Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Perfecting the Elevator Speech

If you've ever risked your sanity by going to Career Services for job-seeking advice, at some point you've probably heard about the Elevator Speech. The idea is that you should be able to explain all pertinent information about 1) who you are and what you can offer and 2) what you're looking for in the time it takes an elevator to go from the top to the bottom floor of a building.

This is surprisingly hard, especially for someone like me who 1) has had eight-hundred different jobs in the law alone and 2) has no fucking idea what she wants. However, I've been given the opportunity lately to perfect the Elevator Speech and I must say I'm getting quite good at it. I'm working at a Big Firm right now that occupies most of the top floors and the basement of a building, so I frequently run into people in the elevator lobby. Not only that, but everyone here is quite friendly, so when I run into someone new they invariably introduce themselves and ask me who I am and what I'm doing. When they find out I'm a lawyer and a temp, the Elevator Speech is duly requested.

The trick, I'm finding, like with almost any communication, is knowing your audience. Are you talking to a fellow attorney? A paralegal? A receptionist? The paralegals really don't care about your lack of a job. They've got their own ladder issues to deal with and are strictly making conversation and/or assessing the competition (remember, I'm actually a paralegal here). Attorneys are often in a position to help or give great advice, but they also like other people needing their vast knowledge, so you have to discern if the attorney is just putting a power play on you. Receptionists are the wild card. They might be like your grandma, just wanting to make sure everyone's doing okay, or alternatively, might have contacts up and down the eastern seaboard just waiting to be tapped into.

Another trick is timing. Although the Elevator Speech is just a euphemism for any short meeting you might have with someone, I am actually frequently doing this on elevators. And forget going from the top to the bottom of the building; I usually have to give this spiel between floors 8 and 10. The most important thing to remember is don't get interrupted. You don't have time for it. That means you need to talk fast and - heaven forbid - don't pause to think. It's better to keep running your mouth than let your audience get a word in edgewise and break your stride. This also means you have to end at exactly the right time. If you keep talking once the doors start to open, you open your own door to being brushed off as the person walks away. Own the conversation by ending smartly as the door dings (or in other situations, being acutely aware that your debate buzzer is being activated somehow - someone else entering the conversation, your audience's microwave lunch finishing).

There are a few other tricks, but those are the most important, and I have to run off to some lunch meeting I really, really don't want to attend. The Elevator Speech will be featured prominently, I fear. Wish me luck.


At 3:58 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous eve said...

GREAT info!
I'd love to hear yours, if you're comfortable sharing! :)

At 7:25 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Roonie said...

I'd love to hear it too, especially because this is the first time I've ever heard about the infamous "Elevator Speech." Looks like our CSO had a lot more work to do than even we knew.


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