Edited by Ellen H. Badger

This month’s Advice From The Field column is authored by Sheena Maria Connell, a NAFSA volunteer leader and assistant director of international student and scholar services at the University of the Incarnate Word. Sheena shares strategies for making the best possible first impression.

Q: I'm a pro at my program elevator pitch, but I struggle with my personal elevator pitch. How can I cultivate and practice my personal pitch to be as effective as my program pitch?

A: Sheena Connell

Struggling with a personal elevator pitch stems from lacking confidence in your “product” or not knowing your “product” well enough. To perfect your personal pitch, do your research...on you.

Similar to gaining confidence and knowledge in your program pitch, start with an objective evaluation of your strengths, successes, and what makes you unique. Are you a problem solver, a born leader? Are you a natural salesperson? Ask your supervisor, close colleagues, or even someone you supervise what is most memorable about you. Ask yourself what you want to be known as at your institution. Supplement their feedback with personality evaluation tools such as StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs to identify hidden or overlooked talents. Then throw in the numbers. Include statistical or numerical achievements, such as “100 percent success rate“ or “manages more than 3,000 students” or “implemented more than 15 new programs.”

Next, determine your objective: a new job, a raise, a place on a committee, or gaining an ally on campus. Project how you would like to be perceived in the context of that objective. Think of a narrative and how you’d like to present the “product” to your audience. If you are known as the problem solver, present that information first. Remember, when crafting an opener to your personal pitch, don’t be afraid to use an element of surprise or humor and personalize it. For example, open with “Hi, I’m Alejandra and I solve everyone’s problems.” This type of statement prompts a follow-up question from your audience. Questions allow you to give context to your skills and achievements while the person is interested in the answer, rather than just quickly spouting off facts about yourself. Follow up with some of your key accomplishments or your vision of success. This is also a great place to throw in those numbers.

Lastly, wrap up your pitch with a compliment and an action request, such as “I’ve really enjoyed your feedback, could I have your card to follow up with you?” or “You seem like quite an expert in this field, would you be willing to meet again?” A pitch without action is just a waste of time. Always remember to follow up within 24-48 hours to stay fresh in their mind.

When practicing your pitch, remember to remain authentic and high energy. Try to avoid practicing robotically, saying the same thing over and over. Imagine the different objectives you might have with different audiences. Each encounter might call for emphasis on a different strength or accomplishment. No matter how much you practice, always maintain your excitement and passion about your “product.” Excitement about a topic or idea can be infectious and will leave your audience with a positive view of your capabilities.

Have a question? It may appear in a future column! Submit your questions to [email protected].

"Advice from the Field" is an online column that offers trusted career and professional development advice for international educators at all levels. The column is a joint initiative of NAFSA’s Phase II Member Interest Group (MIG) and the NAFSA Career Center, and is edited by Ellen Badger, past-coordinator of the Phase II MIG. For additional career resources, visit www.nafsa.org/careercenter.