The One-Minute Pitch

How to Find Funding/Employment/Do Things with Your Dissertation

If you meet a potential employer or grant-giving executive in an elevator, can you tell them within the space of that elevator ride what your work is about and WHY it is relevant? If you want to find a job, funding for research, or a book deal, you want to have your one minute pitch ready. And this is how you do it:


No matter what a person’s job, age, pay, or any other deciding factor is, everyone like a good story. Your one-minute pitch for research funding or to convince a potential employer of your viability as a good candidate for a job can take advantage of humans’ necessity to tell stories. Stories are the reason early humans painted Chauvet Caves with handprints and bison. As an oral historian would tell you, stories are the way communities are made, how sociality is built. After all what is gossip but stories!

The One-Minute Pitch is a simple storytelling concept but it requires careful crafting and practiced delivery. A successful one-minute pitch is one where you can hook your listener and get them interested in you in the first 5-10 seconds, and then deliver to them why you are the perfect candidate for whatever it is you are applying. So, in a minute, you have to do three things: capture their attention, inform them that your and the organizations values match, and convince them that you have at least a couple of the necessary skills needed for that position.

Ideally, you should have a general one-minute pitch ready that can introduce your research to anybody you share an elevator with. But, if you are on the job market, and you are applying for jobs in and outside of academia, then you have to develop different pitches based on the field or industry you want to start working in. But whether it is a general or a specialized pitch, here are a few pointers on how to craft and deliver (delivery is VERY important) the perfect one-minute pitch:

Narrow down one or two key aspects of your research or your viability as an employee.

This is a two-step process. First, make a list of your skill sets and narrow it down to a “top 5” list. Then, do a deep dive into the funding institution, university, or company that you are trying to build a relationship with. Research their website, make yourself familiar with their LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts. If you know who you are going to be making the pitch to, read up on the person as well. Then make a list of all the skill sets and/or values of the organization and compare that list to your top 5.

Out of these lists, select one of two that stands out. These are the two skill sets/values you will highlight in your one-minute pitch. You and I both know you are so good at what you do and you have a billion skill sets and values that are incredibly useful. But for the smart one-minute pitch, you have to discipline yourself to only having one or two.

Now weave those two skill sets into an interesting story format. There are many ways to do this but here I’ll provide two.

(Option A): Zero in on a powerful anecdote related to your work that is very closely allied with the potential employer’s/funding organization’s values. So for example, if you have a degree in art history and are applying for a job at Amnesty International, the ideal story for the one-minute pitch is not how you proved Mark Rothko is god’s gift to mankind. But say you volunteered on a public health initiative in a little-known non-profit for a summer, that’s the story you bring in. See the connection? There’s a direct value-based connection between the work that you did on your own and out of your passion for it, and the values of Amnesty International as an organization.

(Option B): Look at the two top skills/values that you jotted down in step one and do a Ctrl+F on your brain to find a story that best displays those two skills/values. For example, you are applying to a humanities non-profit whose work is local. Their focus is not bigger than the city that they are in. Let’s say this city is Chicago (because Chicago rocks). Your PhD is in International Relations and your work is about transnational politics and migration. Let’s say you have two awesome stories about your work: one is about this time you met a global leader and convinced them that their policy is flawed and offered a solution (we are going with a very impressive story here). The other story is that you wrote a paper in grad school about how local organization can bring awareness to migrant conditions across the world. The first story is impressive but as you have already guessed, you use the second story.

Once you know the story you are going to present, work on your opening sentence. That sentence is your HOOK!

Base this sentence on your personality. How do you tell stories to your friends? Ask your friends what they like about your storytelling. It may be that your stories are funny or suspenseful or rich with imaginative details. Find a comfortable storytelling space for you and use that to construct the first line of your one-minute pitch. (CAUTION: don’t go stand-up comic on the potential employer… unless you are applying for a job with Comedy Central… then you can.) What I mean here is that your story should show them how lovely you are and your strengths aside from you formal qualifications. Got it? Okay, next point.

Write out your one-minute pitch.

Your whole story cannot be more than 5 (FIVE!) sentences. Your last sentence should be along the lines of…. “I would love to sit down with you for a longer conversation…” or “I am interested in the position of…” or “I would like to get your advice on what my next step should be…” Basically, end with a polite ask. You could also finish your story and wait for the listener initiate this step. But before you step out of this proverbial elevator, you should do the ask one way or the other. Think of it not as an ask but as an action step to move you forward towards your goal.


Your timing, delivery, tone, and words have to be perfect. Practice in front of the mirror, with helpful colleagues, family, and friends. Practice so that the delivery becomes second nature to you. Pay attention to inflections etc. so that you pause at the right places and you emphasize on keywords or phrases.

Final delivery.

Finally, when you make your one-minute pitch, keep in mind that you are requesting the time from someone else, even if it is on an elevator ride. So be courteous, respectful, and serious about your pitch. Don’t waste their time as they are helping YOU.

Do you have more ideas on how to make the One-Minute Pitch? Then find me on Instagram at @productivephdninja and let’s have a chat!