Two words: Elevator pitch.
No matter your major, minor, dream job or résumé font (with the exception of Comic Sans and Papyrus), you're probably familiar with the good ole elevator pitch — you know, the two-minute spiel that effortlessly encapsulates all your hopes, dreams and relevant experiences whilst flashing your killer smile and sprightly sense of humor (and let's not forget about those marketable skills). The goal of this punchy-yet-professional pitch is to connect your experiences and skills to your aspirations in the amount of time you’d hypothetically be in an elevator with a potential employer (or Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada”).
College students, graduates and millennials who are on the cusp of “the real world” are conditioned to quickly and effectively present themselves and their “brand” on the spot, so it’s no wonder the art of the elevator pitch has been a topic of discussion in just about every one of my classes that briefly mentions the coveted personal brand. After a few years of tweaking and crafting my two-minute summary, my personal pitch is (depending on the day) practically more manicured than my eyebrows.
Thanks to all the buzz about personal branding, many people of my generation have become accustomed to talking about themselves in interviews and professional environments, but it almost seems as though we’ve forgotten how to balance the professional and the personal when it comes to casual social interactions.
While at a New Year’s Eve party with my parents, I found myself cornered in the kitchen at the intersection of “veggie platter” and “vodka” when I was, for lack of a better description, trapped talking to an older couple I had never met. It all happened so fast; I innocently dipped a carrot in the nearby spinach-artichoke-avocado dip, looked up, and there I was — in an imaginary elevator of sorts, faced with two eager faces who had exhausted the weather of smalltalk and wanted to hear my life story.
And that made me wonder what the world would be like if we had elevator pitches for different situations.
I mean, think about it. Wouldn't it be great if you had an already-rehearsed, already-timed response to whip out when your mom's friend Phyllis asks about your relationship status? Or when that relative asks about your post-grad plans?
How nice would it be to have a few pitches ready for those awkward grocery store encounters or for when your airplane seatmate would rather play 20 questions with you than respect the fact that all you really want to do is read SkyMall? Here’s an idea: We could have seasonal pitches. For example, make an elevator pitch to use as an excuse to leave the Thanksgiving table when the conversation goes political or turns into, "Let's talk about our medical ailments.”
I can write a lengthy cover letter about myself for an internship application, I can speak with poise during an interview and I’m not afraid to raise my hand in class and ask a question or spark a discussion — but why is it that some social situations that go beyond the perfectly packaged pitch or professional box just never get less … dreadful?
The truth is that not every interaction is an interview, and not every conversation will be as cookie-cutter-coordinated as we sometimes wish. And after my veggie tray epiphany, I realized that in an era where everything from gadgets to good conversation seems to be getting smaller, faster and more fleeting, it’s more important than ever to embrace social situations that go beyond the elevator, no matter how “awkward” or intimidating they may seem at first glance.
In honor of a new year and a fresh semester, let’s make the most of our conversations — whether they last for two minutes or 20, whether they’re with our best friends or acquaintances, and whether they’re in person, over FaceTime — or in an elevator.
Darcy Schild is a UF journalism junior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.