Do You Have an Engineering-Career Elevator Pitch?

We all remember the first time we got asked, “What do you do?”


Oh, that question….

I remember clearly the first time I was asked…the feelings that pulsated through my body, the nerves … the anxiety. How do I make what comes through these lips of mine remotely interesting?

Anxiety still grips us when sitting in a meeting and we know that the host is going to go around the table and ask us to introduce ourselves and tell a little about what we do…

But here is the thing: Those four simple words are more important than you might think … especially in this economic environment.

Every day we participate in filing into lines all over the place … to get lunch at a restaurant, to buy the latest iPhone, to buy a mocha frapawappa at Starbucks. Whatever it is we are lining up for, one thing remains constant in all our minds: We want to get to the front.

So why wouldn’t we want to be at the front of the line, or top of mind, when that engineering executive goes seeking a new job candidate? Or when your acquaintance sees a job opportunity open up at their place of work?

Whether you like it or not, “What do you do?” is on the minds of everyone you meet, whether it’s in person or online. In fact, research from New York University found that the individuals we meet for the first time are making major decisions about us in the first seven seconds — they are sizing us up, positioning us subconsciously in their line.

We need to take advantage of these first seven seconds, and if you’re looking for a job, one of the first tasks on your to-do list should be crafting an ideal “elevator pitch.”  This might sound “salesy,” but it’s crucial in ensuring that you are engaging precisely and effectively in these interactions and positioning yourself as best as you can in the minds of those that can help take your career to the next level.

So where do you even start in creating your elevator pitch? Condensing a lifetime of events into a simple statement that packs a punch can feel as challenging as trying to stuff Shaquille O’Neal into a Buick LaCrosse.

Nonetheless, here are some starting points for developing yours:

Where are you going? Terry Pratchett, the famous author, put it this way: “If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”

When creating your elevator pitch it is crucial that we start with nailing down how we describe our field and the type of job we’re pursuing. Until you can clearly explain the type of position you want, nobody can help you find it or hire you to do it.

Start with the BANG. In five words, create a distinctive title or phrase that will make people think, “Oh, that’s interesting, I want to hear more.” Consider the difference between “I am a Mechanical Engineer” and “I am a Mechanical-preneur.”

The point is to capture attention; you can explain later once you gain acceptance to step foot into line.

Explain yourself in a single sentence. Grab some paper and write down everything you would want a future employer to know about you: your skills, your accomplishments, your experiences. Once complete, grab a red pen and tear it apart — delete everything that’s not critical or lacks impact to your pitch.

Keep editing until you get it down to a few bullet points, which can then be transformed into a single sentence that encompasses the unique value of who you are.

Again, the goal here isn’t to give an exhaustive life history; it’s to position yourself in line so that you will be invited forward to share more. You are piquing interest.

Practice and then practice again. When you put this all together, you will have a script of sorts that will be your go-to when mixing with influential people. This script will give you the ability to spit out who you are and the distinctive benefits you provide.

Continue to edit the script until you can introduce yourself in less than a minute, which is how long most people sizing you up will give you to win their interest.

But also practice…and then practice again. This effort is not meant to turn you into a machine that robotically rains out a response. You need to know your unique value good enough that you can wing pivots while you deliver it. Depending on your audience and through observation, you may see certain areas of your story resonating with those you’re speaking to, then pivot, and expand on those points a little. But don’t go too far, as you want to maintain an information gap so they leave hungry and want to know more about you.

So here’s some action:

1) I know you know one person who could benefit now from creating their elevator pitch, so send this article to them so they can get started.

2) Create and edit your pitch to be 20 words or less. This is the ideal length for short, quick communications such as e-mail, LinkedIn chats, and the intro paragraph on your resume cover page, to name a few.

Photo credit: artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Justin Dickmeyer, Professional Engineer, has served nearly 100,000 lessons to aspiring engineers around the world. On EngineerInTrainingExam.com, he approaches PE exam preparation from a different angle, striving to not only lead and mentor his PE students but to “get in the trenches” with them while creating the most engaging and easy-to-access FE Exam and PE Exam prep materials. He can be reached on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/justindickmeyer

This article was originally published on Engineering.com and is reprinted in its entirety with permission. For more stories like this please visit Engineering.com.  

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