If you've never heard of an elevator pitch, it's prudent to understand what they are and how to use them in the interest of your nursing career. Every nurse should be able to distill his or her career and professional mission down to a 30-second blurb that gets the point across concisely and effectively.

If you're chatting with a nursing bigwig in the elevator at a nursing conference, could you give her the crystallized version of your professional desires and motivations in 30 seconds or less? It's a skill worth learning.

An elevator pitch is especially useful for job hunting and networking. If you've ever been at a loss for words when someone asks you what you do or what you want, get your elevator pitch down pat so you're always ready.

Develop your pitch

In developing your pitch, consider these questions: Who are you? What do you do? What skills do you want to highlight? What is your offer and/or request? Do you have a unique selling proposition — even if what you're selling is you?

Here are some examples:

  • "Hi, I'm Susan B. Anthony; I'm a nurse with 12 years of combined experience in CCU and ICU. I'm looking for opportunities as a clinical nurse leader in a Magnet hospital in Kansas City or Topeka."
  • "My name is Snow White, and I'm a family nurse practitioner. I work with children recovering from physical and emotional abuse, and I'm looking for introductions to social workers and child psychiatrists here in the Chicago area."
  • "Have you noticed how the number of homeless people downtown has skyrocketed? Well, I'm Paul, and I'm a nurse who works with the homeless. I'd love your help meeting other professionals who'd like to get involved in saving some lives this winter."

Paul's pitch begins with a question and ends with a call to action; Susan and Snow White use a more standard structure, saying who they are, what they do and what they're seeking.

Make sure your pitch sounds natural, especially if you've written it down (which is recommended). You don't want your pitch to sound rehearsed or robotic, and you want to use words that are normal in conversational speech. Contractions (I'm, you're, we're, they're) sound less formal in spoken speech even though they may look less professional in written form so be aware of that as you write and practice.

Speaking of practice, your job is to practice your pitch until it sounds completely natural. This is the irony of an elevator pitch: It has to be so fully rehearsed that it sounds unrehearsed.

Pitching your pitch

New professional connections want to know who you are and what you're all about. If you find yourself with a spur of the moment opportunity to "sell" yourself to a potential employer or person of influence, you have a brief window to capture their imagination, especially at a busy conference or event.

Use body language, eye contact and your most powerful social skills to deliver your pitch as effectively as possible. Coupled with curiosity and an authentic desire to connect and form new professional bonds, your elevator pitch may open doors for new opportunities and professional horizons.