As your student builds their network, they should have a few thoughts in mind: Who am I? What have I done? And how can I transform these life experiences into a tangible career? Having a grasp on their story — and why it’s valuable — will not only lay the groundwork for who your student should reach out to during this process, but also, why that person should help them.
Map out experience. Experience is like a good night’s sleep. We all want it, we all know it’s important, but we never feel like we have enough of it. The fact is, there’s no “right” amount of experience. So, instead of dwelling on what they did, students should look at what they learned. Can they find a time when they overcame an obstacle, and identify what qualities enabled them to do it? Going over their accomplishments will help your student understand their strengths, which will guide them as they map out what career paths they wish to explore, and who they hope to speak to about it.
Narrow down interests. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While this question used to excite our children when they were younger and the possibilities seemed endless (think: “astronaut princess!”), it now sends them into a tailspin. (Think: “Maybe a lawyer, or a writer, or… stop asking me so many questions!”) The truth is, many students will graduate without an exact career trajectory in mind, and that’s okay. But when networking, it’s important for students to have some clear ideas of what type of people and organizations they’re interested in.
Does your student want to work at a record label or a television network? In a big city or by the countryside? At a large corporation or a smaller company? Horowitz recommends that students are clear on what they are — and aren’t — looking for. “You can’t just contact someone saying, ‘Hey, I need a job,’” Horowitz says. “Instead, start off by saying, ‘I’m graduating *this* year with a major in *this.* I’m looking for jobs in *this* field at *these* companies. If there’s anyone you might know I could speak with, please let me know.’” The more specific your student can be, the better the other person will understand how to help. That being said, there’s always some flexibility needed when finding a first job, so make sure your student doesn’t get hyper-focused on secondary qualities, like a certain salary or being in one specific city.
Perfect the “elevator pitch.” Ah, the “elevator pitch.” Not familiar? It’s a quick, 30-second speech about yourself prepared in the event you waltz into an elevator with the one person who can make — or break — your career. Chances are, your student will not encounter this exact scenario. However, there will be a time when someone will mutter those five impossible words, “So, tell me about yourself.” And newsflash — it’s surprisingly difficult to answer. (Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself.)
So what can students do to prepare? “It’s super important you have a script,” Horowitz says. It’s not just about writing it out, however. The most crucial step in perfecting the elevator pitch is practicing it. Whether it’s at home, in the mirror, or with a friend – figuring out exactly what they want to say ahead of time will help your student nail it in the future. (Psst – remind your student to use a stopwatch, so they can make sure they’re sticking to 30 seconds!)
Not every individual your student speaks to will be the CEO of their dream company, but they should still work to perfect their elevator pitch. Why? Because it’ll get them into the habit of quickly hitting on all the points they want a person to know about them. Remember: the better information your student can provide, the more likely that person will know how they can help.