The Elevator Speech for the College Student: The Skill Every College Student Needs to Master

IMAG0907Every college student has been asked “What’s your major?” too many times to count immediately followed by the inevitable “And what do you plan on doing with that?” question. For years I fumbled for an answer to explain that I had no idea, that I was still growing and developing, and the fact that I was stumbling towards my future showed. I received faces of pity or disdain because I was another college student getting another pointless, jobless degree.

The look said it all. Creative Writing? Good luck being homeless.

All it takes is 20 seconds for someone to judge me. What I didn’t understand for nearly four years is that 20 seconds is all it takes to take control of the situation. These 20 seconds are what’s called the Elevator Speech or Pitch.

The Elevator Speech can be applied to anything from an organization, to selling yourself in front of a future employer, to making people think you know what you’re doing with your life. It’s not a new concept. There are tons of articles on the subject but why was I never taught? Why were there not pamphlets being passed around at school? Why didn’t I learn this as a freshman? There were so many people that made me feel like I was driving a large train straight towards failure and I had no idea how to fight against them.

I’m writing this so that someone else won’t have to go years before learning the trick to empowering themselves and how to take control of situations such as the inevitable “What are you doing with your life?” question.

Here’s my practical guide to the Elevator Speech:

1. Time Matters: 20 seconds is all you have before people lose interest. Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to hear you speak for minutes on end about your “big” plans unless they actually engage you in extended conversation.

2. Know Yourself: To successfully sell yourself and your ability to plan for the future you need to know who you are and ultimately what you want to do with your life. What will make you happy? What are your goals?

Example: I would like to be a young adult fantasy author.

3. Convincingly Practical: Dreams are great to have but a game plan is better. Figure out how to get from point A, where you are now, to point Z, where you want to be. The practical steps in-between the two are the crucial part. This is the step where the plan comes together and other people begin to think that you’ve got it all figured out.

Example: I would really like to be an author but while I’m trying to get my book published I’m going to be a freelance writer for various companies. Every company needs a writer for their websites, brochures, and documents and I’m going to be that writer.

4. Confidence: It’s ok to not have it all figured out yet. Most people don’t. It’s ok to even admit it. If you have a well thought out a plan with a clear vision and you deliver it with confidence then other people will respond with confidence in your ability to succeed. It’s that simple.

With these steps I was able to successfully pull off an Elevator Speech. When I got feedback like, “Wow, it really sounds like you know what you’re doing.” I knew I had to share my newly mastered skill with others in the hopes that I could give someone confidence too.

Take control of your life. All it takes is 20 seconds.


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