Imagine that you have 60 seconds to explain why you're the perfect person for your dream internship or job. What do you say? Do you have your “elevator pitch,” a short statement that summarizes who you are and how you can help, ready?

The Jepson EDGE Institute, a program for leadership studies majors and minors led by alumni and now in its third year, ensures that students will be prepared. The program aims to help prepare students for the world and the workforce.

“The institute helps students learn critical skills and strategies for internships, jobs, graduate school and life after college,” says Kerstin Soderlund, associate dean for students and external affairs in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. “Our alumni lead the interactive workshops.”

For many students, crafting the perfect pitch often includes talking about fields of study. Alumni find that employers are particularly curious about leadership studies and that curiosity opens doors.

“But employers don’t always realize how much the degree is analytical,” says Rose Wynn, ’14, a corporate business analyst for Integrity Management Consulting. “And they don’t always realize the degree program allows you to step into any field and any position as a good leader or follower. Or that you have a good understanding of things like group dynamics, critical thinking and leading change.”

During the institute, students are given an opportunity to craft pitches and receive feedback from alumni. This year’s program was held on campus Feb. 15. 

Other topics included etiquette and ethics in the workplace, interviewing, interacting with colleagues and graduate school. The program also included general advice from seniors and alumni. It ended with a networking session. Beth Chancy, assistant director of career services, shared five key tips on etiquette and networking to start the session.

Alumni leading the sessions represented a wide range of companies and organizations, including Capital One, CarMax, Deloitte Consulting, Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, ICF International, the U.S. Government and more.

“Watching our alumni share insights and explain how the lessons they learned are valuable preparation for the professional world is both exciting and fulfilling,” says Sandra Peart, dean of the Jepson School. “It’s exciting to see alumni mentoring students and fulfilling to see how well prepared they are for life after college.”