Developing an Effective Elevator Pitch

The term “elevator pitch” comes from the idea that you get into an elevator with a CEO who is usually going to an office on the top level of the building. Therefore, you have the length of that elevator ride to make your sales pitch. With that in mind, one of the key principles of an elevator pitch is that it is concise, usually about 60 seconds. Within the world of job searching, you need an elevator pitch for everything from interviews to networking events. Your elevator pitch should be a brief monologue answering the prompt “Tell me about yourself.” It is a key statement to prepare as it really forces you to clarify and distill your experiences in a “ready-made” two-sentence answer.

Ideally, you are going to tailor your elevator pitch for the situation, but there are some good general must have sections.  First, ask yourself, “What is your strongest selling point?” Is it your education, your experience, or your leadership experience in a club? Begin with that point giving a little bit more context including your primary transferable skills, strengths, and/or accomplishments. It is important to mention your goals and then conclude with action items.  An example of an elevator pitch within a networking context might look like this:

Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a graduate student at the NIH working on my PhD in Immunology. For the past two years, I have worked as Health Chair of the Graduate Research Committee (primary selling point), I which has significantly strengthened my communication skills. (transferable skills) Through this involvement I’ve become interested in utilizing my communication skills in a career in public health policy (goal). Would it be possible to follow up with you to discuss your career path at XYZ? (action item)

Your elevator pitch should be practiced yet should come across as more conversational than formal. As with all oral communication skills, try to note if you are rambling or speaking too fast.  It is okay to add in some small personal tidbits, but overall your focus should be on your professional self.

UPenn has a resource for “Elevator Pitch for Scientists” that might be helpful to check out

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