A person’s identity involves more than a career and résumé, so don’t shortchange the things in life that make you happy.
I was recently planning a lecture focusing on the technique of an elevator pitch. The core function of an elevator pitch is to inform someone of your core values, aspirational goals, and key skills, all of which must be condensed down to the short timespan of a single elevator ride. To put it simply, you have less than one minute to make an impression on someone and it is supposedly vital that you do so.
As the child of a salesman, I learned at an early age that first impressions are important and that I need to sell my skills and abilities like I am selling a product. I was told that the key goal is to get other people to buy in to who you are and therefore invest in your success. In my life, this has caused me to continually seek the approval and support of those around me, ranging from the friends I meet to the career choices I make. I am constantly perfecting my elevator pitch to reach the ears of those whom I deem important, never missing an opportunity to advance my career. Through this, I listen to the sales pitch other people give and compare it to the one I am planning, finding success through a copy-and-paste method of career advancement.
However, in the process of simplifying my life into a one-minute speech, I realize that I am cutting out much of my identity for the sake of impressing others. Sure, I have an education and a few valuable skills as a professional, but I think that I am so much more than that. I want my elevator pitch to be true to who I am as a person. I am a husband, a bookworm, an animal lover, a moderately talented musician, and so much more than I can say in a one-minute speech. I find that so often, in the pursuit of unrealistic success, we forget about everything else that makes us amazing. We dumb down our true identity to meet a specific criteria that society says is important and valuable. But who am I trying to impress? At the end of my life, I want my obituary to say about more than my career; I want it to speak about the things in my life that brought me joy and happiness like my family and hobbies.
So now, I want to practice a new elevator speech. One that expands upon who I am professionally to include my true self. Don’t expect me to simplify my identity for the sake of a sales pitch. I am so much colorful and unique than what my LinkedIn profile says. Of course, I want to be successful in my life but I also want to be happy with the things I do beyond my career. I want to practice the piano, spend time with my loved ones, and take my dog for walks. So if you are ever caught in an elevator with me, please expect for me to tell you about everything I am beyond the work that I do in my 9-5 job.
Gregory A. Brightbill, MBA, MEd, is the leadership education and involvement program specialist for UMB's Office of Interprofessional Student Learning and Service Initiatives.
(Photo by Waldemar Brandt)
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