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Hidden Job Market Essentials: Part Four of Four Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Been to any gatherings lately where you're meeting new people? Let's say you're out trying to make contacts that can help you with your job search. You bump into someone and they want to get to know you. Odds are among the first things they'll do is ask you to 'tell me about yourself.'

These four simple words strike fear into the hearts of student job seekers everywhere. How do you begin to answer? What's the person looking for and how can I help them get it?

If you're like most people, the tendency will be to reply in one of two ways: either become super chatty and talk your brains out; or else clam up like a YouTube video after your speakers have blown a fuse. No need to feel bad, though. Many people find it tough to talk about themselves with strangers, especially when you're searching for work and trying to make a good impression.

Fortunately there are effective ways to tell folks about yourself quickly. Keep in mind your goal is to give someone just enough info so they can start to think about how they can help you. If they're interested in hearing more, they'll ask you additional questions. Here's the scenario: imagine yourself in an elevator with a potential networking contact, and you only have 30 seconds to let them know who you are and what you're looking for -- that's why it's called an 'elevator speech.'

With this in mind, it's generally a good idea to briefly cover the following areas in your response: highlights of your academic background; your current status; and what it is you're looking for. Here's an example of what you might say when asked to tell someone a little about you.

'Basically I'm a biology major at the University of Calgary in my fourth year. I've had some summer experience working in labs at hospitals, where I help the staff run cultures and do general duties. Right now I'm looking for part-time work with an employer that needs someone with my experience.'

See? Short and sweet. You've given sufficient detail to position yourself the way you wanted to. And you haven't bored your listener to tears by going on indefinitely.

Use the template provided below to build your own 'elevator speech.' Then practice it on a friend or two until you feel comfortable. You'll find it'll come in handy the entire time you're looking for work -- be it full-time, part-time, summer or co-op.

Template: Elevator Speech I am a (your current major or program, university or college, year of studies) , who has had experience in (your industry or field) , doing (name some of the work you've done, and list a major accomplishment if you have one to talk about) . Right now I'm looking for (tell them what kind of job you're seeking).

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