Career Diversity

Real talk about diversity and careers: The things you want to talk about at work but can't...and probably shouldn't.

People often think of the elevator pitch as something you use when you’re interviewing for a new job or trying to raise capital for a new venture. The elevator pitch, however, is no less important once you’ve got the job as it is when you’re looking.

In fact, your personal 30-second spiel about who you are, how you’re different, and why you’re memorable is arguably more important once you’ve landed that great position or won the support of investors and now interact with senior colleagues and important clients regularly.

A managing director on Wall Street once told me of a summer associate who made an uncharacteristically strong impression on senior leadership during a welcoming cocktail party. Within days, the managing director received numerous calls from senior partners advising him to “make sure she gets the attention and resources she needs to succeed this summer.” The young woman’s career has been on the fast track ever since.

So what can you possibly say over canapés and white wine to create so many powerful advocates so quickly and effectively? Think through the following ideas before you craft your pitch:
  1. Have a compelling reason for why you want to be there, as in “why did you decide to join the firm?”

  2. Know what it is that uniquely qualifies you for the position so that you can answer the how, as in “how did you actually get a job here?”

  3. Be able to explain what ties together past and current experiences in a way that is compelling and makes sense — what is the glue that holds your story together?
Of course, no executive or senior manager would dare ask those questions, but your elevator pitch is your opportunity to communicate these critical pieces of information to someone in a crisp but casual way — without even being asked.
As you answer the why, how, and what...
  1. Think relevant, not recent. There’s no rule that says you must talk about your resume in reverse chronological order. Mike was a marketing executive who took a sales position abroad for two years. Yet when he returned to marketing, he kept introducing himself as a someone who had just made a career switch, always leading off with an anecdote about his short stint in sales. Instead, Mike should have started with the fact that he was a seasoned marketing professional who had taken a sabbatical but was now back where he belonged — putting his marketing prowess to work and thinking about what drives consumer spending habits.

  2. Focus on skills-based versus situation or industry-based qualifications. You don’t have to have a background in finance to be good at finance. Alex was a chemist and researcher who had gone back to business school to get her MBA. She decided she wanted to work in corporate finance for a large pharmaceutical company but she was afraid no one would take her seriously given her background. When I pressed Alex to explain to me why she chose finance, she exclaimed, “That’s the way my brain works.” Her thinking was methodical, mathematical and formulaic — all of which translated to someone who was a natural fit within a corporate finance department. Instead of focusing on the fact that her background was in academia, Alex could emphasize to colleagues and clients that she was a numbers person at her core.

  3. Connect the dots — what ties it all together? If you are a chemist turned finance professional or a marketing executive with experience in international sales, you should find a way to bring together the richness of your experiences and show how each one complements the other. For me, personally, I had a significant hurdle to clear with clients as a former Peace Corps volunteer turned investment banker. I explained away the dichotomy of the two by emphasizing to others that I was big picture thinker by nature and a numbers person by training. Banking was a perfect combination of the two — I liked looking at client’s challenges and issues from 30,000 feet and then digging down into the details to come up with creative financing solutions. Whether the client was the mayor of my Peace Corps town in Chile or the CEO of a healthcare company, I could start at a high level and drill down quickly and effectively.

**An article posted on the Harvard Business Review Blog

A senior publishing executive at William Morris once told me how baffled she was when an aspiring literary agent asked her to be a mentor. She looked at me and said, "She's got to make me want to be her mentor. Isn't she supposed to do something for me?" The answer is a definitive yes.

A mentor can prove invaluable when it comes to providing insight into your organization, inside information about the politics of the place, or just some over-the-shoulder advice about who to work with and who to stay away from. Mentorship, however, is a two-way street — and you've got to figure out how to repay the favor and make the relationship work for both of you.

We're all busy. Like you, your mentors have competing demands on their time and resources. It's not hard for them to let mentorship fall by the wayside when they're closing a deal, bringing a new product to market or putting out the next fire with an important client. That's why you — as the mentee — have got to make your mentor's investment in you worth their time and energy.

Here are four ways you can provide value to your mentor:

  1. Send "TOUs" or thinking of yous. Share articles of interest or relevant news stories. Keep your mentor's projects and areas of influence on your radar so that you can weigh in periodically on thought-provoking topics. You can even set up Google alerts on her key clients to make sure you're the first to see breaking news — then pass it along and make sure she's "in the know" too.

  2. Provide insight into the rank and file of your organization. By definition, you are more junior (in terms of age or experience) than your mentor. Senior leaders often feel out of touch with the cubicle culture and lack meaningful interaction with the front lines of their organization. You may be able to share reactions of your peers to a new corporate policy or change in organizational structure. Giving your mentor feedback or insight into employee morale is a great way to give back.

  3. Help with extra-curricular activities. Perhaps your mentor does a lot of college recruiting for the firm or runs a leadership development program for women. Why not offer to accompany her on a recruiting trip, sift through resumes in advance or bring her ideas of guest speakers for the leadership program?

  4. Buy 'em lunch. At the very least, if you really struggle to find ways to add value, take your mentor to lunch or dinner. Even if your mentor tries to foot the bill, be firm and generous in your offer. Let your mentor know that you appreciate his help and it's your pleasure to be able to return the favor in some small way. A nice glass of wine or good steak goes a long way toward building good will.

Participate in our career planning webinar series developed for college women! Hosted by Forté sponsor companies, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from panels of women executives with various careers in business on how they positioned their undergraduate experience to successfully enter the business world. Get ready for a successful career and learn how to apply your college studies to the business job of your dreams.

College Webinar Series
Liberal Arts to Business
November 10, 5:00 - 6:00 pm EST

Successful women business leaders in different industries and in varying stages of their career discuss how they got a job in business with a liberal arts major and how their college experience has added value to their career.
  • Kristina Kazarian, Equity Analyst, Fidelity Investments
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  • Christy Gajewski, Vice President, BlackRock
  • Representative from Citi
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Click here to register for the Liberal Arts to Business webinar.

Engineering to Business
November 12, 5:00 - 6:00 pm EST

Successful women business leaders in different industries and in varying stages of their career discuss how they got a job in business with an engineering major and how their college experience has added value to their career.

  • Representative from Citi
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  • Representative from Chevron

Click here to register for the Engineering to Business webinar.

NOTE: Each event is a one hour online webinar that will be broadcast via your computer with the use of headphones or speakers. No dial-in via phone number will be provided. You will be able to ask questions via an online chat function.

Thank You to BlackRock Investments for being the College Webinar Series Underwriter!

A powerful forum of leaders discuss Latino impact on U.S. economy

The Latino Economic Forum will convene CEOs, entrepreneurs, top business leaders, high ranking government officials and other thought-leaders to discuss Latino participation in building the economic vitality of our nation. As the premier advocate for increasing Latino access to economic capital, the NAA seeks to establish a continuing dialogue on creating a new landscape within our financial system to include Latinos as decision makers. The summit will highlight utilizing untapped Latino talent to ensure optimal results in our economic recovery.

Dates: October 28 - 30, 2009
Location: The Waldorf=Astoria
301 Park Avenue
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Time: 8:30 AM - 2:00 PM
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Date & Time: Thursday, October 22, 2009, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
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The application deadline is Friday, October 9,2009. Selected candidates will be notified by Thursday, October 15, 2009, and more details willbe provided. Those selected to attend the event will receive interviews the day after the conference on Friday, October 23, 2009.