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Can an elevator speech determine whether you ride up the express — or the dumbwaiter?
It’s trite, but true — you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Studies show that 30 seconds after you introduce yourself, the impression that’s made is firmly set — so how do you make it count?
That can be a frightening notion to someone looking for a job. Choosing what to say during that first half-minute can potentially mean the difference between a good impression and, at best, an indifferent one.
And for the job searcher, indifference is deadly. Unless you stand out and make an imprint, you’re likely to be passed over.
To make a great first impression, arm yourself with an elevator speech (so named because, from the time the elevator doors shut until you reach the 20th floor, you have a captive audience for about 30 seconds).
If you’re on the hunt for a job, you should have this 30-second snippet, which describes your unique skills and value proposition, locked, loaded and ready to spew every time you meet someone new who can lead you closer to gainful employment.
“You’ve got to grab their attention and make it compelling,” says Kris Plantrich, professional career coach and owner of ResumeWonders.com in Ortonville. “And it has to come across as conversational — not robotic. You need to sound authentic and sincere.”
Plantrich suggests you start by writing it down. “Start with who you are and what you do; then begin listing some achievements. Are you a cost cutter? A good promoter? Try to show what solution you bring to the table,” she says.
Have three to six specific skills or achievements at the ready and think up a response to any likely follow-up questions. For example, if you’re a “cost-cutter,” be prepared to tell a story about how you’ve reduced overhead. “You should be able to shrink or stretch a good elevator speech to fit the situation,” Plantrich adds.
To make your elevator speech tight and effective, focus on your skills and not just your personal attributes, recommends Larry Frazho, president of Career Consultants in West Bloomfield. “We recommend that our clients ‘inventory the product,’” Frazho says. “The product is you.”
Frazho provides an example: “When most people are asked to describe themselves, they’ll say something like, ‘I’m creative, dependable and hard-working,’” he says. “Problem is everybody else is creative, dependable and hardworking, too. You need to stand out. Why should this person be interested in you?”
Try not to include overused words and phrases. According to the social networking site LinkedIn, the following words have lost their effectiveness: extensive experience, innovative, motivated, results-oriented, dynamic, proven track record, team player, fast-paced, problem solver and entrepreneurial.
If you want to stand out, dig deeper. Use specific, meaningful phrases. Are you an analyzer? A planner? An IT guru? A logistical wizard? A motivational trainer?
“Look back at your career and analyze the skills that brought you success. Communicate those skills in your elevator speech,” Frazho says.
Remember, the elevator speech is supposed to be a conversation starter, not a soliloquy, so keep it short. If you’ve intrigued the person you’re speaking with, he or she will ask a question (which, of course, you’re prepared to answer). That’s the kind of give-and-take that leads to a relationship; and relationships — the face-to-face kind — are what most often lead to landing that job. RT