Pitching yourself to a stranger in twenty seconds or less is never easy, but your biggest roadblock may not be what you think. While mustering up the courage to speak to a potential employer or partner is a challenge in itself, the more important element of an elevator pitch is knowing how to convey your talents in a succinct, compelling way. According to MJ Ryan, Executive Coach and designer of Levo’s new Thinking Talents app, that is probably because you need to get more in touch with what your talents are.
“There are neural pathways in your brain you’ve been growing since you were born, and we tend to take them totally and completely for granted, because we just assume that’s the way everyone thinks,” MJ says. We assume that our particular brain processes are the ones that define “thinking.” We think, “This must be the way everyone thinks.” According to MJ, we need to recognize that just because we tend toward a particular way of thinking, that doesn’t mean that everyone else does. That knowledge, above all else, will help you “pitch” yourself as the uniquely talented individual that you are.
Since one of her talents has always been determining the uniqueness of people (lucky for us!), MJ was flabbergasted when she discovered that not everyone’s brain is focusing on those personal details. “For example, when I meet someone I’ll know what colors she likes, what she likes to eat and drink, when her birthday is, etcetera, and I thought everybody’s brain was tracking that,” she says. “The point is that for many of us, what we’re actually great at is invisible to us. Or we don’t have a name for it, and we certainly don’t recognize that it’s unique. So once we determine what that is, we can pitch ourselves more effectively, because we understand what we have to contribute.”
Step one? Download Thinking Talents and take the quiz. You’ll select up to eight talents out of the 35 described, which will ultimately lead you to one or more of four personality quadrants: innovative, procedural, relational, and analytical. Even if you only select five talents, there are 33 million possible results. With eight, that number increases exponentially. If you’re looking for a way to pin down what makes you unique, this is it.
MJ says that Thinking Talents can be boiled down to a single phrase coined by Professional Thinking Partners’ Lead Consultant Dawna Markova: “You need to be able to name what you’re good at so that you can claim it, and aim it,” she says. And that’s exactly what Thinking Talents does. “The process of naming and claiming your talents will enable you to talk about them in a more effective way,” MJ says.
If you fall in the relational quadrant, elevator pitching probably comes naturally to you. You are a people person who excels at networking, and your pitch should focus on your talent for understanding and utilizing the unique talents of your team members, communication, leadership, and keeping people motivated. Show that you’re a leader of men by demonstrating your exceptional observation and listening skills.
Example: “Connecting makes me feel successful. Whether it’s myself with others or two third parties, creating relationships is when I’m at my best.”
If you score mostly in the analytic quadrant, your pitch should hone in on that component of your personality: data-driven and rational. Since you love facts, throw in a quick statistic demonstrating something you’ve accomplished recently.
Example: “I live for logical, data-supported solutions, which is essential in my current role.”
If you fall in the innovative quadrant, you’re the big-picture thinker. Not everyone is able to view a problem comprehensively and come up with new, improved solutions—emphasize that. Give an example if you can. Part of your elevator pitch might be.
Example: “I have always been an innovator, and would love to work for a company like yours which is constantly trying new ideas and seeking unusual solutions.”
Your books are color coordinated aren’t they? (Don’t necessarily use that in your elevator pitch, but I guess if the moment feels right…) You’re the details and logistics person. You’re the person that takes the wild ideas of those innovators, makes them practical, and puts them on an actionable timeline.
Example: “My boss hasn’t had to stress about details in years—she leaves it to me and just knows it will be executed.”
No matter what quadrant you fall into, your elevator pitch needs to be authentic and convey what you’re passionate about. “There’s typically an overlap between what you love to do and what you’re good at doing—in other words, your talents and your passions,” MJ says. “So get the app and take the quiz, but also spend some time thinking about how what you do love and how those things are related. The most important thing is presenting the authentic you. Your pitch has to convey your talents and interests, but it shouldn’t sound like a speech. You need to connect with the person in a real way. I can always tell whether a person is reciting something she memorized.”
Photo: Sam Teich / Levo