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    This is an excerpt from our Senior Handbook, a guide we have written to help seniors prepare for life after graduation. The Senior Handbook is now available for download on our Web site.

    Not every networking opportunity has the structure of an informational interview.  For less formal situations, such as a conversation at a conference, you can prepare by drafting and practicing an elevator speech.  An elevator speech is a commercial of sorts that concisely describes your relevant qualifications, accomplishments, and goals as you move forward.  Preparing a personal pitch helps you control your first impression, convey confidence, and articulate what you’re seeking.

    An example might be as follows:

    “Hello, Dr. Smith.  I attended your session this morning and appreciated your insights regarding BCM theory.  My name is Jack Walter, and I hope to be a future colleague someday.  As a sophomore at Georgetown University, I have been taking coursework in biology and neuroscience as well as working in a lab at the Georgetown Medical Center.  I plan to matriculate directly into a masters program so that I can participate in neural network research.   I am particularly interested in your work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  May I e-mail you next week to ask some questions about your research there and how I can position myself for work like yours?”

    Essentially, an elevator speech should follow the format below.  Of course, there is room for flexibility depending on your goals and context:

    1. Who I am.
    2. What I want (short-term, long-term).
    3. My academic and experiential background (as it relates to what I want).
    4. What I can contribute to your organization (not necessary for informational interview).
    5. What I’m hoping you’ll do for me.

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