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Reverse Pitch: Bringing Tech Careers to the Students

At any given point, more than 200 software, computer science and tech jobs are open in Lincoln. If the innovation/entrepreneurial ecosystem is to grow, the city needs to attract talent - a challenge facing cities all across the country. So how do we recruit differently? We turn the traditional job fair on its head.

On the night of October 24, 2017, more than 260 computer science and engineering students crowded into the Nebraska Innovation Campus conference center to learn about job opportunities and internships with highly successful Lincoln companies. The event, coined the “Reverse Pitch,” is the second in this its first year, and it’s already picking up steam.

The format is simple: each local company gets roughly five minutes to explain why working for them, be it an internship or a full-time position, is awesome. Some companies showed videos, others had prepared pitch decks, but all of them -- Ameritas, Assurity, Don’t Panic Labs, Firespring, Hudl, Nelnet, PenLink, Sandhills Publishing, Spreetail, and TalentPlus -- had energetic presenters who were eager to hire some of Nebraska’s most promising young minds.

Rich Claussen, who organized the event on behalf of the Prosper Lincoln community agenda, said the idea behind a reverse pitch is to flip the traditional job fair. At most job fairs, hundreds, sometimes thousands of students try to earn the attention of companies. At reverse pitch events, companies outline the incredible opportunities and benefits of working for them. It’s a recruiting twist, and based on the most recent event, it appears to be working.

“We wanted to bring the companies to you,” Claussen said on the night of the event, in front of 500+ yearning eyes. “We want to show you what’s out there, and we want to show you why Lincoln is a great place to start a career.”

The room was filled with energy. The presenters were excited and animated, and the students were leaning forward in their seats, whispering to the person next to them if they heard something they liked. Some students wrote manically in notebooks, others pegged away at their keyboards, but most sat still, focused intently on the podium.

After the companies delivered their pitches, students were encouraged to chat with presenters over pizza and soda at booths just outside the auditorium. Students -- pizza in hand -- split off in different directions toward the booths that most interested them. They had just heard what each company does and how they do it - so now they could engage in conversation about company culture, job openings, and even exchange contact information.

Mike Wells, Vice President of Information Technology at Ameritas, was honored to be a part of the event.

“It’s our first time here, and we’re very excited.  It’s so great for the students, and it’s even better for this city. Events like these prove that you can leave your legacy right here in Lincoln,” he said.

During the month of November, students will have the opportunity to meet with companies more intimately at four “State of the Practice” events around Lincoln. Hosted at the companies’ locations, these events give students the opportunity to dive deeper into day-to-day operations, meet more staff members, and enjoy some free food along the way.

Thursday, November 2 - 7-9pm @ Firespring, with Nelnet

Tuesday, November 7 - 4-6pm @ Don't Panic Labs (in the Barnyard) with Hudl

Thursday, November 16 - 7-9pm @ Assurity with Pen-Link and Sandhills

Tuesday, November 28 - 5-7pm @ Spreetail with Ameritas and Talent+

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI