Take your student elevator pitch from robotic and canned to genuinely interesting. Make relevant connections and land your next career.
11 minute read
Let me guess… you’re here because you’ve got an important networking event coming up, you got an assignment to craft an elevator pitch, or you’d just like to learn how to introduce yourself in a professional manner when the moment comes.
Regardless of why you came here (and I’m glad you did!), let me just get one thing straight: elevator pitch is a nightmare. At least, the kind of elevator pitch old-school career advisors recommend.
I mean, a careers site of a college I’m not going to name claims an elevator pitch “should sound like an advertisement of you.” Um, no, it definitely shouldn’t, unless you want to come across robotic, awkward, and full of yourself.
The good news is that there is a perfectly easy formula for a great, conversational elevator pitch that will make whoever you’re talking to genuinely interested in your qualifications and skills.
Just give this guide a 5-minute read and you’ll learn it. Plus, you’ll get actionable examples of elevator speeches for different scenarios you can use as a point of reference to build your own.
An elevator pitch for students (AKA elevator speech) is used by individuals during career fairs, networking events, or job interviews. An elevator pitch is about getting a potential employer to want to learn more about you and the value you can bring to the table. 99.9% of the time it will not land you the position, but rather get you the opportunity to apply.
The name elevator pitch comes from the idea that you should be able to deliver it while on an elevator ride—roughly, in 30 to 60 seconds.
A 30-second student elevator pitch is hard to get right—unless you’re an Ivy League prodigy and a superstar in your field already (in which case I want your email and I’ll be launching my elevator pitch to you very soon).
For all of us mere mortals, sharpening a killer personal elevator pitch will take a systematic approach and some practice. Lucky for you, there is a system you can follow to make your value shine bright. We’ll get into that in the next section.
A student elevator pitch has to communicate something. And communication is never a one-way process (hey. That’s why the end goal of your pitch should be to start a conversation, not brag about your accomplishments.
Of course, depending on the situation, you’ll want to modify your elevator pitch a little bit, but the main ingredients remain the same.
Below are the core priciples that tie together a killer elevator speech:
There’s no going around that part. Say your name, tell them what you study and what relevant experience you have. But, don’t stop there. Instead of just detailing what you do, focus on how you do it and what it is about it that you find particularly interesting.
Mention something that makes you unique. It can be a quick story about how you got into your field, an interesting finding you uncovered recently that might be relevant to the person you’re talking to, or a pain point related to your industry that they’ll immediately understand.
If you’ve had internships or part-time work experience in your industry, do talk about what you learned, the skills you developed, and results you helped achieve. This way, you’re presenting yourself as a potential asset to an organization or a good partner for collaboration, if speaking to a peer.
At the end of your pitch, ask a question. Depending on the situation, it might be an invitation to talk more about how you could help them, asking them to share some of their knowledge with you, asking about their professional challenges and how they tackle them, or even just asking what they do!
The critical thing, after you deliver your pitch is to keep the conversation alive!
Alright, I know. The theoretical parts often sound pretty vague.
Let’s have a look at 5 different student elevator pitch examples for different situations and scenarios and break down each of those to see what makes it work.
Okay, so enough of theory. Now what?
If you got the gist of it - start crafting your elevator pitch. The first draft is rarely the best draft.
Once you have a good 30-60 seconds speech, practice speaking it in front of a mirror.
Then, if you have solid friends that don’t mind some role-playing (and won’t make fun of you), simulate the elevator pitch in the context of a back-and-forth conversation.
Start with - “hey, you’re [person of interest] right? I’d really love to join your team”, and have the friend start by asking “can you tell me a bit about you?” then let it roll from there.
You can wait a lifetime for an opportunity to meet the person to set you on your career path. Finding out what you want to do early on makes it much easier for future you. Changing careers later on may prove to be difficult, though not impossible.
If you believe in destiny then you’re all set… but if you don’t then it’s best you plan for such an event. Make sure to be consistently in the right place and time to meet and have at least 30 seconds with your person of interest.
The untold truth is that you may or may not get the opportunity to ever give your elevator pitch. But where your elevator pitch really comes in handy is when you proactively add it as part of your CV, application letter, research proposal, digital flipbook or design portfolio.
Go ahead and use any of our free interactive templates below. Nothing you can do will help you stand out like these templates.
Let’s start with, arguably, the most “standard” scenario. You’re at a career fair, wandering around different companies’ booths (or doing it in a virtual setting). All of them are offering internship opportunities or even entry-level positions for graduates. But there are these few amazing employers you've wanted to work for since you started your studies!
How do you approach them? Well, see what Jane did:
Hello, my name is Jane, I’m a recent CUNY graduate with a bachelor in Marketing and a minor in French. And, as an amateur fiction writer, I’m a strong believer in creative storytelling. In my BA dissertation, I found that marketing campaigns centered around a narrative were up to 55% more memorable than those based on promoting benefits. “Features tell, benefits sell?” Maybe. But stories sell even better. I would love to apply my skills in storytelling for marketing as a Digital Content Development Intern with Acme and contribute to your growth. Could you tell me more about your current challenges with digital content creation?
What’s so good about it:
Now, let’s imagine a similar scenario in an even more formal setting: a job interview. During job interviews, your elevator pitch is, in essence, the answer you give to that dreaded “Tell us about yourself” question. This type of a student elevator speech is the one with least room for creativity. There are rules of the interview game, and you need to follow them.
Like this candidate did:
I’m working on a degree in Hospitality and Communication from the University of Boston and I have 6 months of experience in junior Customer Happiness Officer roles with ABC Company and XYZ Corp. What drives me professionally is providing tailor-made, individual solutions to every customer. In my previous role at ABC, I collaborated with a cross-departmental team of 8 colleagues on a surveying project aimed at improving the company’s mobile app user experience. By carefully listening to our customers’ feedback, I helped boost customer retention by 28% and I’d love to translate that experience into similar results for Acme!
What’s so good about it:
Now, not all elevator pitches are about a current employment or internship opportunity. Sometimes you’re at a conference or an event dedicated to networking and you meet other people from your industry.
See how this student, we’ll call him Jack, approached an editor of one of his favorite journals:
What do I do? I make sure robots don’t take over human jobs just yet. And how do I do it? By making friends with them! I’m a senior at Stanford completing my Bachelor’s in Machine Intelligence and Machine Learning this summer. I’m sure you’ve seen all those snappy headlines about AI writers already being more efficient than human beings. Well… Truth is, they’re not there yet and trusting robots with creating high-impact informational content such as news articles would be extremely risky. But, they can help us tremendously with the research process. That’s the premise of a project I’ve been working on in the past 6 months. I developed an alpha-stage AI research assistant that can cut the research time for news pieces by over 60%. Would you be interested in telling me more about your research process at XYZ Magazine?
What’s so good about it:
Did those elevator pitch samples above still sound too intimidating? It’s true, the people from the examples had at least some work or internship experience and were nearing the end of their college studies. But—
Even if you have zero experience and are only starting out on your degree, you can still deliver a head-turning elevator pitch. What you need is to center it around your passion and enthusiasm. Like James did here:
My name is James and I’ve been crazy about programming since I was 11 years old and my dad showed me how to write a basic algorithm. It just blew my mind that I could do things like that with a computer, so I started following that passion which led me to studying Computer Science at Stanford where I’m a sophomore. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about healthcare mobile app development and I was amazed to read your recent case study on the TeleHealth app. Would you have the time to tell me a little bit more about the development process?
What’s so good about it:
Finally, an elevator pitch for the least formal scenario: an introduction to a peer in a semi-personal setting such as a university event. Almost like something you’d say when introducing yourself to someone at a party. You’ll want them to quickly understand what you do and encourage them to tell you the same about themselves.
Like in this example:
I’m in the business of making NatGeo documentaries with David Attenborough’s voiceover! No, I’m kidding, not there yet. But I’m a senior at UPenn, doing a BSc in Marine Biology. And my main area of research interest is the patterns of melodies of whale songs! And I’d love to make a documentary about it one day, once I’m done with my big project. What about you? Where will I hear of you once you get famous?
What’s so good about it:
Now a couple of years into a global pandemic, a lot of opportunities and connections are made online. Networking post-pandemic has changed the way we typically connect and communicate with each other. For students, this means shifting elevator pitches to “elevator emails” or messages that state your value proposition in a quick and simple email.
Although it might seem daunting, being able to write a strong elevator email is an essential skill for showing your ambition and eagerness for a role or opportunity. Once you create your first elevator email template, you can continue to work and improve your message.
Here is a great example of an elevator email:
My name is Tony and I am a recent graduate from UC San Diego with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Marketing. I came across your opportunity for the role of Marketing Intern and was immediately drawn. While looking over the job description, it reminded me of my previous experience working at the Best Marketing Firm as an intern where I assisted in launching multi-channel marketing campaigns, developed a strong relationship with the company’s marketing and product teams, and increased customer engagement by 15%.
My goal is to become the best marketer I can be, and I strongly believe I would thrive in this role and come in and make immediate contributions to your team and organization. I would love the opportunity to meet with you over a call or meeting to further discuss this position and the qualifications you are seeking. I went ahead and included the job description, my resume, and a cover letter with more details about myself. I look forward to connecting with you!
What’s so good about it:
TIP: If you'd like to attach a portfolio of relevant projects to your Elevator Email, you can create a professional-looking presentation in a matter of minutes using Storydoc's presentation maker. Just pick a template from our extensive template library, fill in the blanks, and let our editor take care of the rest!
Before you go, here are a few extra tips to help you deliver a great student elevator pitch:
And that’s all from me today! Thanks for reading my guide and I hope the whole idea of an elevator pitch is now less scary and intimidating than it used to be. Keeping my fingers crossed for your pitch!
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