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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.

Exam Writing Tips

Years of exam writing has prepped me for this moment: the day I get to share all my exam writing wisdom with you! Kidding. The truth? I didn’t know I had tips. That was until my brother called me a few weeks ago, panicked, half an hour before his high-pressure exam asking for help. This is what I shared with him moments before his exam (he passed!). Note: if you haven’t started studying, first check out our Study Tips blog.

  1. Stop Panicking & Put on Some Gangsta Rap. Yes, it’s stressful, but getting yourself  “In The Zone” will serve you better than a downward spiral. Put in your headphones, turn up some Biebs (or whatever your flavour) and get into it.
  2. Put Away the Notes. You aren’t going to learn anything new in the next half an hour. Studying right up until your exam will just cloud your head. Put down the notes, I repeat, put down the notes!
  3. Don’t Talk to Anyone. Stay away from the other people panicking—not cool energy. You don’t want to be picking up wrong answers from friends or classmates and clogging your mind before going into your exam. It’s okay to be rude right now.
  4. Skip What You Don’t Know. The first time through the exam, skip the questions you don’t know. Answering what you do know will keep you feeling confident and flowing. Come back to those answers you skipped after you’ve worked your way through the exam. Now that you’ve done a first-read you may pick up clues to help you answer those pesky Q’s
  5. Cover the Answers (Multiple Choice). Multiple-choice is designed to throw you off.  Answer the question, in your head, before you look at the prompts and select the answer that best reflects your initial thought.
  6. Get to the Point (Long Answer). Graders can read through filler language. Use key words that will get you marks, bullet your answers where you can. If the passage is graded out of five, be sure to write down five points to your answer.
  7. Stay Calm. You’ve read our Study Tips blog. You’ve prepared. You got this! Stay focused. Remain calm. It will be over shortly.

This article is written by Cassandra Hammett, Project Manager at Girls E-Mentorship. Cass loves to write, loves to laugh and hates when people don’t have a plan. She keeps GEM running like a well oiled machine and always has a helping hand and a cup of tea for anyone on the team that needs it.

Thank you, Toronto Parapan Am Games!

As the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games have come to a close, so has my time volunteering with them during this past week.

I was lucky enough to be stationed at the Pan/Parapan Am Fields (PAF) once again, and work alongside the same group of volunteers I was with during Pan Am. It was wonderful to see all their faces and collaborate as a team a second time around!

I got the chance to see some football 5-a-side games at PAF, which I did not know much about beforehand. It is just like the football (soccer) game that would typically come to one’s mind. The exception: the athletes are visually impaired and wear blindfolds. The only members of the teams not wearing blindfolds are the goalkeepers and the team guides, who are positioned on both ends of the field and direct the players towards the target. Everyone watching the game must be absolutely silent, as the players rely on their hearing in order to hear their guides and the rattling sounds that a special ball makes during play. Even though Pan Am was over, its energy carried onto the Parapan Am Games, and I got to witness that as spectators cheered on their teams.

In all, the Toronto 2015 Games have been quite an adventure – a fun and exciting one! I am grateful for being given the opportunity to be one of the 23,000+ individuals chosen to volunteer for this historical event in Canadian and Pan/Parapan Am history.


Behind the Scenes at GEM’s First Workshop


Ever find yourself up late at night cramming for a test that you should have started preparing for weeks ago? How about highlighting an entire chapter of a textbook or writing pages and pages of summary notes from your textbook, only to realize that you have just re-written the entire thing?

You are not alone! The good news is that becoming a savvy student is a learned behavior and it is within reach.

Last week, Devra D’Urzo, who runs a private tutoring business and is a supply teacher at the Upper Canada College and York School, came to teach to our GEMgirls how to study smarter.

Devra opened the workshop by sharing Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk on the concept of grit, which according to Duckwork means, “passion and perseverance.” She explained that the key to success is grit, not IQ, social intelligence, wealth, or good looks. (This is great news for those of us don’t have an IQ of 160).

“The ability to succeed is really about the amount of work that you put in.”

Here are some key lessons from Devra’s Workshop:

  • You are your own best teacher, get to know yourself and how you learn (tip: find out how you learn by taking a multiple intelligence test)
  • Merely listening to your teacher and completing assignments is never enough
  • Look out for better information sources and better ways to learn (tip: if your text book looks like it was written in the stone age – fine another one!)
  • Not everything you are assigned is equally important, focus on the most important tasks on your agenda
  • Prioritize and plan ahead by creating schedules and to-do lists
  • Realistically estimate the time you need to complete a task
  • Set aside a time and place to study each day
  • Plan study breaks – this simple tip really does help you study better
  • Unplug from the distractions around you (tip: turn off your cell phone, email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts while studying)
  • Failure isn’t a permanent condition (tips: that math test you did poorly on does not define you, simply learn from your mistakes and move on).

Remember learning does not end when the bell rings or when you get your diploma. It’s an ongoing process that takes practice, perseverance and GRIT.

Devra’s Must Read Resources:

Khan Academy (Website) https://www.khanacademy.org/

Crash Course (Youtube Channel) https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse

SQ3R Reading Method (Youtube Video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dhcSP_Myjg

What Smart Students Know Adam Robinson (Book)

“The Key To Success? Grit” Angela Lee Duckworth (Youtube Video)


DevraDevra D’Urzo holds a Master of Teaching from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and has worked with students for the past ten years. She currently is a supply teacher Upper Canada College and the York School. In addition, she runs her own private tutoring business. The foundation of the work she does with her students is built upon solid study habits.  Her programs are designed to teach students the skills they need so they can experience the academic success they deserve.