Quick career tips: Open up a wealth of career opportunities with an elevator pitch

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Today’s career tip is on how to pitch your public health experience and skill-set to land that job, interview, or opportunity you’ve been eyeing for some time!

Pitching yourself to a stranger can definitely be daunting, but with the help of this week’s episode, you’ll feel confident enough to start crafting your pitch.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What an elevator pitch is and how it can open up a wealth of opportunities throughout your public health career
  • How to develop an effective elevator pitch, including a public-health specific example
  • The do’s and don’ts of writing an effective pitch that leaves a lasting impact on your target audience

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Episode Transcript

Sujani 0:02
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight, a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career. And before I jump into this week’s episode, I do have to do a shout out to Zara, who has joined our team here at PH SPOT. And not only am I here to help you build your public health career, so is the entire PH SPOT team, and specifically Zara with this episode. She’s essentially done a lot of great research and pulled this great episode together for us. And so I wanted to do a quick shout out to Zara and say thank you for that.

And so let’s jump into today’s episode, which is a great tool that can be leveraged to really open up a wealth of career opportunities for you as you build your public health career. So when we talk about career growth, there’s typically an emphasis on traditional career tools like resumes and cover letters. So much so that there are hundreds of thousands of resources on how to write the perfect cover letter or make your resume stand out. And while resumes and cover letters are extremely useful tools that continue to be the main way of applying for and landing a new job, they also tend to be packed with information that can be really hard to absorb all at once. And as a result, they may not instantly leave a lasting impression on the reader. And this is especially true in this era of information overload, where our attention spans are shorter and several other applicants are also vying for the attention of that hiring manager. And I talk about this information overload especially in our infographics course, and how are readers these days, they just have so much information that they’re absorbing and infographics are a great way to present your information to the population that you serve. So do check out that course if you’re ever interested in developing graphics to communicate your public health messages, but going back to applications, and this topic of resumes and cover letters. Of course, a strong resume or cover letter can go a long way. But there are also other ways in which you can grab the attention of a hiring manager, or anyone else who can open up a wealth of opportunities for you. And one of the best ways to do this is by crafting and presenting and essentially having ready an elevator pitch, which is exactly what we’ll be talking about in today’s Quick career tips episode.

And so, you know, I don’t want you to think about this- this word, elevator pitch, in the context of entrepreneurship, because I don’t know about you but when I was first introduced to the term, ‘pitch’, it was in the context of entrepreneurship. And if you’re like me, you probably envision a big fancy boardroom where an entrepreneur stands up in front of several potential investors trying to persuade them to invest in a new business opportunity. Of course, that’s definitely one way pitches are used. But the reality is that the art of pitching isn’t just confined to a boardroom or even to the world of business. It’s actually applicable to all careers and industries, including public health. So to quickly sum up what an elevator pitch is, it’s essentially a 30 to 60 second speech that tells people who you are, what it is that you do, and why they should remember you, and consider you for that role or opportunity. And so just like a business person pitches an idea worth investing in, professionals like us can leverage the elevator pitch to convince an employer that they are the best person for the job. And you can use your pitch to answer the timeless question of ‘Tell me about yourself’ at the interview, or even as your opening few lines of your cover letter, you could even use your elevator pitch in your LinkedIn bio at the start of that introductory email, or even as a means of introducing yourself at a networking event or at the start of an informational interview. Truthfully, the uses of the elevator pitch are endless. If done right and authentically, the elevator pitch can help you make a genuine impression on others, and open up a wealth of opportunities and connections that you may have never imagined were possible. And of course, it’s not always easy to talk to strangers about yourself, and directly ask them for something, especially if you’re intimidated by the position or power they hold. But the way you can get a handle on these worries and feel more confident in asking for what you want is by putting time and effort into pitching, sorry, into perfecting your pitch, because it essentially starts you off strong to this individual.

So here are a few ways you can do that. Because remember these quick career tips, they’re not always about telling you what it is that you have to do, we are about showing you how to do it. So first, let’s take a few steps back and ask yourself what the goal of your pitches. For example, are you trying to land a job interview, a mentor, or an informational interview chat? Then ask yourself, ‘What does this job entail?’, or in the case of mentorship or these informational chats, ask which of my experiences and skills are relevant to this individual, and would help me strike a meaningful connection with them. And so with those questions in mind, write down whatever phrases and experiences come to mind. And make sure you strike off any generic statements. You want your pitch to be as personalized as possible. This will give you the content that you can work with as you start to draft your pitch. And when it comes to drafting the pitch itself, make sure that you’re writing it as you would speak, and that you follow these steps. So first, at the start of your pitch, you need to introduce yourself and your current role, including any qualifications you have. Because this will help answer the question to the person receiving it: ‘Who is this person I’m speaking to?’, then you need to succinctly summarize what it is that you do in this role, including the skills that you put to use. And once you’ve done that, you will need to explain how well you do your role, including the impact and outcomes you’ve managed to achieve. And lastly, tell the individual what you would like to happen next. This is your call to action statement. So for example, if I was a health promoter looking for a new job in the public health space, my elevator pitch may go something like this: “Hi there, my name is Sujani. I’m a health promoter who holds an MPH degree with a specialization in health promotion. I’ve been privileged to develop and deliver health programming to close to 4000 individuals of varying ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds over the past six years. In the past year alone, I’ve helped increase program uptake by 30% by adapting our Community Health Centers programming to meet the unique needs of our target population. I’d love the opportunity to speak with you about the ways in which I can help your organization do the same.” In those 30 seconds, you not only learned who I was, or the hypothetical me was, but you also learn more about what I do and what I’m capable of. And hopefully, you are impressed enough to take me up on my ask. Your elevator pitch might not come to you all at once. And that’s okay. Although it’s only a few sentences, it actually requires quite some time, thought and patience to draft. You’ll find yourself writing down a few words one day and then revisiting your pitch the next day because you’ve just thought of a way in which you can quantify the impact that you’ve made or you just remembered a key experience you’d like to share. You’ll also find yourself workshopping some words and eliminating any jargon or technical words to make your pitch as clear as possible. And once it feels just right, start practicing your pitch aloud, whether alone or with others. Remember, your pitch needs to sound conversational and not robotic. Otherwise it won’t invite further conversation, or questions from the person that you’re pitching to. Especially if you’re doing this verbally. And so one tip to do this is to write bullet notes with general ideas you want to get across, but not to script the pitch word for word. The point of the elevator pitch, after all is to invite further questions about yourself. So prepare yourself for that as well. And most importantly, if you’re going to be delivering your pitch verbally, as I said, that it’s really important that you stand confidently and avoid any body language that might suggest otherwise, your words are telling the story of you and your body language helps complete that story and truly bring it to life. This will especially be the case as in person conferences and networking opportunities resumed. So it’s never too late to start practicing. So if you say, I’m a passionate individual, make sure you’re showing that in your body language and you’re not shy and in making that statement in a more reserved manner. And the more you practice your pitch, the better you’ll get at sharing it, tweak it to fit different settings and see the reactions of the people that you’re speaking with. If it feels too awkward to jump right into the pitch, consider adding a few starting link lines like, “Would it be helpful if I shared a bit about myself before we jump into this chat?”, experiment with your pitch until you find what works best for you and what others seem to be most respect- receptive of. And don’t forget, your elevator pitch isn’t supposed to be static, it’s supposed to change over time, and with the different settings and situations that you find yourself in. And, as I mentioned earlier, if you end up using this elevator pitch as the starting point of your cover letter or as the intro of your LinkedIn profile, obviously, you will be crafting this elevator pitch in a manner that is read. So there are some tweaks that you’ll have to make to this elevator pitch, if you do end up using it in some written format. So with that being said, get that pen and paper out and start prepping your pitch. And trust me when I say that your future self will thank you, especially when you’re writing that next cover letter. You’re sitting in front of a prospective employer who’s asking you tell me about yourself, or you run into someone and they they ask you what is it that you do. So during those instances, being prepared with that elevator pitch will definitely help you land amazing opportunities in public health.

And before you leave, I wanted to let you know that PH SPOT offers a hands on intensive training program that empowers early public health professionals and graduates, and students with the mindset skills and tools required to land a public health job, advanced your career and become future public health leaders through several tools including perfecting your elevator pitch. So I invite you to check out this program at pHspot.org/program. You can now join the waitlist and we’ll notify you when the next cohort opens up.

I hope you enjoyed that episode spotlighting a Career Tip. And if you want to see notes from today’s episode, head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And if you’re listening to this on Apple podcast, Google or Spotify, please do leave us a review so that other public health professionals know what to expect and also for us to know how you’re enjoying this episode. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight.

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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