3 Tips to Help Veterans Nail the Elevator Pitch

Effective strategies for post-military employment

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Soldiers who serve in the armed forces possess a unique set of skills, including leadership, organizational, and teamwork skills, to name a few. But when it comes to transitioning from the military to the civilian world the battle continues for veterans, as they try to convince potential employers that their military skills are transferable to a civilian job setting.

Developing a great elevator pitch, a 30-60 second story, to describe who you are, what you do, and why someone should work with you, is a great way to to differentiate yourself from other job seekers and land a new job opportunity.

U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of elevator-pitch tips to help you clearly articulate your military skills, and explains why it’s important for employers to understand your experience and training.

The Who

The more specific and insightful your self-description, the more compelling the listener will find you. For example, compare these two statements:

“I am a transitioning army sergeant. I was an infantry squad leader in Afghanistan.”

Versus:

I led a team of 11 soldiers overseas in the army. I learned a lot about leadership and getting things done under challenging circumstances. Now that I am transitioning to civilian life, I am looking to …”

Which of these “who” statements would grab your attention? Since most people are not familiar with military experience, the first statement is flat and raises questions that the listener may be uncomfortable admitting he does not understand. After all, what is a sergeant? What is an infantry squad?

The second statement, however, grabs attention from the start. This person is a team leader and can accomplish tasks under pressure. What organization can’t use people like that?

The What

Like the “who,” the “what” is deceptively straightforward, but requires a great deal of thoughtful consideration.  The veteran job seeker must strive to be specific and targeted, while signaling an open mind for opportunities that are not yet unidentified. Generally, the “what” statement should move from a tight target to a more general interest. Consider this statement:

“I am looking for a sales or business development position at a supply-chain software company, sales and marketing roles in transportation and logistics, or other dynamic roles at a growing company in the Atlanta area.”

Notice the progression from a narrow focus to a more open filter. If the recipient of this pitch knows of a path to opportunity in a specific software company, he will make that introduction.

Avoid a “what” statement that is too vague. “I want to make a difference at a great job in Dallas,” for example, is unhelpful. The recipient of that message will not know how to sort or process that goal. It is too ambiguous and unfocused.

The Why

The final component of an effective elevator pitch is the “why” appeal. Another way of describing it is the “ask,” or intended next step. Essentially, the job seeker should address the question: “Why should you care?” The recipient of the elevator pitch will want to know what she is supposed to do with the “who” and “what” that have been previously articulated.

Does the candidate want a subsequent meeting to further the networking process? Is he looking for contacts from whom he might learn more about those positions? Perhaps the job seeker is bold enough to request an interview. This is the time to request a clear next step in the process. For example:

“I would like to make an appointment with you, or a member of your staff, to learn more about what makes for an excellent operations manager at your company or similar organizations. May we look at your calendar for early next week?”

There is no ambiguity for the recipient of this portion of an elevator pitch. He will know what you want and be prepared to act on that request. People are universally impressed by job hunters who know what they seek and what they are asking the person to do.

Read More at U.S. News & World Report.