Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
Lately I keep hearing the phrase “elevator speech.” Here is the concept: you should be able to give a description of what you are passionate about, to a stranger in an elevator, in the time it takes the car to get to your floor.
To most of you, that probably sounds like some sort of bizarre challenge on a reality show. I mean, who talks to a stranger in an elevator? Sure, I get that, but I’m sure by now you realize that this is more of a concept than an actual practice. In our society, the best way to leave an impression is to be memorable, and the best way to be memorable is to convey passion. An elevator speech is your personal mission statement and this week’s challenge is to devise one.
The question is, of course, how do you devise your elevator speech? Well, first you need to hone in on your passion. Since this is a blog that dispenses career advice, let’s stick with career-driven passion. Say you are passionate about public interest law. Think about why you are interested and in it and in what areas your interests lie. Remember when you had to write a personal statement for law school? Chances are your statement was an extended elevator speech. In describing your passions to the law school, you were hoping to capture the attention of the admission department and stay on its radar. Once you know what you are passionate about, figure out a way to convey your passion to someone else. If you are truly invested in something, the person you are talking with will pick up on your energy, and that is what will linger in his or her mind. The words will be short and sweet, but the sincerity will speak louder than your words.
If you are at a networking function, a CLE, hanging out in a coffee shop or, why not, in an elevator, you can reach someone by using your speech. If you are looking for a job and you leave an impression on someone, that person may put in a good word for you or hire you herself. Think of how often people ask, “so, what do you do?” It’s really easy to say, “well, I’m in transition right now but I am really passionate about so and so for x,y and z reasons.”
When people ask me what I do, I say, “I have a brother with a disability. I grew up seeing how kids with disabilities were marginalized and how hard their parents had to fight to get them the services that they needed. I decided that I would become an attorney who advocates on behalf of kids with disabilities so that they receive the education they are entitled to.” I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they have a family member or friend who is a person with a disability. I have connected with so many people by sharing my passion with them.
There is a huge chance that your passion will resonate on some level with most of the people that you meet. You never know who you will leave a lasting impression with.