Imagine you and a friend are on a game show with a million dollar prize. To win it, all she has to do is explain what you do. Not what your job title is (director at Initech), not your profession (a lawyer), or what your responsibilities are (something to do with finance, I think), but what you actually do.
Would she get a million dollars?
Too bad you’re not a butcher, baker, or astronaut
While there are a few professions out there that don’t require much explanation (swimsuit model, plumber, brain surgeon ) for 99.9% of us, even our mothers can’t really explain what we do. And that’s too bad because if someone is looking for a person who does exactly what you do, they will never find out from your mom. Or anyone else you know.
Do you know what you do?
Can you describe what you do (once again, not your title) to even yourself? Try it right now. I find the most common answers are long ramblings to nowhere and the defensive, “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out later.” Yet despite all the career advice telling you to make sure you have an elevator speech, most people just say their title. Here’s a nudge to get you off your Title Crutch.
5 ways get started on your elevator speech
- Think of three examples at work where you helped fix a huge disaster or challenge or problem- and write them down now
- Read out loud what you wrote and keep rephrasing it until it sounds like it flows
- Who else does what you do? Ask them what they say when asked, “But what do you actually do?”
- Ask some friends or relatives to describe what you do. They’ll get a lot wrong. So what? Have you noticed it’s a lot easier to edit something than start from scratch? As you correct them, what distinctions are you making?
- For bonus mojo points, follow up a week later and ask them again
Here’s the good news. With all the talk about what you do, you’re going to get much better at it. Plus, you’re going to notice really good elevator speeches and learn from them. And since your friends and family will finally know what you do, you’ll have that many more people who can alert you to some great opportunities. Plus, they won’t have to worry about losing a million dollars on a game show.
- Spend 2 minutes now thinking about your elevator speech and schedule 30 minutes for later today
- Pay attention when other people describe what they do. What sounds good? Ridiculous? Why?
- Help other people with their elevator speeches – there’s nothing like teaching to make you a better student
Got a tip on elevator speeches or need feedback on your own? Add it to the comment section below.
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