The Elevator Pitch Contest: A Promising Practice for Preparing STEM Students with Disabilities for Employment

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Postsecondary career counselors and employment recruiters report that many college students and job seekers are not prepared to succinctly describe their skills and abilities to others. The AccessSTEM CAREERS project, which promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to students and job seekers with disabilities, created an event called the Elevator Pitch Contest to help them build skills in this area.

An elevator pitch for employment is a brief, informal presentation that can be delivered in the same amount of time as an elevator ride (about 90 seconds). Presentations focus on experience, skills, and career goals. For the event, participants registered online, and then received information about how to write an elevator pitch. Three practice sessions were offered for those interested in honing their skills before the event.

At the Elevator Pitch Contest, students shared their resumes and delivered their elevator pitches to industry representatives from organizations such as Microsoft, the Federal Aviation Administration, AeroJet Rocketdyne, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, URS corporation, Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Participants received feedback about improving their pitches and completed informal networking with employers of interest.

The AccessSTEM CAREERS Elevator Pitch Contest is viewed as a promising practice for preparing students with disabilities for employment because:

  • All participants reported they learned something new.
  • All participants said they felt more confident about their ability to describe their strengths and career goals.
  • Multiple recruiters stated that they would follow up with individual participants about open positions.
  • Following the event, multiple recruiters sent job postings to the AccessSTEM CAREERS community.
  • Organizers have committed to developing a replication package, so the activity can be conducted by others.

AccessSTEM CAREERS is a project of the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology Center (DO-IT) at the University of Washington.

The project is funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). MEAF works to make changes for the better in society by investing in innovative strategies to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives.

To learn more, visit the AccessSTEM CAREERS website.

Last update or review: July 23, 2014