How to Give a Speech About Your Job
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Talking about what you do, on the surface, seems like it should be an easy task. After all, you spend more than 40 hours a week focusing on your profession. But giving a speech about your job can be a tricky undertaking. If you aren’t used to speaking in front of large audiences or if the demographic for the speech differs from those you interact with daily, it might feel like a monumental task. Keep some key pointers in mind to ensure you wow the audience and clearly get your points across.
How Do You Write an Elevator Speech About Yourself?
If you’re a fan of the TV show “Shark Tank,” you’re probably familiar with the “elevator pitch” that entrepreneur-contestants give to the judges to introduce themselves and their product. Think of a speech about yourself and your work in the same way. Regardless of the length of the speech on your career journey, whether it’s 3 minutes or 30, ensure that you clearly talk about who you are, why you’re an expert on the topic and include digestible information that’s useful to the audience.
Understand the Audience
Before you can provide information that’s helpful to the audience, you need to understand who is sitting in the darkened seats. Consider the following likely audiences:
- College students or recent graduates: Focus your speech on actionable information about how you landed your job, what kind of preparation is needed for the job (think coursework or internships), and real-world advice that will help others transition from student to professional.
- Your peers: If you’re speaking at an industry conference or in front of a group of related professionals, you won’t need to lay out how you landed your job ‒ they’ve likely done the same. Tips are more useful to this audience: how you’re succeeding in the field, how to deal with common frustrations in your profession, other go-to resources that are helpful in career growth and aspirational career speech topics.
- Executives or senior management: Maybe your boss tapped you to give a short speech about your department or your specific role at the company. At large organizations, it’s common for senior management to have quarterly or annual meetings with various departments to understand what’s working, what needs improvement, get a pulse on employee satisfaction and try to gain a 360-degree view of the organization. For a speech or presentation like this, keep it high level, insert any useful metrics, and focus on one or two key points.
Determine the Goal of the Speech
After you understand whom you’re talking to, you need to determine the goal of your speech. What are two or three key points you want the audience to walk away knowing? It could be that you want recent graduates to understand how to interview and land a job in your field, or you might want stressed-out peers to understand three key points for hitting key targets with smaller budgets. Once you know the goals, be sure to clearly outline those points in your speech. This isn’t the place where you should be vague ‒ be direct in explaining the how, what and why to achieve these goals.
Lead With a Strong Hook
After you introduce yourself and title, get creative. Don’t list off your qualifications and job titles as if you were reading from a resume. This hook is one of the most important parts of getting people excited and tuned in to what you have to say. You have about 30 to 60 seconds to grasp the audience’s attention. Ways to get people on the edge of their seats include:
- Opening with an anecdote about how you overcame a massive challenge in your career.
- Listing an impressive accomplishment. “Employee of the month” does not count, but do note if you were one of the first or only people in your profession to accomplish something notable.
- Stating a controversial or contrarian view to a topic that’s important in your industry. But don’t just list an opposing opinion; you’ll need to follow up with evidence as to why your differing view is legitimate.
- Revealing a dramatic statistic or data point that’s likely not common knowledge to the audience.
Use Classic Storytelling Techniques
While a bold statistic or anecdote is a good opener and a perfect way to get the audience’s attention, you then need to keep it. Don’t turn your time on stage into a listing of data points the audience can Google. Instead, use tried-and-true storytelling techniques that take the audience on a journey. Think back to literature class. A basis story contains:
- Narrator or characters to help provide perspective for the audience and make them more personally invested.
- Setting, which helps the audience become more immersed in the place the speech about your job takes place.
- Plot, explaining what happens to whom and when.
- Conflict between the narrator (you) and any number of things: nature, other people or broader industry issues. In short, what kind of struggle did you face, even if small, and how did you overcome it?
- Theme that ties the entire story together. Maybe the theme is about teamwork or transitioning careers. Whatever it is, ensure that your speech stays focused on elements that all relate to the central theme.
This is where it might be helpful to practice in front of a mirror. When you’re giving a speech about your job, be emotional in a way that’s appropriate to the audience. If you’ve overcome career struggles, make sure your facial expressions and tone of voice reflect the material. If you’re urging your peers to fight against an unjust industry practice, do so with measured emotion that reflects how much you care, but without using profanity or unprofessional language.
Include Vibrant Career Speech Topics
Think about other speeches you’ve heard that really moved you. Or, maybe you read an industry newsletter or website that included topics that inspired you to click, open and finish reading. Use those guidelines when thinking about the topics to include in your speech. If you’re excited about a topic or trend in your industry, it’s likely others in the audience are too. If you’re drawing a blank, take a look at a leading business magazine or trade publication and scan to see which topics have the most comments or the topics that appear issue after issue, or even think about the personal questions you often receive in your position.
How to Find Career Speech Examples
As you put pen to paper or gifs to PowerPoint slides, there are places to go for inspiration on topics, speech presentation tips, and ways to include media (beyond slides) that feel fresh and engaging.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization, with regional chapters across the country that promotes and fosters communication and public speaking skills.
TED, the nonprofit behind the now-famous TED Talks, has a mission of spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful speeches.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.