 01:16 AM

Career Corner is a program produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind, and it is recorded for people are blind or have reading disabilities. You can listen to the stream of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network at, and the password is RTB. Your host, for Career Corner is Anne Obst.

Music Working Strategies: Taking the ‘elevator speech’ to another level • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) • Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) • • Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window) • Submit to Stumbleupon (Opens in new window) • • By Amy Lindgren | PUBLISHED: May 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm | UPDATED: May 4, 2016 at 3:22 pm Since I’ve devoted the last two columns to the dangers of being either too quick or too slow with one’s words while conducting a job search, it seems natural to round out the conversation (so to speak) with a look at a classic job search communication tool: The elevator speech. For the uninitiated, an “elevator speech” is a short message used by job seekers to convey their strengths, employment goal and perhaps work history, all within about 30 seconds. Although this message is most often imagined for use in networking, it’s named after a classic “what-if: scenario: What if you were in an elevator with the CEO of a company you want to join? What would you say in that 30-second ride to secure his or her interest? Maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest, but I don’t know many people who would actually bend the CEO’s ear on that elevator ride. And if they did, I wonder if the CEO would really appreciate the information. And how would they know the other person was a CEO in the first place? These are probably moot points because most people deploy their elevator speeches in networking situations and not in small, closed boxes. Which brings us to another flaw in the theory: The assumption that a new acquaintance wants to hear your canned speech. The solution isn’t to practice the speech until it sounds natural. It will still be a speech, and therein lies the problem: People generally prefer to have conversations, not listen to soliloquies. For that reason, elevator speeches are antithetical to the entire concept of networking, and may even do more harm than good. Luckily, there’s a way to avoid the bad outcome while still gaining value from the elevator speech concept. The secret is to prepare your message but resist actually using it — at least not as a speech. Instead, I’d recommend pulling apart the key points in your message to use in a more conversational give-and-take whenever you encounter someone to network with. Curious how this might work? Start by preparing your message, using the formula noted earlier: Some key skills + your employment goal + elements from your background. For example, the elevator speech for a corporate trainer might run along these lines: As a corporate trainer with 15 years’ of experience in global organizations, I’ve honed my skills in all areas of learning and development, including assessment and evaluation, curriculum and program development, and workshop delivery. My programs have won awards for my clients while helping to train and retain their workforces. Having led initiatives at both ABC and XYZ companies, I’m now interested in connecting with a smaller, more local operation, such as QRS Incorporated. It would be my goal to help develop the internal training department while creating programs to compete at the next level. As you can see, this paragraph is both powerful and dense. Unfortunately, in most in-person situations, the density will become the dominant feature. It’s just too much information to spew out all in a rush; most listeners will tune out long before the closing sentence is uttered. To preserve the power of the information, the candidate should instead dole it out a little at a time during a more nor...