What do you say when someone turns to you and says, “What do you do?” Is your quick, standard answer, “I am a nurse”? If so, you might want to practice an elevator pitch – a quick, precise summary of what you do and why you do it so well.

As a nurse, you might think, “I don’t really need an elevator pitch. If someone asks me what I do, it’s pretty obvious – I am a nurse!”

But as obvious as your job title seems, think of all the ways a nurse can work in the profession. You can work for a business, for a hospital, for a school, in a private office, and all kinds of other places in between.

If nothing else, perfecting your elevator pitch forces you to really think about your job duties, professional successes, and the personal qualities that make you so good at doing whatever nursing job you do.

Your elevator pitch should be fast – ideally 60 seconds or less – and should give the listener a memorable, unique snapshot of your job and what your skills do for their organization. The idea is that you never know who you might meet and when you find yourself standing next to the CEO of your hospital, you can present a polished, professional, and impressive portrait of yourself.

But the elevator pitch isn’t just rattling off a list of what someone can easily find on your resume. Your primary goal is to show what makes you invaluable to your organization, not just to say how fantastic you are.

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Elevator pitches aren’t hard to do, but they are intimidating to start if you have never done one. Some people prepare several pitches, so they can use each one for a different situation. It helps to practice yours and to time it so you eventually say it from memory without any lapses. All that practice really helps and makes your pitch sound natural, not forced.

How can you start an elevator pitch? Some people like to use a question that relates to their direct duties. You can say, “The best advice one of my patients ever gave me was . . .” or one that highlights their team, “Did you know the maternity team increased patient satisfaction by 10 points last year?” Once you finish your anecdote and you have your listener’s attention, introduce yourself. “I am Jane Doe, and I am a maternity nurse at Local Hospital.” Then tell a little about your successes – elaborate on that patient satisfaction increase, the money your unit saved after implementing a new hand-off routine, or the great history your team has for getting patients to follow through on discharge instructions for diet or wound care or something similar.

Practice so your pitch feels comfortable and comes naturally. You can use variations of your pitch at networking events, at conferences, or even the next time you find yourself next to someone you want to impress in an elevator!

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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