Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with KU students while serving on an alumni panel for the University Career Center. The topic turned to the proverbial “elevator pitch,” or how to sell yourself in 30 seconds or less and make a great first impression. Now, I was never any good at baseball, but as a marketing professional, I have learned a thing or two about pitches. This is what I shared with these future alumni.
“So, tell me about yourself.”
The opportunity to answer this question is everywhere, whether you meet someone on Wescoe Beach, the Wheel or in a professional networking setting. In each instance, you have the same opportunity to make a first impression. In an interview setting, however, the stakes are even higher. And so are the odds that this question will be asked. More than 90% of all interviews (probably) begin with this question, and while it might seem as if there is no “right” answer, consider the following.
A typical candidate will usually start by sharing where he’s from before reciting the progression of his career, in chronological order. Sound familiar? It should. This conversation is chronicling the candidate’s resume, which is typically what the interviewer is holding while asking the question! Where you’re from and what you’ve done is certainly relevant to the conversation, so that’s not a bad thing to share. But the goal of the interviewee–and the interviewer–is actually the same: to bring out the person behind the paper. To do this, you need to uncover the motivation behind your experience, and the passion that fuels your purpose. In other words, you need to answer “why.”
One student I met was majoring in math, but it was his passion for sports that motivated his ambition to apply his skills and interest in statistical analysis to understand how teams could improve. Another student hoped for a career in human resources, but it was her passion for working with people that peaked her interest in the field. They shared why they were interested in pursuing their chosen fields, and their experience backed it up. More importantly, I felt like I had gotten to know these students on a personal level.
Sharing what you love can feel like an act of courage, especially when you’re putting yourself out there in front of a prospective employer. But sometimes it takes bravery to just be yourself, and that’s the best advice I could ever offer.
If you’re sweet on KU, have we got a treat for you!
Paperman, the Oscar-nominated short from Disney Animation Studios, stars a Jayhawk, Kari Wahlgren, c’99. The critically acclaimed short first appeared in theaters with Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph and has been charming audiences ever since with the sweet tale of a chance encounter between George (animator and director John Kahrs) and Meg (Wahlgren), set in 1950’s-era Manhattan. Fate—and a few hundred paper airplanes—intervene to bring the happy couple together in this gem that’s just perfect for Valentine’s Day.
We caught up this week with Wahlgren, whose list of credits include theatrical and voice work in film and television, including appearances in Criminal Minds, Wizards of Waverly Place, numerous commercials and voice roles for Disney, Nickelodeon, HBO and Dreamworks. Reflecting on a career that has included everything from Shakespeare to Shrek (III), Wahlgren shared some advice for KU students looking to get into the business, and she talked about the thrill of working on Paperman. Our questions (in bold) and her answers appear below:
What was it like to be involved with an Oscar-nominated short like Paperman?
When I went to Disney to work on Paperman, they showed me the short before we went in the recording studio. It’s the only time I’ve ever broken down in tears in front of clients! I was pretty embarrassed, but I think everyone in the room knew they had something special there.
How were you chosen for the part?
Disney requested me for the role, which was nice. I’d done a lot of voice work for them on ‘BOLT’ and ‘Tangled,’ and they thought of me when they needed someone for Paperman.
What did your involvement entail?
I did one recording session for Paperman, and it was pretty short—less than 30 minutes! Since the film is mostly silent, they just wanted some vocal ‘ambiance’ that they could experiment with. We played with lots of different vocal reactions in the session: snorts, gasps, breaths… I think one chuckle made it into the final mix. I’m actually glad they kept it mostly silent—I think it makes the short even more powerful that way.
How did you find out the short was nominated, and how did you react?
Someone told me that Paperman had been nominated for an Oscar on Twitter… gotta love social networking! I was thrilled—it’s a lovely film… the nomination was well-deserved!
Given your career in the industry, where does the experience rank among your other favorite roles?
I think this experience reminds me that you can still be surprised in your career. It was a very short day of work, but people have been so affected by the film, and I’ve received a lot of wonderful messages about it. It makes me feel really proud to have been a small part of the whole experience.
What are your fondest memories of KU and Kansas?
I loved my entire experience at KU—I’m really proud to be an alumna! Loved the Theatre department—I sponsor a small scholarship in the department now—loved going to basketball games, walking the campus… I still go back and visit when I can.
Do you stay connected with Jayhawks in California?
Yes, there is a really active branch of Jayhawks out here in Los Angeles… I even ended up working on a TV show with another alumnus recently! Every time I wear my KU ball cap, someone somewhere says hello!
What advice do you have for KU students looking to get into the biz?
For KU students looking to get into the biz, first of all: be proud of where you go to school! It’s not a disadvantage—there are Jayhawks working in every aspect of the business, and the skills and work ethic you learn at KU can take you really far out here! Networking is important… and always try to grow and improve in your craft. Enjoy the process!
Without further ado, enjoy this trailer for Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated short Paperman:
Thanks to Matt Friedrichs, c’96, g’00, for the tip. Have a story to share with us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s no question; interviews create anxiety even among the most confident candidates. Whether it’s a one-on-one meeting with the boss, or an interview with a selection committee, being on the hot seat can be a challenge behind closed doors. Now imagine interviewing in front of the whole world. Hard to imagine? Well, if you’re interviewing with a public entity, it could happen, as it did recently at Tennessee Tech University according to the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal.
The public university is required to comply with the state’s open records and open meetings laws, so when evaluating CIO candidates, they elected to live-tweet the interviews from their Tennessee Tech News Twitter account (@tennesseetech). Followers have taken notice and urged candidates to address issues such as access for students with disabilities and improved mobile websites. To date, Tennessee Tech has more than 2,700 followers. And you thought your interview was tough!