Here’s how you can master the elevator pitch and answer the “What do you do?” networking question like a pro.

Not everyone finds networking events to be fun. In fact, for introverts, networking can be a painful activity. And one of the most excruciating parts? When everyone goes around the room and gives their elevator pitch, a quick spiel that captures the essence of what they do or what kind of job they're looking for. Whether you're presenting in front of a crowd or just having a one-on-one conversation, a good elevator pitch that answers the networking question, “What do you do?” is one of the most important tools you can have in your job-search arsenal.

In order to craft an award-winning introduction, consider borrowing a concept from the field of marketing — you are marketing yourself, after all. When promoting a product, a marketer has the choice to discuss either the product's features or its benefits. Features are the things you can see, touch, or feel about a product, while benefits are the advantages you get from it. The rule of thumb in marketing is that features don't sell a product, benefits do.

The reason so many elevator pitches are boring or unmemorable is that people have a strong tendency to talk only about their professional features — what they do and how they do it — which is not likely to leave a lasting impression.

Benefits, on the other hand, are much more enticing in an elevator pitch. Do you provide a competitive advantage by creating customer loyalty? Have you saved your employer money by creating efficient, new systems? You get the idea. Focus on the impact of what you do, not just the tasks you have mastered. Of course, make sure your benefits are not too general or over the top, or you will come off as cheesy and unbelievable. For example, instead of leading with something like “I save companies from going out of business,” try one of these sample statements instead:

  • “I lead accounting departments that actually save companies money.”

  • “I increase revenue through unique ways of creating brand loyalty.”

Ideally, your elevator pitch will intrigue people enough to want to hear more. Once you've come up with something you like, practice saying it until it feels comfortable — but not rehearsed — and you'll be ready to confidently answer this networking question at your next event.

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