Networking a 'Hail Mary' into a job

March 10, 2017 | GET MORE : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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How one banker tossed up a 'Hail Mary' elevator pitch about herself... and it worked

Twenty-two-year-old Elise Goretsky found herself telling the recruiters that she'd never taken a finance or accounting course and that she certainly had no plans to do so. The recruiters – bankers – were on campus at the University of Colorado, Boulder interviewing students for a leadership development program at U.S. Bank.

Goretsky walked away thinkingshe blew it. The recruiters, however, took note of her people skills. The bank gave the psychology and sociology major a shot.

"I thought I was in over my head and I probably was at the time," said Goretsky. Over the course of the two-and-a-half year program, Goretsky began as a teller in a bilingual branch (in which she was the only teller who didn’t speak Spanish) before progressing to assistant branch manager position at 23 years old – helping to lead 13 people all of whom were older than her.

She said that year as manager was the most challenging point of her career, but that she would just try to talk to and get to know people – relying on her people skills. "When you get to know people and what motivates them, they start respecting and trusting you more."

After the leadership development program, Goretsky moved into a wealth management role that was heavy in numbers. She earned an MBA and loved the bank's culture but still wasn’t drawn to finance or accounting. With her manager's encouragement she began networking, building relationships with dozens of bankers in the strategy and marketing roles that piqued her interest. She persisted, constantly networking and mentoring for over a year. Goretsky became discouraged, however, after interviewing and being turned down for a different role at the bank, even going as far as turning in her notice to take a marketing gig outside the bank before her manager and market leader convinced her otherwise ("It was a terrible idea, but I was frustrated," she said.)

Two weeks after that near-breaking point, Goretsky attended an event launching the local chapter of U.S. Bank Women, a business resource group that aims to develop, advance and retain women at the company. (The bank's business resource groups bring together employees who have similar backgrounds, experiences or interests and their supporters.) Executive leadership committee members Kate Quinn, head of strategy and corporate affairs, and Jennie Carlson, head of human resources, were in the market to lead the kickoff event.

"I showed up with a 'Hail Mary' plan to pitch my case to Kate," said Goretsky. "I walked up – palms sweating – introduced myself and told her everything: all the marketing work I'd been involved with and all the people I’d networked with along the way."

A Hail Mary. And it worked.

The key: Goretsky had mentioned her mentoring relationship with Sherry Garmon, vice president of strategy and insight, who not long before had put a new job request on Kate's desk.

"I was impressed with the way Elise presented herself and, just as importantly, she was a perfect fit for the opening on Sherry’s team," said Quinn. "It was a win-win."

Garmon, by that time, had already gotten to know her mentee well. She credits Goretsky for having driven their mentoring relationship, and recalls preaching patience when Goretsky was becoming frustrated, "When I was mentoring Elise, I always told her not to jump just to jump. It had to be for the right role."

Within a matter of weeks, Goretsky joined Garmon's team as a strategy and insight reputation project manager. She helps the bank understand consumer trends: why people want what they want and why they do what they do.

"This is literally the perfect job for me," said Goretsky, the psychology and sociology major.

Pat Swanson is a member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.

Goretsky remains involved in the U.S. Bank Women BRG, serving as the liaison between the group and the bank’s local internal Development Network, which organizes a variety of professional development and community volunteer events throughout the year.