Strengthening Your Elevator Pitch

Everyone should have an elevator pitch ready – a quick introduction to your professional self. Reflect on your pitch and see if you are making any of these common mistakes:


Lack of Confidence

Confidence is key when selling anything, including your own skills and experience. Some phrases that belie a lack of confidence include:

“I don’t have a lot of experience in _____ yet.”

“I’m just a student/intern/postbac/ (fill in the blank).”

Reflect on your accomplishments and the experiences that you have done. Of course, you can’t invent new experiences or skills, but you can confidently convey the ones you have.

Lack of Focus

Ideally, your elevator pitch will have some action item at the end and will help clarify for the listener how they might help you. If you say you are looking for a job without giving much detail, it will be nearly impossible for the person to forward positions of interest or help in any other way. Some phrases that show a lack of focus include:

“At this point, I’m really open to anything.”

“I have so many research interests that I don’t want to limit myself.”

These should be rephrased into more specifics such as:

“I’m quite flexible and open to a lot of new opportunities, but I am most interested in….(list your top two to three choices so they have a keyword to work with).”

Lack of Marketing

It can be hard to realize that a job search is about marketing yourself effectively, but that is a key principle of your elevator pitch. Our word choices matter. Don’t undermine yourself by saying phrases like:

“My experience in the lab has nothing to do with education and outreach, but…”

Focus on your transferable skills and rephrase to: “My experience in the lab has given me the scientific background and the communication skills necessary to succeed in a field like education and outreach.”

Too Technical

This is a big one for scientists. Ideally, your elevator pitch will be in layman’s terms. Depending on your audience, it might be okay to go into technical and detailed information, but generally when describing your research, try not to get lost in the details of what you are doing or how you are doing it but rather why you are doing it. Put your project in the big picture and explain how this work will be useful for your field or the scientific community.

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