I still remember the icebreaker my English teacher kicked off our class with nearly a decade ago. It went like this:
I used to study at [Name of Elementary School]. I now study at [Name of High School]. In the future, I would like to study at [Name of College].
We went around the room and all repeated each other, while our classmates looked on, bored to tears. What does that little exercise have to do with networking? Everything.
To put it bluntly: Generic
When you're talking about yourself, you're introducing your brand to the world. If you say what everyone else does — only changing the fill-in-the-blanks — you're forgettable. You have to amp up your individuality in order to be heard.
Reflecting back, I guess my teacher deserves a lot of
You may think it's impossible to show how fiercely talented you are in so few words, but remember your goal isn't to share your whole resume, it's to get them thinking, Huh, tell me more.
Here are two different ways you can zoom in on what you should say:
Most people introduce themselves by sharing what they do: "I'm a [job title]."
While no one's going to run away screaming, it doesn't prompt a very interesting discussion (and there's also a chance the other person will nod
"Why" should really be the backbone of your elevator
Why do you work in graphic design?
Why did you pursue finance?
When you add
- I'm a graphic designer, because, ever since I was
kid, I've had a sketch pad pretty much attached to my left hand.
- I work in
finance,because I love helping people save for their biggest goals—like a client of mine who just opened a restaurant!
- I picked systems engineering, because of the flexibility to work on projects in all different fields that have
The approach instantly makes you both more human—and more memorable.
What big (and small) problems are you solving? Review your testimonials, performance reviews, or LinkedIn recommendations to get a better sense of the solutions you deliver. Ask your boss, co-workers, or clients what they see as your biggest strengths.
For example, when I describe my work as a copywriter, I don't just say "I write words." That's boring — and what does it even mean? Don't many jobs include writing words? Instead, I say, "I help startups and entrepreneurs express themselves clearly and magnetically so they can be noticed and remembered." That's easier to understand — and more interesting.
When you lead with what you're best at, you make sure new contacts know right off the bat you're someone they'd want
- As a business coach, I help entrepreneurs think strategically, grow their businesses, and earn bigger profits.
- I'm a lawyer who makes legal support crystal clear so freelancers can focus on what matters most in their businesses.
- I'm a recruiter who helps top companies find qualified talents so they can do phenomenal work together and constantly stay ahead of their competition.
Once you're feeling good about what you've come up with, it's time to share it with a few trusted friends. (And by
Ask if they were meeting you for the first
Once you've incorporated their feedback, practice saying it in a way that feels natural to you (your new pitch, not the feedback)! Do this and the next time someone asks you the age-old "So, what do you do?" question, you'll be able to answer with confidence.