Thursday, December 9, 2010

Elevator Speech Tips

Joe Stephens, the MBA Director at The University of Missouri, recently sent out an email regarding "elevator speech tips."

I thought the advice was spot-on.  Here it is again in case you missed it:




MBAs (both current students and those graduating) –

Chances are you have been presented with the following inquiry from either recruiters or upper level executives in your time here:

“Please tell me about yourself.”  Or often put another way, “What do you want to do?”

While it seems like a simple request that should have a simple response, it can often confuse, trip up, and/or sink the very best prospective employees.  It can, and will, happen in formal and informal settings.  Here is some frank (and direct) advice:

1)      Start with a brief overview of your background (perhaps evident on your resume, but not necessarily): “I grew up with a fascination for (fill in the blank, “numbers” for example), so I pursued a degree in _____.  (If you have relevant work experience, throw that in here too…briefly.)
2)      Give context for what you’re doing now:  “I found I was particularly skilled in ____.  I chose to do an MBA because _____.” (Provide the listener with your reasoning for the degree, like “I needed to complement these passions and skills with a solid toolbox, and found this particular MBA program offered ____.”)
3)      Then, provide your “pie in the sky” objective:  “Ultimately, I’d like to do ____.” 
4)      At this point, show you’ve done your homework: “In researching your firm, it seems I could start in _____, and work my way into _____ (your objective).” 
5)      Engage the listener to respond to you:  “In your opinion, does this route exist, or can it be charted at your firm?”  Or perhaps even more simply: “What do you think?”

#5 gives you the opportunity to let the listener take a little “ownership” of your future and provide advice (upper-level executives typically enjoy doing this).  Also, it provides the foundation for starting a  potentially rewarding conversation (and ultimately a longer-term relationship) with the listener.

After completing these “5 Steps,” your strategy changes just a little: become the interviewer.  Ask LOTS of intelligent questions. Keep that person talking as much as possible, and you’ll learn more, which often feeds even better questions to ask.  They’ll find you inquisitive, engaging, and obviously interested.  Take a few notes along the way if you can.  They’ll appreciate that as well.

Finally, be your professional self.  Don’t try to be someone you think they want to meet.  Well-seasoned recruiters/executives sniff this out quickly.  The right combination of diligent preparation and sincerity wins.  At Missouri, we’re known for that.

Have a successful finals week and a wonderful winter break.  Safe travels…

Joe is definitely looking out for us!  Thanks, Joe!

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