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Career Column: You have 30 seconds, make them count

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I consulted my LinkedIn connections to identify an area of career development needing to be addressed. It seems hiring manager are looking for candidates with well-developed elevators speeches. An elevator speech is a brief introduction of yourself that helps to sell you to a potential employer or client. You don’t have much time to make a good first impression, so a polished introduction is essential. You only have about 30 seconds to capture the attention of potential targets. If you aren’t prepared, you risk losing or repelling them.

There is no hard rule about the amount of time you have to make your first impression, so your elevator speech needs to be compelling from start to finish. This starts with dressing the part. If you want others to see you as a professional, create the vision for them. If you want to be a banker, people should describe you as looking like a banker. It’s a good idea to always be a little overdressed, during a job search. You never know when you’ll run into a potential employer, so be prepared.

In your speech, you want to include your name and other identifying info, but the goal is to explain what you can do for the employer/client. Onboarding new employees is a costly endeavor, which is why many employers are highly selective. They are shopping around to find the best return on their investment. If you are currently employed and are looking for work in a similar field, you can do this by summarizing how you currently help your employer and/or customers. While your job title is relevant, employers are looking for a description rather than a title. For example, I identify and develop strengths and resources to help others succeed.

If you are trying to break into a new field, you should describe what you would like to do. In this case it’s important to know your audience and tailor your speech for each potential employer. Think about how you can use your strengths to increase volume, efficiency, or customer satisfaction. Focus on transferable skills attained through work experience in other fields and education, as well as personality characteristics that would make you a great addition to the targeted company. This might take some time to perfect, so I recommend writing out a few options and rehearsing them. I always also recommend getting feedback from others. When crafting your speech, remember, you’re not asking employers if they would like to hire you; you are telling them why they should.

Stephanie McWilliams is Director of Career Services at Charter College, Fife Campus. She can be reached at (253) 252-4232 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).