Describing yourself in a way that sparks interest is an essential career skill.

Share story

If you’re looking for a new job or new career, there’s no better time of the year than right now. Why? Because we’re smack dab in the middle of party season — with one of the biggest dates of all, New Year’s, still coming up — and parties are an ideal venue for making new contacts.

Relax. This is not a nag to develop “your two-minute elevator talk” — that brief introduction of ourselves we are all supposed to memorize and be prepared to spout out at a moment’s notice.

In fact, here’s a little holiday gift for you: Forget completely about having an elevator talk. For one thing, two minutes is too long. Very few people can speak for that period of time in a way that holds anyone’s attention. For another, these canned spiels tend to be all about you. Guess what? People are actually more focused on themselves (i.e., not you).

You are far better off learning to introduce yourself in a pithy, attention-getting fashion that connects who you are — and what you do — to the person you are trying to impress.

For example, instead of just saying, “Hi, I’m Amanda and I’m a financial advisor,” you could say, “Hi, I’m Amanda and I help investors sleep at night.” Most people will be intrigued and reply, “Oh?” That’s your chance to explain that you’re a financial advisor, and talk a little more about what you specifically do.

Don’t be afraid to use a little humor. An aerospace engineer, for example, might drolly introduce himself as someone who “keeps airplanes up in the sky where they belong.”

You get the idea. Instead of droning on for two long, excruciating minutes (try setting a timer and you’ll see how endless it feels), ignite an authentic human interaction. Let people ask you questions. And ask them questions of your own.

That last bit is key, by the way. As well as capturing your listeners’ attention so they want to know more about you, it’s essential that you demonstrate a willingness to learn more about them. In fact, aim to listen more than you talk. Be kindly curious. Show genuine interest. As you listen, look for areas you have in common and ways you might professionally connect.

Happy New Year!

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at