Let’s say you’re at a party, and you meet another guest who introduces himself by saying, “Hi, my name is Baldwin, and I’m a sophomore at Boston College, and I’m studying English, and I’m thinking about declaring a minor in journalism, but I’m really so busy with writing for the Heights, that’s the student newspaper, and volunteering at a local women’s shelter, and going to football games, so I’m not sure I can handle the extra writing assignments, but I had such a good experience this summer writing for my hometown newspaper, so I’m pretty stoked to see what the semester brings!”
And you are thinking “Whoa, Baldwin, TMI! I was hoping I’d have a conversation, not listen to a monologue!”
When students hear about creating an “elevator pitch”, they often imagine something like the awkward party scene above—memorizing a monologue about themselves, performing it for employers, and awaiting their final judgment.
But as Baldwin demonstrates, this isn’t how conversations unfold! And conversations are what you want to have at a career fair, because conversations allow you the opportunity to not only share information, but also to get to know people, and for them to get to know you.
So—how do you have great conversations with employers at a networking event or career fair? Follow the three steps below:
First, introduce yourself – “Hi, my name is Baldwin MacElroy. I’m a sophomore English major looking for a communications and social media internship for the summer.” The other person introduces themselves —standard conversational format.
Second, have a question in mind, a conversation starter. Ideally, you’ve done a little research on this employer, and you know something about them. “I saw that you recently opened a third office, in St. Louis. Is it different doing business in the Midwest versus LA and New York?” Or “Your organization seems to value working in teams very highly. Can you tell me what roles an intern might play on one of your teams?”
Listen to their response and engage in a real conversation.
Finally, have an elevator pitch “in your back pocket,” so to speak. Look for a natural opportunity to share that information—maybe the employer says, “So what are you involved in here at BC?” An enlightened Baldwin might respond, “I’m a reporter for the Heights, the BC student newspaper, and that’s helped me to really expand on the strong writing and research skills I’ve developed as an English major. I also am the social media manager for the South Asian Cultural Club, where I have had some good experience developing my social media marketing skills and helped increase attendance at our events.”
You can even follow up your pitch with a question, to gather more information—“Can you tell me, as an intern, where could I contribute those skills in your organization?”
In summary, you are developing skills that many organizations will find valuable. It’s great when you have the chance to talk about those skills, but make sure you listen carefully and have real conversations.