Everyone (myself included) is telling you to go out there and network. But, what do you plan to say to people while you’re networking? (For the uninitiated, networking is not merely retaining as many business cards as possible from other people in the span of an hour.)
Who are you?
This is the first question you should ask yourself when constructing your elevator pitch. My answer might look a bit like the bio at the end of this piece.
What are you seeking?
Is your end goal to land a job or a client? After you’ve explained to your new networking contact who you are, it’s important to communicate what you’re seeking.
What can you offer?
It’s not enough to be looking for a job, client, etc. You have to offer something of value in return. This is often called your unique selling proposition (USP).
Sure, you said what you’re seeking, but you should be explicit with your networking contact about the next step in this new relationship.
Putting it together
To borrow from a great book you should pick up and read immediately, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career by Katharine Hansen, a college student or recent graduate might follow this basic structure:
Hi, my name is ______________. I will be graduating/I just graduated from ______________ with a degree in ______________. I’m looking to ______________. I recently ______________. Can I take you out for coffee sometime to elicit your advice?
Keep it simple and short. Your elevator pitch should be no longer than 60 seconds. After all, (1) you don’t want to bore the other individual and (2) you want to hear his/her story, too! Networking is a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship.