Career Changers: How to Craft The Perfect Elevator Pitch

Two men in interview setting


One of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a career changer is assuring hiring managers that you aren’t a risky hire. Although you may be transitioning from a completely different field, there will almost certainly be parallels between your previous field and the industry you are trying to break into. Here are four easy steps to craft an elevator pitch that will overcome hiring managers’ concerns by emphasizing your transferable skills and putting them in language your new boss will understand.

Introduce Yourself

The first line of your elevator speech should establish your personal brand. How you brand yourself here should be an authentic reflection of who you are and should set the stage for the rest of your pitch.

If you don’t already have experience in the industry you are trying to enter, this is the place to establish yourself as a career changer.

I’m Joan. I’m a teacher who is passionate about making the transition to school administration.

If you do already have a significant amount of relevant experience that might not be evident from your previous job titles – for example, if you worked in fundraising but most of your responsibilities were in public relations, this is the point to re-frame your resume for the hiring manager.

I’m Ben and I’m an experienced communications professional.

Sell Your Strengths

Looking over your resume and past experience, what skills have played the biggest role in your success? There are many professional skills that are useful in a variety of industries and job functions — communication, creative problem-solving, technical savvy —  but hiring managers want to know which of your transferable skills are going to be valuable in your new field, and in what capacity. Boil down your elevator pitch to capture these strengths without using industry-specific jargon that wouldn’t make sense to someone outside your current line of work.

Working in the medical field I developed strong project management skills and gained an extensive knowledge of the healthcare system. I understand HIPPA and can read medical records, and I’m sure these skills will be vital to my success as a paralegal at your firm since you specialize in medical malpractice. 

Be Relatable

If you don’t have much experience in the field you are hoping to enter, focusing on your ability to deliver results can strengthen your candidacy. It’s okay to downplay your previous industry or job title and highlight other aspects of your experience such as special projects, revenue generated, etc. that are similar to those of the position you’re targeting.

Make the Connection

Wrap up your pitch by spelling out why you’re making a career transition. Make it abundantly clear where you are hoping to land.

After several months of freelance work, I’m confident in my skills and I know that event management is the field for me. I’m ready to leave my current position and make this my full-time career. 

Your elevator pitch is only the start of the conversation, but getting it right can help you leverage your skills and show hiring managers how you can be an asset in your new field. For more interviewing tips, check out our Resume Resources and expert Cover Letter Guide.

Millennials in Management

I’m a millennial? I’m a millennial!

Connection to and association with the millennial generation can be conflicting for many. Being asked to sit on a panel on millennials in management at the UPCEA National Conference last month was an honor, but my first thought was, “I’m not a millennial!” A closer look at the defining age range for each generation confirms I am in fact a millennial, though one of the eldest. My first thought was to defend my age, to say I have an old soul and to disassociate myself with the negative stereotypes many believe about this generation. Yet by the end of the three day conference I developed a strong attachment and a sense of pride in being a millennial in a management role.

Myths about millennials abound. Millennials are job-hoppers. Millennials only do the minimum required. Millennials don’t work well with members of other generations. Through my research preparing for the panel, my discussions with other panelists, and open conversations with conference participants, I dispelled these myths and learned a lot more about the skills and values that actually drive millennials, many of which align closely with skills needed to work in higher education!

The UPCEA national conference that took place this year in San Diego brought together continuing educators from around the world. Session topics covered trends and developments in continuing education (CE), many around online and distance-based learning and competency-based education. But UPCEA also presented a leadership and management track, guiding participants to learn from others in the field and to prepare for the future of CE. One of the final sessions as we closed out the three day conference was a panel on the Next Generation Motivation: Aspects that Motivate Millennials at Work. Jim Fong, Director for the Center for Research and Marketing Strategy at UPCEA led panel that include myself, Molly Nelson (UPCEA) and Jason Smith (Harvard) through the data and research on millennials in today’s marketplace and laid out the ratio of different generations expected to be in the marketplace 10-15 years from now. Lastly, Jim led our participants through a set of myths about millennials where the panelists either defended or supported the myth. Not surprisingly, all of the myths were wrong!

Do millennials change jobs frequently? Many millennials change jobs because they want to do meaningful work, but just as many stay in their positions. Are millennials lazy? Most millennials seek challenging work and one-third say they work during vacation. Can millennials get along with other generations? The majority of millennials want a mentor. Believe it or not, they’re interested in gleaning the wisdom of previous generations.

How can we better retain millennials in higher education? How can Generation Xers and Baby Boomers foster growth with millennials, and how can we best lead for the future of CE? Through the Q&A portion of the event, many of the strengths of the millennial generation were brought in to conversation. The ability to adapt quickly to change, to think about using technology in different ways, and the excitement for creating culture showed that everyone in the workplace could benefit from supporting a millennial in a managerial role. Critical thinking, following values, respect and trust in your colleagues — no matter what generation you identify with, these qualities are important.

So although it rained for every day our team was in what was supposed to be sunny San Diego, the experience was quite bright. Next year, we head to Chicago and I look forward to connecting with my colleagues and hearing about the great success of cross-generational leadership in the office! What about your office? Are you set up for success across all generations? Are there millennials in leadership positions?

How To Create Your Dream Job


There are a plethora of books on finding your passion, but how does this advice apply to your career? Being stuck in a job that’s wrong for you can be dull at best and a prison at worst. Finding your dream career can be one of the most freeing and empowering things in the world, but what if your dream job doesn’t exist? Follow these tips to create your dream career when no one job ticks all the boxes.

Make A Wish List

What do you truly love doing? If you don’t already know what your dream job is, start by listing the things you’re passionate about and look for places where those ideas intersect. Identifying what kind of work you enjoy, what skills you have or want to develop further, and what kind of work environment you want are key steps to creating your dream job. Tools such as O*Net – a U.S. Department of Labor site with resources to match users to occupations based on career clusters, skills, and work style – can be very helpful in starting your wish list.

Explore Options

Think you know what your dream job might be but don’t know where to start? If you haven’t already worked in the job or industry you want to enter, take the first step by looking for job shadowing or volunteer opportunities in the field. Trying out new jobs or even new projects at your current job can help you refine your wish list and it’s often enough to determine whether you want to learn more or realize this actually isn’t the job for you. By trying out things that have the right base elements, you can learn more about your strengths and working style and figure out exactly what works for you. This also helps you learn who you most like working with and helps you get comfortable seeing yourself in a new role.

Expand Your Network

Breaking into a new industry can be hard. Networking with people who already work in the field you hope to enter will help you learn to talk the talk and also help you find mentors who will help you develop. Joining professional development organizations, enrolling in professional education programs, or joining industry meetup groups are all great ways to expand your network.

Make A Transition Plan

Look at your resume. Do you have the skills and experience to launch a new career, or do you need additional experience or education? Career One Stop – another excellent U.S. Department of Labor site – has 900+ occupation profiles where you can find out what skills and training are necessary to enter a particular field, and also has resources to help you find and pay for additional training.

Once you have identified any skills gaps, make a transition plan for your dream job. If at all possible, get started before quitting your current job. Today, most postsecondary students are working and going to school at the same time. There are many flexible programs out there – such as CCPE’s professional certificate programs – that are designed to provide students with real-world skills they can apply in the workplace and which offer classes on evenings or weekends to reduce time away from work. You may even be able to convince your employer to help you finance your education or training if you can prove that it’ll help you in your current role. For more ideas on funding your education, check out our funding resources page.

Take The Plunge

Ready to take the leap into a new role? Asking for the support of your network can help you look for new opportunities. But you may not have look far. Pay attention to what your company or organization is trying to achieve and what it isn’t doing well. Can you help your organization solve a problem with your new skills? You may be able to create a new position for yourself that is both challenging and interesting.  Making a case for yourself with powerful data on what you can do (or have already been doing) to contribute to the organization’s success can help you convince your organization to let you create your dream job.

Remember: Don’t wait for someone to hand you your dream job. Go create it for yourself.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” — Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and personal development expert

Rethinking HR – 2016 SHRM Conference

Human resources, one of the most important functions in organizations today, is critical to a company’s success. Unlike the days where it was simply called “personnel,” HR is more than just compensation, benefits, selection, recruiting, and staffing. Competition, advancement, and challenges in the workplace can be severely impacted by good and bad human resources policies. Corporate Social Responsibility, Diversity and Inclusion, Engagement, Talent Acquisition, Metrics, Human Resource Information Systems, Outsourcing, Effective Management, Prioritizing, Communication, Leadership, Accountability, Branding and so much more are all essential areas in human resources and critical to organizational success.

Many of the certificate programs that we offer at The Center for Continuing and Professional Education are based in human resources practices and principles. We currently offer a Leadership Coaching certificate, Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership certificate as well as a Certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management, and many others. We know that understanding human resources best practices and trends helps our students learn to be better managers, to be better collaborators, and gives them the practical tools to understand where an organization is going and how well it’s reaching goals. Our School of Continuing Studies also offers Master of Professional Studies degrees in Global Strategic Communications, Systems Engineering Management, Technology Management, Human Resources Management, Hospitality Management and Program and Portfolio Management and a variety of others where human resources plays a major role. All of these industries contain core elements of HR emphasizing globalization, technology, coaching, leadership and customer service.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) is one of the premier resources for the HR profession. Students, C-Suite officers, practitioners, generalists and employees flock to their website to obtain information on trends, policies and news. SHRM offers case studies, articles, newsletters, and industry updates, and also offers certifications for HR professionals as well as training materials. The 2016 SHRM conference will take place in D.C. this summer on June 19-20, 2016. For more information regarding SHRM D.C. 2016 annual conference and exposition please click here.

The deadline for discounted registration for the SHRM conference is April 8, 2016. However if you are interested in volunteering for the event you can pick up shifts to earn free conference days. Please visit http://shrmvolunteers.com and click the apply now tab to volunteer.

The Secret Traits of High-Performing Teams

Unless you’re a pure freelancer or super genius, chances are you work in teams. At some point in your career, you will most likely be a team leader. The benefit and value of working in teams is well-documented and researched: teams are more productive, better at problem-solving, more innovative, etc. “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” Right? Translation: the team comes first.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine documents how Google set out to build the perfect team.  As one of the most data-intensive organizations in the world, they studied practically every performance variable – incentives, compensation, autonomy, etc. – to obtain “employee performance optimization.”  They had their data scientists cull through all their performance data. They looked at various team configurations i.e. grouping high-performers or mixing different personality traits and skill levels. No patterns emerged.

Until, that is, a group of psychologists identified two specific characteristics of high-performing teams:

  1. Conversational turn-taking: everyone on the team gets a chance to talk
  2. Average social sensitivity: everyone on the team can intuit how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues

Together, these two team traits fall under the concept of psychological safety, which Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’  In other words, each individual team member feels he or she has a voice and can express it without reservation or fear of being embarrassed, rejected, or punished by the team. Teams depend on trust and mutual respect. Each team member feels ok being vulnerable.

I think this has two implications for organizations:

First, recognize there is an “I” in team. What’s interesting to note is that Google’s experience demonstrates that people have to be comfortable being themselves at work. Many professionals have “work” selves and “home” selves, which means we leave a lot of who we are behind when we arrive at the office each day. Some organizations consciously or unconsciously encourage employees to bring only their “work” selves to the office. Yet, Google has shown that the most effective organizations encourage their employees to bring their full selves to work, all their talents, ambitions, vulnerabilities, and challenges. I call this the Return on Trust.

Second, this says a lot about the growing importance of diversity and inclusion. Many managers think of diversity and inclusion in legal or compliance terms. But that is narrow-minded. As Google has shown, diversity and inclusion is about productivity and profits. It’s about raising the emotional intelligence and sensitivity of an organization, which has a significant return on investment. I call this the Return on Mutual Respect.

In reality, there’s a balance between the needs of the team and the individual. Professionalism, productivity, and accountability go hand-in-hand with trust and mutual respect. We work in teams because that’s the best way to get work done. Yet, to get the best work out of a team, we must understand that psychological safety matters for each individual team member.

So think about the teams you lead.  Listen and observe. Take stock of the who has a voice and who doesn’t. Be mindful of your body language and observe the non-verbal cues of your teammates. If you want to lead a performing team, you have to seek a Return on Trust and a Return on Mutual Respect. Instead of saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”, honor each “I” on the team and create a shared belief that it’s ok to be vulnerable.