By Robin Redmond, Executive Director.

The last few months have been busy and exciting for the Foundation. With roughly 550 high school seniors applying this year to become Pullman Scholars, we have spent many hours reading, sorting, scheduling and reviewing applications. Soon, a new class of Pullman Scholars will be welcomed into the vibrant community of current scholars and alumni who are making a difference in the world and accomplishing great things.

When I reflect on the start of my career, I could easily be characterized as ambitious, enthusiastic and incredibly green. I was always willing to work hard and put in extra effort (“Sure, I’ll stay and stuff those envelopes. No worries, I can stack those chairs!”). This helped me land some choice positions and quickly climb in my field.

Despite my early accomplishments, my professional past includes more than a few missteps. For example, during one phone interview I decided to try and quietly eat my breakfast. (Hey, it was early!) The interviewer asked, “Are you eating?” Two second pause, followed by a swallow…“I’m sorry,” I timidly replied, “I was just finishing up a bowl of cereal.” Another time, I asked if wearing jeans to work was acceptable. Yes, jeans were acceptable attire, but no, not the holey pair I wore to work a few days later. (more…)

On May 29th, 2014 Pullman Scholars participated in the first-ever Pullman Scholar Symposium that offered panel discussions, networking opportunities, and career development workshops designed to give them the tools needed to thrive during college and beyond. Alumni, board members, and volunteers joined the scholars for an evening of networking and to hear keynote Pullman Scholar Alumnus Steven Fair speak about how his definition of how success has changed since college.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to the Pullman Scholar Symposium Planning Committee, our associates board, and other volunteers who worked hard to make our first symposium a success. THANK YOU!

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Informational interviews are conversations with experienced professionals about their jobs, professional development, and career advice. They give you the opportunity to ask meaningful questions to individuals with the first-hand experience in the industries and companies you are interested in.

Why are informational interviews important?
It is helpful to learn from professionals who have gone through the process of finding a job and have experience working in your field of interest. They can be helpful resources as you begin planning your post-graduation life. Informational interviews may also give you insider information on tips, tricks, and guidance for obtaining your dream job. Instead of considering an informational interview as a way to secure a job offer, use it as a learning experience that may be a stepping stone in your career as you gather more information.

Who do you contact for informational interviews?
There are several ways to tap into your network to find people for informational interviews.

Option 1Friends
If you know someone from childhood, high school, or college who has a job you find interesting, reach out! Talking to friends is the easiest and most comfortable way to have an informational interview. If you’ve never done one before, it might be helpful to start off talking with a friend about their job until you become comfortable with approaching someone you don’t know as well.

Option 2: Your College/Alumni Network
Many colleges and universities have online networks where alumni have opted to provide their personal contact information to students of their alma mater. Although it can be slightly nerve-wracking to email a stranger, most alumni are very open to talking with current students about their careers. At the very least, you are connected by the same school, which is a great way to start a conversation! Not sure what resources your campus offers? Contact your career center to find out what’s available.

Option 3: LinkedIn
Your online professional network can be another great resource to ask people about their jobs. Feel free to refer back to our previous LinkedIn blog post if you need tips on how to continue to build your stellar LinkedIn profile. Use your profile to connect with people from companies or organizations you are interested in and see if you can set up a time to speak with them.

Option 4: Networking Events
Attend events on campus or in your city that promote career development. Most college career centers will host events that bring together people from various industries to talk about their jobs. Use these opportunities to connect one-on-one. Many larger cities also provide networking groups in specific industries and interests. Consider joining one to meet new people and increase your exposure to the field.


The 30-60 Second Conversation that Could Change Your Life.

What is one of the most important things you can do at an interview, networking event, or whenever you want to make a positive impression? Your elevator pitch!

The appropriately named “elevator pitch” is a brief and captivating speech that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to his or her floor. This concise and compelling introduction tells people who you are, what you do, and your plans for the future. As acclaimed author Daniel H. Pink shares, think of an elevator pitch as “an intriguing invitation to have a conversation.”

Next time you find yourself sharing a hallway with a professor you’ve been dying to speak with or attending an event for internship opportunities, use your elevator pitch to introduce yourself. This 30-60 second conversation could help you land your dream internship or job!

How do you craft a persuasive and memorable elevator pitch? Grab a pen and paper and start by answering the following questions:

Step One:  Who are you?

Start with the basics—share your name. Make sure to say your name clearly and confidently. If you are poised and relaxed when giving your elevator pitch, your listener will be eager to hear what you have to say.

Step Two: What do you do?

This can be tricky—you want to give your listener a clear idea of what you do without sharing too much information. Most people will not remember that you wrote a paper entitled, “Obstructing Institutional Change: Why Ideology Sabotages Financial Progression,” or that you minored in obscure Russian poetry after 1860.

Typically, if people don’t understand or can’t easily remember what you are talking about, you won’t leave a strong impression. To keep things simple, write down what you do, and then ask yourself how you would explain what you do to a total stranger, or even better, a 5th grader. Also, remove any jargon or clichés for extra clarity.

Example: Instead of, “I am majoring in biology,” you could say, “I am a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pursuing my degree in biology. I hope to secure a job where I can complete research, specifically in genetics.”

Step Three: What have you done?

Do you have experiences, achievements, or awards that are related to what you study or what you want to do? For example, are you so interested in becoming a healthcare provider that you volunteered at your local hospital over the summer to gain the first-hand experience? Or maybe you study Chinese history, so you traveled in China for some first-hand research. Try to share an experience or accomplishment that will engage your listeners and help them remember you.

Step Four: What do you want to do?

This is your chance to tell your listener what you want to do in the future—your goals and aspirations. Remember that your elevator pitch is about sharing with people what you want to do, not about asking (or begging) for a job. If the listener is genuinely impressed by you, they may encourage you to apply to a job, or introduce you to someone who may be looking for a candidate with your qualifications. Don’t make them feel uncomfortable by asking for one.

Step Five: Who is your audience?

You wouldn’t apply for an internship or job without first learning about the opportunity, right? The same rule applies to elevator pitches. Before you dive into your elevator pitch, ask your listener a few questions. This will help you determine how to target your pitch.

For example, if you are searching for an internship in the field of psychology, and you find out you are speaking to an expert in the psychology field, you might adjust your pitch to say that you specifically investigate how stress influences sleep cycles (instead of only saying you major in psychology). Having more information about your listener can help you tailor your pitch to make it more relevant and interesting to them.

Now it’s Your Turn

Time to put it all together!  Like your resume, you should use strong and powerful words. After you write out your elevator pitch, read your pitch out loud and time it. Make sure you can say it in 30-60 seconds. Also, try to spark your listener’s interest by being enthusiastic and personable when you deliver your pitch. Finally, practice your pitch to roommates, friends or even your barista because practice makes perfect!

If you need help, try this elevator pitch template. Then start practicing!

Hi, I’m___________________________________.

I study/am a_____________________________________________.

What you do/major in/study

I have experience in_________________________________________________________.

How have you applied your passion in a real world setting? What’s something interesting that you have done in the past?

I’m interested in /in the future I want to__________________________________________.

What do you want to do in the future? What are you passionate about? How does this relate to what your listener does?

Here is an example:

Hi, my name is Olivia Jones. I’m currently majoring in business with a minor in art history at Northwestern University. I’ve gained experience in business by volunteering with the student credit union for the last year and a half. Last summer, I completed an internship with The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and I’m hoping to find an internship in finance this summer in the Boston-area. I have always had an interest in art and I’m also finding that I have a knack for business. In the future, I’m hoping to combine these two different disciplines and find a career that includes both.

What’s next?

Keep practicing your elevator pitch! A polished pitch will come in handy this May at the Pullman Scholar symposium when you will have the opportunity to network with Pullman Scholar Alumni! We want you to knock their socks off!

Want to learn even more about elevator pitches? Read these articles:

Forbes: How to Create an Elevator Speech

The Daily Muse: How to Tell People What you Do—and Be Remembered

Fast Company: Careers: Personal Branding Bores

You can also explore YouTube for elevator pitch examples.