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The elevator speech: It really is all about you

As a former college athlete looking for a job, talking briefly about why you are the best candidate is not bragging. It’s a great job search strategy.

A good elevator speech is nothing more than a short but powerful summation of why you are special. It can be adapted to explain why someone should hire you.

The good ones roll off the tongue so casually as to belie the preparation and practice that went into developing them. Usually lasting about 30 seconds, they are packed with important messages about what separates you from the competition.

As a former student-athlete, you have a built-in advantage in explaining why you are special. Few people have the opportunity to perform on such a big stage, and few leadership and character development laboratories compare to college sports. Weaving a tidbit or two into your elevator speech about what you learned and what you accomplished as a college athlete will make your pitch more powerful and memorable.

Here are the building blocks for an excellent 30-second pitch about you:

  • Start with an opening sentence stating who you are and why you are the best person for the job.
  • Next, explain how you can bring the most value to the employer.  As a former college athlete, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about the soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, time management, etc. that you learned while competing.
  • Close with a clear statement of why you think you are the best candidate. If you’re really good, you will work in compliments about the interviewer and his or her company. 
  • To smooth out your presentation, practice aloud in front of a mirror or with friends until it feels and sounds totally natural.

Unaccustomed to bragging about yourself? Don’t worry. This is one occasion when it is OK. Your goal is to make a positive and lasting first impression that leads to something positive.

Paul W. Barada is a human resource consultant and chairman of the board at Barada Associates Inc. who serves on the “I” Association board for the Indiana University, Bloomington.

“Leverage the fact that you are a student-athlete and learn how to effectively package and market yourself. Be able to articulate in an interview how the rigorous physical and mental demands you faced and the skills you developed as a student-athlete correlate to a certain position. From my experience as corporate counsel, the business world is much like the world of sports - fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding. Utilize your unique leadership background to bring folks together and operate on the same team.”

- Michelle Marino, Corporate Counsel at Acquia, Volleyball, University of Central Florida ’05