Can An Elevator Interrogator Redirect Your Career?

Elevator pitches are as simple as they are effective… or are they?

What is an elevator pitch? Just what it sounds like!

Picture this: You get into an elevator. Someone else gets into the elevator too. The two of you strike up a bit of elevator banter. The other person asks what you do.

Even if you’re in an exceptionally tall building, you’ve got about five seconds to answer. Because to be polite, you’ll be brief enough to allow time to return the question.

So what do you say?

Simple, you state your occupation in one short sentence that’s easily understandable and will satisfy the curiosity of the random person who you happen to be sharing an elevator ride with. Easy, right?

Yet when it comes to job hunting or making a career change, the exact same question can be a tough one. What do you do? What do you want to do?

If you’ve ever been in an interview, a workshop to identify your strengths and interests, or some similar scenario, you know that this seemingly innocuous question can be a major stumbling block. Because in truth, the answer is never simple. We’re talking life’s work, summed up in ten words, max.

Ironically, that’s where the elevator pitch comes to the rescue. Because it is, by necessity, simple. You don’t have time to overthink it. You’ll probably never see your elevator interrogator again, and anyway, they probably don’t really care all that much what you do, they’re just making small talk.

This is actually a good thing because it takes the pressure off, allowing you to think clearly and speak concisely, without pondering your answer or what it means for your life outside of this thirty second increment in time.

So, “What do you do?” Can you narrow it down to five or ten words? Yes, you can! You wouldn’t just stand there in the elevator, saying nothing, waiting for the doors to open so you can make your escape. You’d say something.

Here’s the harder part. As you walk away from the elevator, are you happy with what you said? In other words, are you really doing what you want to be doing? If the answer is no, then you have to tweak your elevator pitch. And that may involve reassessing the direction of your career. Yeah, real simple, right?

But when you’ve got it down pat, you might be surprised at the wonders a perfect elevator pitch can do. Narrowing your focus so acutely can bring great clarity to your career overall. When it’s really right, let your elevator pitch be your mantra. Keep it in your back pocket and pull it out the next time an employer, an interviewer, or anyone else asks what you do.

Sometimes all it takes is a thirty second conversation to open the door to your next career move — and yeah, the situation could be as unexpected and unplanned as an elevator ride. Who knows, even that impartial person in the elevator could turn out to be your future colleague! Start with an elevator pitch, and the conversation might take you well beyond the elevator.

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