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Mentorship Tips: How to help a student mentee craft an elevator pitch

In our fast-paced world, a well-crafted speech designed to ‘sell yourself’ in a very short time frame is a crucial component of networking. Most of our mentees have never thought of this. And even if they have, what do they do if they feel like they have nothing to ‘sell’?

Most articles about creating an elevator pitch instruct you to do things like clarify your job target, eliminate industry jargon, communicate your ‘unique selling position’, and use specific statistics if you can. For an inexperienced student, these suggestions mean almost nothing. Yet, having a ready-to-use summary of who you are and where you want to go is an important practice for young women and aspiring professionals.

Mentors can play an important role in helping their student mentee make this transition from school to work. The steps below are suggestions on how you can help your mentee craft an elevator pitch despite a lack of work experience. This exercise is also a great opportunity to help your mentee think more deeply about the kind of career they want to build for themselves.

1. Brainstorm phrases that describe your mentee’s personality, interests, and goals

For example, do they love writing? Are they naturally good with people? Do they have a knack for presenting good arguments? Are they a computer wiz? Explore questions like this with your mentee and write down some phrases that best describe them.

2. Choose one or two key words that encompass their most important attributes and interests

For example, if they like helping others and they’re good at mediating conflicts, they might choose ‘sociable’ as their key characteristic. An elevator pitch must be concise, so it’s important to narrow the focus (even if your mentee has many more wonderful qualities!).

3. Find examples of experiences that demonstrate their character trait(s)

Continuing with the example above, your mentee might demonstrate their ‘sociability’ through volunteer work or a student club they are involved in. If your mentee has no relevant experience, this is a good time to suggest that they think strategically about extracurricular activities. Even something as simple as writing a blog about an area of interest can go a long way (plus it’s free and easy to set up!).

4. Help your mentee connect their characteristics to a professional field

A very sociable person, for example, could do well in a managerial role, in human resources, or in healthcare. A problem faced by many students is that they just don’t know what options are out there. After exploring some of your mentees’ interests and character traits, a conversation about career directions can be extremely helpful.

5. Come up with a phrase that will make them memorable

You want to help your mentee create an elevator pitch that not only showcases their talents, but also helps them stand out from the pack. You want it to be authentic while cutting through the clutter. An example may be, “I am obsessed with being healthy and recently tried Kombocha, a fermented tea drink, now I’m addicted.”

5. Prepare questions that will keep the conversation going

A good question after an elevator pitch is an important part of building the relationship. Your mentees’ question should emphasize their eagerness to connect and learn more about the person they are talking to.

Based on the steps above, here is an example of an elevator pitch and introduction that could be effective for a ‘sociable’ high school student:

My name is Sana and I am in my final year at Newtown High School. I am a volunteer at the seniors’ home in my neighbourhood. I coordinate various kinds of activities for the residents there. I am passionate about working with people and I’m very good at organizing events. I am working towards building my career as a manager, perhaps in healthcare. I’m obsessed with trying new health advice and tips. I recently started drinking kombocha and now I’m addicted. Do you have a health tip that you swear by?

Try building an elevator pitch with your mentee. It might make the difference in their success.

Do you have any tips or tricks on helping others build amazing elevator pitches? We’d love your suggestions!

Sarah McNeil is a volunteer with GEM, a recent graduate from Mount Alison University and is currently pursuing her diploma in Corporate Communications at Seneca. She is an avid traveller, photographer, and writer. Sarah has seen the power of mentorship in her own life and is thrilled about the opportunity to give back at GEM.

How to grow your network, when you’re only in high school!

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

I was always (and still am) a shy person. Hearing these words was often discouraging for me. Networking was something I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach. Having immigrated to Canada as a teenager, my family knew nobody. There was tremendous stress to learn, adapt and compete. I saw first-hand the struggles my parents went through in securing employment with a lack of Canadian connections or networks. These barriers shed light on the importance of developing relationships to achieve goals. For better or for worse, it’s not always what you know or are capable of doing; it’s who you know and what they know about you. Your network can open doors for you that otherwise could not be opened.

So how can you start mastering and growing your network? Networking is a skill that you can learn even if you’re not a natural conversationalist. Building a sense of confidence is key to developing networking competence. If you have the right focus and determination, cultivating confidence is readily achievable.

  1. Be open to new people and experiences – I never liked moving beyond my comfort zone, but I have come to realize that’s really where the magic happen. Growing, learning and developing in a way that expands our horizons beyond what we thought was possible builds character and leadership. Start getting to know others outside your peer group. Join school clubs that broaden your exposure to other areas. In high school, I organized our first Career Day that allowed me to meet people from different spheres and build leadership skills.
  2. Practice makes perfect – I attended countless Career Fairs and Information Sessions as a student to get in front of others. No matter how much it forces you to step out of your comfort zone, take the first step and approach someone at an event and introduce yourself. The more you do this, the easier networking will become later on.
  3. Have an elevator speech – Perfect your hand shake and know your elevator speech (click here for tips & examples). These set first impressions, so make sure it’s strong and confident.
  4. Go the extra mile – Set yourself apart with sending follow-up thank you notes and questions related to your conversations. Even if you “don’t need to network”, you do. You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you.

Remember, it’s never too early to network. Networking is an essential part of a job or internship search, and it is best to start practicing and refining this skill while in high school. With time, it will become an indispensable skill that you use for years to come. Starting to practice and build confidence now will enable you to become an expert at networking by the time you enter the working world.

Blog by Sharon S.  Sharon is a GEM Mentor who is a logistics professional with one of Canada’s top retailers. 

Think of your dream job.

Now imagine you have entered an elevator only to brush shoulders with the person capable of opening the door to your most coveted career. What would you do if you had only one minute to present yourself, articulate your strengths and stand apart from the crowd?

Last month, GEM hosted the “Landing the Job” workshop led by HR/Recruiting Experts (and amazing GEM mentors) Verity Sylvester and Maria Vilshanski. With the end of school around the corner and the summer months offering promising opportunities, the GEM girls were trained to search for new opportunities and nail interviews.

Here are common fears, which loom over most job seekers shoulders, and simple fixes to help ease the tensest of interview atmospheres and guide you through that elevator scenario:

no title fear fix graphic