Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Ending the Year on a High Note: Teaching the Elevator Pitch

One of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students is to concisely voice their qualifications for a position, often referred to as an elevator pitch. And what better time to provide this instruction than just before we release our charges from spring courses?

After learning about this important element of the job search, students will be able to confidently present their suitability as a potential hire. Below, we break this lesson into three parts.

1.  Class discussion and video (~15-20 minutes)

A. Define the elevator pitch: A brief (60 seconds or less) persuasive speech that describes who you are and what you can offer an organization.

B. Show videos of elevator pitches. These winners from the University of Northern Colorado’s Monfort College of Business are a good option, but your college’s career center may have its own. Ask students about their reactions to the pitches.

C. Open up a discussion, covering the points below.

      • An elevator pitch, like all business communication, is audience centered.
      • It can be used at networking events and job fairs or as well as during an interview for a specific position.
      • Its purpose is to explain an individual’s skills as they pertain to a particular field or organization.
      • Elevator pitches are written and rehearsed until they flow naturally.
      • They can be broken down into basic sections:
        • Name and academic background (year, school, major/minor)
        • What you want to do/accomplish (obtain entry-level position, internship, etc.)
        • Skills/characteristics that paint a picture of your suitability (hard worker, creative team player, critical thinker, etc.)
        • How you bring value to a company (how your skillset or a unique quality would make you a valuable asset)
        • Request for suggestions, advice, or a meeting

Here’s an example to share with your students that uses the above elements:

Hi, I’m Julio Fuentes, and I’m graduating from the University of California in Santa Barbara with a BS in Environmental Studies and a minor in business communication. I’m looking to be part of the solution to the effects of climate change by working for an organization committed to decarbonization. Recently I had an internship where I used my upbeat attitude, knowledge of environmental science, and ability to both lead and follow in a team setting to create decarbonization scenarios for a local manufacturer. I’m confident we can save the planet if we focus on the kinds of solutions I’ve studied as an undergraduate, and I’m looking for an entry level position in environmental compliance. Do you have any suggestions or advice on how I can break into this field?

2.  Assign an in-class activity followed by a small group discussion (~30-40 minutes)

Ask students to complete the Creating an Elevator Pitch handout found in this month’s BizComBuzz Classroom Exercise. Then break the class into groups of 4-5 and have students read their pitches to one another. You may wish to give the groups specific questions to answer (Does the pitch effectively describe your classmate? Did it provide valuable characteristics that would appeal to a hirer? and the like.)

2.  Bring the class back together for a recap (~5 minutes)

Review the learning objectives of the lesson. You may ask students to perfect their pitches for a grade by presenting them to the class as an oral presentation at a later date or by submitting them to you as a video.

Not only will students find this activity valuable—it’s a great way to tie up a semester’s worth of learning about business communication. Have fun!


Navigating the College-to-Career Path

Business communication instructors hold a unique position in the quest to prepare students for the world of work. A new Georgetown University report, Navigating the College-to-Career Pathway: The 10 Rules of Moving from Youth Dependency to Adult Economic Independence, defines ten areas, outlined below, that students should consider to help guide them into adulthood. Download the 10 Tips to distribute to your students.

10 Tips for Navigating the College-to-Career Path

College marks the time an individual takes an important step toward financial independence. Research shows that young adults can improve their future earning potential by heeding the following ten pieces of advice.

  1. Prepare before beginning college. Understand the opportunities offered by the various programs in higher education. Considerations should include everything from choosing a school to picking a major. For example, community colleges and certificate programs tend to have higher returns on investment in the short term, while in the long run, colleges that award bachelor’s degrees are often the better investment.
  2. Attend school when faced with poor job prospects caused by a recession. Add to your education if you are having trouble obtaining a job during difficult economic times. Because a first job has a huge impact on future earnings and opportunities, it’s better to enter the job market during an economic recovery.
  3. Opt for postsecondary education if possible. More education typically translates into better pay and yields better employee benefits than less education does.
  4. Choose a major/field of study carefully. Paychecks may depend more on the chosen discipline than the level of education obtained. Research which majors will reap the greatest rewards.
  5. Don’t be sucked in by elite college brands. Occupation choice and program of study determine salary more than the name of a college. High-profile institutions do spend more money per student; however, when it comes to labor-market returns (the supply and demand for labor) the occupation and major matter more.
  6. Understand the limitations of a field of study. While important, the field of study itself does not determine earnings. For example, the top 25 percent of humanities and liberal arts majors earn more than the bottom 25% of architecture or engineering majors.
  7. Know the cost/benefit ratio of a major. Long-term earnings vary greatly by major. Humanities, education, and psychology majors rarely catch up to the highest-earning majors, generally found in professions related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM disciplines).
  8. Seek a curriculum that offers broad, cross-discipline learning as well as deep learning in one area. The knowledge gained from studying the liberal arts combined with specific career education has value; indeed, this combination acts in a complementary fashion. In this way, a bachelor’s degree provides a balance of knowledge tailored to a field as well as learning from a wide range of subjects.
  9. Focus on competencies required in individual occupations and common occupational clusters. Look for educational programs designed to yield the general competencies valued throughout business: communication, teamwork, sales and customer service, leadership, problem solving, and complex thinking. When choosing a college and major, consider these important outcomes.
  10. Realize when the deck is stacked against you. Women and underrepresented groups face unjust obstacles and systemic biases. Therefore, people in these populations need to take additional measures to optimize their opportunities in the labor market.










Tips for Finding Summer Internships During the Pandemic

[Instructors: A PDF of the tip sheet can be found at the end of this post.]

Internships and summer jobs are one of the best ways to gain the valuable work experience employers seek, and, in many fields, these experiences are as necessary as a diploma. But how to land a coveted internship or position, especially during the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The tips below can help you locate both in-person and remote internships.

Be ready to act quickly. Prepare and polish your résumé and LinkedIn profile so that when you spot an opportunity, you can jump on it. 

Search globally, nationally, and locally. The upside of remote internships is that searchers need not limit themselves to local opportunities. When looking for positions, use search terms such as remote, virtual, or online as a starting place. The job posting site Handshake can be especially useful.

Take advantage of connections. Mine family and friends who work within an industry for connections that can lead to learning about internships and other opportunities.

Check with school career centers. Campus career centers have amped up their efforts to assist students during the pandemic by providing virtual job fairs and offering school-specific databases for internship postings.

Make use of online networking. Find connections and join social accounts on networks that have groups for people interested in specific fields. (Twitter, for example, has scientist and Web developer groups.) The point of online networking is to connect with like-minded individuals and to ultimately conduct informational interviews with seasoned experts in specific industries.

Consider beefing up skills to enhance qualifications. Taking professional development courses or learning a new skill while searching for internships is terrific preparation for a future career. However, before committing to programs that may add to student debt, consider looking for free remote courses from  Khan Academy, edX, Tableau, or Coursera.

Volunteer. Experience is experience whether it is paid or not. Idealist and VolunteerMatch list thousands of virtual and local volunteer opportunities.

Apply for an interim job. Many students need to work to help finance their educations, and taking an interim job not only offers income—it provides a way to improve work skills and job qualifications. Real work experience shows future employers resilience and the ability to adapt, qualities that boost anyone’s career.

Look for pandemic-related opportunities. Countless firms are desperate for workers, especially in industries negatively affected by the virus. Any organization that has been affected can provide a way in for young workers. Reach out to HR departments or recruiters and ask about projects, internships, or temporary roles that may be available. Volunteer to help in any way.

Flexibility is the key to finding a meaningful internship or job opportunity during the pandemic and beyond. While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly eliminated many traditional internships, the door to making the most out of summer break is most assuredly not shut.

Finding Internship Tipsheet