Business Cards and Elevator Speeches

By Cynthia Simmons

In my previous blogs I wrote about the importance of a well-designed business card and of being prepared to hand out your business card whenever it could help your job search. Next we need to consider what you will say as you hand out your business card to a stranger, that is, what your elevator speech will be.

An elevator speech gets its name from this multi-part question: “How would you say what sort of job you want, show that you are qualified, and be memorable, all in about 30 seconds?” Say, the time it takes to travel in an elevator up several floors, at which point the person you wish to speak with will step out of the elevator and be gone. (Perhaps out of your life forever?)

Is the best way to start that conversation to say what sort of work you seek and why you are qualified to do this work? No, no… The very first thing is to recognize that you are two people about to start a conversation. You may want to catch the person’s attention, smile, consider how you are standing–your posture and how far away you are. You want to be approachable and yet respectful of the other person’s space. So the very first segment of an elevator speech is to recognize body language, and to arrange yourself accordingly.

Then, say hello and your name. After your introduction, give your profession, say something about your qualifications, and offer your business card. Be polite, because you are speaking to a stranger.

In my case, I would say, “Hello, my name is Cynthia Simmons. I’m an experienced writer and editor. I have a certificate in editing from the University of Chicago. I’ve been doing freelance work recently, and I’m looking for more clients or for full-time work. Here’s my card.”

Then perhaps indicate that you are interested in what sort of work the other person does. This shouldn’t be one-way. Ask, “What sort of work do you do?”

Now, your qualifications may be just enthusiasm… The next job you are seeking could be something that you have always wanted to do, but that you have never done before. You may be totally new, but that can be enough. Because if that is your goal and situation, you are like a pilgrim on a journey looking for guidance. Or, you are the student looking for the teacher. What you will bring to this new job is enthusiasm rather than expertise. Also, perhaps, be prepared to work for less money as you grow your expertise.

Cynthia Simmons is a writing professional with a background in publishing, non-profit marketing communications, and public relations. She received a Copyediting Certificate from the University of California (online), December 2012 and an Editing Certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School, June 2011.

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