Employers want to learn about you. They are curious about your background and interests. Most American students learn how to give an elevator pitch during their studies. An elevator pitch is a short, professional introduction to use at career fairs and interviews. Job seekers share their elevator pitch to help employers get to know them.


Elevator pitches suck

They sound rehearsed, sometimes fake. Instead of building an elevator pitch, create a professional story. Every job seeker needs a story. Stories help employers get to know you. When you choose a professional story instead of a pitch you appear more engaging and authentic. By creating a professional story, you share who you are, what you’re studying, and what interests you professionally. Employers like professional stories because it helps them understand your interests. Employers will ask you to “Tell me about yourself,” at the beginning of an interview or during career fairs. You need a professional story to answer them. An engaging professional story makes you stand out from other candidates.

As a international student you have the all the parts of a good story. You’re from a foreign country. Your  experience is different from American candidates. You’re on an international adventure! This means you have the foundation for a professional story.

The best part about building a professional story is that you can do it at the start of your search. You don’t need to have a resume or cover letter. When you start your search by building a story, you are prepared to share your career goals with anyone.

If you don’t know where to start in your search, start with building your professional story. 

Start with reflection

An engaging story tells the listener about your interests and career goals. Build your story for future employers. Answer the questions below:

  • Why did you choose to study at your university or college?
  • What are you learning during your time at school?
  • What subjects or ideas are you curious about?
  • What do you do for fun outside of class?
  • What type of work would you like to do after you graduate?

Take time to reflect on these questions. You may not know the answers right away. By reflecting on your answers you become clearer about your job search goals.

Build your adventure story 

Use the answers above as the foundation for building your story. Here is an example of a story:

“I’m currently a student at the University of Michigan. I moved to Iowa from Shanghai two years ago to study engineering at the University of Michigan. Since I’ve arrived I’ve focused on my industrial engineering classes but I’m really enjoying classes about European history. After college I hope to work in a company where I can develop new wearables for technology companies.”

This story tells shares information about your past, current, and future in under a minute. The tone should be conversational and easy going.

Your professional story challenge

Answer the questions above. Then use them to write your professional story. When you like how it flows, record yourself 10x on your phone telling your story. Get comfortable saying it without reading, practice with a good friend. Your goal is to say it so many times that you don’t sound like a robot.


Want to get better at communicating with employers? Learn how to create your professional story and impress employers.

Take the new course: Interview Confidence for International Students

Elevator Pitch for International Students

Part of the curriculum for Interview Confidence for International Students


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