By Michael Jimney, Financial Leadership Program (FLP) Correspondent
Networking is an important component of obtaining an internship or job. Considering any professional you meet will probably be speaking to several students in addition to having a full time job, truly standing out is a challenge. One good way to do this, which we have already touched upon, is asking good questions. Here, I will focus on another skill you need to master to differentiate yourself: the personal pitch.
A personal pitch is how you describe yourself to someone you meet. Commonly referred to as an “elevator speech,” it is a short summary of who you are and a bit of insight into what makes you unique. It is called a pitch, just as a marketer uses the word, because you are selling something: yourself. People will quickly get a first impression of you, so a strong pitch is a way to guide the impression. As a result, crafting your pitch takes a bit of practice and preparation.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when giving a personal pitch is listing everything on their resume. In a conversation, you only have a little bit of time to convey who you are; listing everything on your resume can be tedious and boring. If you meet someone on an elevator, as the name implies, you will have about 30-60 seconds to speak. If you meet someone at a networking event or for coffee, you can have 1-2 minutes. Practice allows you to know ahead of time what you want to say so you can maximize the use of your time. So, let’s dive into the actual preparation.
The best way to determine what topics to feature in your pitch is to start with a list. Start by listing all of your past jobs, clubs, and activities on a piece of paper. Many of these will already be on your resume, but include those that aren’t. Next, for each of these experiences, write down every project or task you worked on while you were there. There will be plenty of obvious ones, like the major analysis you worked on for weeks as an intern, but this list should also include the little things. Tasks that you might have only worked on for an hour or for a day are important to include. A week into my first internship, I built an Ikea shoe rack for one of the traders – include little things like that on your list. While it may seem silly, I frequently talk about it in my pitch.
Next, think about what skill(s) each of these tasks boil down to. Made cold calls? The underlying skills being developed are sales and public speaking. Prepared news summaries for your boss? That teaches you how to follow the markets and improves your written communication skills. Do this for all your jobs. Keep an eye out for themes like teamwork, problem solving, analysis, and technology skills. While projects are likely to involve a component of each, the goal here is to identify the primary skill. No task is too small or insignificant. My shoe rack example is about bonding with the team and having an attitude that no job is too small.
Now that you have all your experiences and skills listed out, it is time to create your pitch. As I discussed in Step 1 (here), you should already have some understanding about which roles you are interested in and which skills are the most relevant. Therefore, try to feature projects that best showcase your relevant skills. For Asset Management, one of the skills I really wanted to promote was my ability to follow the markets. When I give my pitch, I describe why I transferred to Baruch (to study Finance because I like following the markets), how I was able to get into my first internship (I demonstrated an ability to follow the news), and the work I did to develop my market and economic analysis skills (projects that involved staying plugged into the markets). Another important point to see from my example is how there is a story to my pitch. I show a progression of events, moving from point A to point B. As you go, show which skills you were able to develop. If you just tell someone what you did, it does not differentiate you from anyone else in that role. If you tell them about how you were able to develop skill X and Y, it shows them a little more about who you are. When I want to convey to someone that I can take on any task given to me, no matter what the challenge, I dust off my Ikea shoe rack example.
Once you have the basic outline of your pitch, you need to practice (a lot) with friends or colleagues. The goal when delivering a personal pitch is to get the other person interested in your story. You can tell if your pitch is good because the listener will be engaged and attentive. Don’t worry about including everything; if you do it right, you will have the rest of the conversation to share the details. When it comes to networking, a good pitch will help the conversation get off to a good start or make the new contact want to stay in touch with you.
Keep developing your pitch as the school year goes on because you will use it for job applications and for interviews (where “Tell me about yourself” is a common interview question). By taking the time to list out all of your experiences, you can adapt your pitch to any occasion or build on it as you become more comfortable. Once you have your personal pitch down, it is time to cultivate skills specific to your target position. Stay tuned for more about this in Step 4: The Technical Skills.