Ah, the elevator pitch. That magically concise statement of your background, experience and ambition, all neatly trimmed down to 30 seconds, which can, rendered persuasively, land you your next job.

Simple, right?

Not really. Especially if, like me, you’re in the midst of a mid-life transition.

 
 

As you take some time to figure out exactly what you’d like to do next, there are lots of quick and easy ways to sharpen your focus, without spending a lot of money.

Here are five tools that have helped me hone my elevator pitch and which might work for you:

Read Self-Help Books

I’m a big fan of self-help books, especially if you can’t afford to pay a career coach. Here’s a list of five self-help books that I’ve found particularly useful for sorting out different aspects of my professional development.

The key thing to remember is that in order to really get something out of them, you should try not to dabble.

While it’s fine to start and stop, and/or to read them alongside something else, be sure that you read each book start to finish, because each one has its own internal logic that builds, chapter by chapter.

Above all: do the exercises. They are there to force you to confront tough questions about yourself. You won’t progress if you don’t use these tools to identify your strengths – as well as whatever it is that’s holding you back.

Make a List of Key Words

In my current transition, rather than starting with a list of jobs I wanted to do, I started with a list of words that captured who I wanted to be and what I felt my strengths were.

That process felt not only less daunting than picking a new job out of the air, but also more authentic. By starting with words like ‘insight,’ ‘inspiration’ and ‘wit,’ I am gradually working my way outward to what I want to do next.

Take Classes

Once you have a reasonably well-formed sense of what you want to do next, try taking a class in it before you commit.

Classes are useful because they deepen your skills in a particular area, making you feel more confident that you can execute your dream. You also meet other people with that same dream, which helps you to feel less alone.

If you’re contemplating an array of career choices, experimenting with something in a time-bound way, through a class, can also help you articulate what you don’t want to do. Closing doors is just as important as opening them as you hone your vision.

Experiment with Different Online Identities

Recently, in the course of applying for a fellowship, I realized that my public identity on assorted social media platforms needed to match the narrative I had presented in my application. So I quickly revamped my Twitter handle.

Fast forward a month or two and my self-understanding had moved on. That Twitter handle no longer felt 100% accurate, so I honed it some more. And I’m sure I’ll do that again.

Part of how we learn to narrate ourselves – to ourselves – is to narrate ourselves to other people. While it might feel scary to put yourself out there in the public domain, it can actually be liberating. Remember, your online self can change!

Play

One of the great insights I got from reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was the importance of play as a stimulus to innovation. Cameron champions the idea of a weekly ‘artist’s date,’ which is about going out and doing something fun to fuel your creativity.

It could be going for a walk and collecting autumn leaves, or grabbing your guitar and singing a tune, or taking photos of the morning light during your run. I’ve started taking an improvisation acting course.

I don’t know where this strategy it’s taking me yet, but I do know that it’s helping me to listen more carefully to myself and to take risks.

At the end of the day, I really do believe the much-celebrated line from The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Which is to say that the answer to your elevator pitch – which is in turn a proxy for your next life chapter – ultimately lies within. Hopefully, these tools can help tease it out.

How would you describe what you stand for in a sentence or two? How would you describe yourself in 30 seconds? Please share your elevator pitch below.

Delia LloydDelia Lloyd is an American writer based in London. Her writing has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times and The Guardian. She blogs about adulthood at realdelia.com and is currently at work on a book about swimming and adulthood. Follow her on Twitter at @realdelia.

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