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From Campus to Career: Powering Opportunities for Young People

“Sometimes the destination may not be clear, but getting there starts with taking off.”

—Mahogany Nelson, participant in MENTOR NY’s Career Development Program.

For young people looking to gain on-the-job skills and experience, it’s been a uniquely challenging few years. Almost 54% of internship opportunities for college students were put on hold at the height of the pandemic — impacting first-generation Black and Latinx learners especially.

In response to the widening gap students face in accessing career exploration and networking opportunities, MENTOR NY teamed up with PwC (through their Reimagine Grant) to create a program that combines career-readiness activities with advice from seasoned pros. The goal? Provide first-generation college students with the professional guidance and social supports necessary to land a desired job after graduation.

Big Wins & What We Learned

Program participants brought inspiring energy to every session, engaging in conversations around professionalism, creating new connections, interview tips, and more — while leveraging the expertise of the MENTOR NY team and a variety of professional speakers. Together, the group explored strengths and how these might influence work styles, and developed strategies to reach their career goals.

“I liked that participants in the program came from a lot of different backgrounds,” Nicole Santana said. “We had time to hear what the speakers had to say, and then we were able to ask questions that related to us.”

These included how to narrow down career choices, and the best way to navigate a bad work environment. For MENTOR NY Program Lead Erica Friedman-Coburn, the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm, coupled with thoughtful speakers, contributed to the program’s success.

Screen shot of speakers and fellows during a session over Zoom.

“We had motivated students who were engaged in each program session and wanted to learn as much as possible from the experience,” Erica explained. “Secondly, speakers for each session were relatable to our students; they were from a wide range of backgrounds and industries and were in various stages of their careers. Each speaker shared positive experiences in their careers, as well as challenges they faced and how they overcame them.”

The sessions highlighted the reciprocal nature of mentoring relationships, with adults and young people coming together in a way that informed them both.

“It was truly a pleasure,” said Chip Veronne, Managing Director of Assurance at Ernst and Young. “I enjoyed meeting the students and all had great questions.”

How to Inspire the Youth You Work With

Showcasing diverse career options opens young people’s minds to the possibilities, turning the once unthinkable into achievable goals. To help guide the youth you work with, Erica shares the following tips:

  • Ask young people what they want to learn about the professional world. Our participants told us they wanted more time focused on networking and building relationships, in addition to resume creation and interview prep.

  • Reach out to your professional contacts to share honest stories and learnings with young people as a career development activity.

  • Encourage young people to interact with as many professionals as they can. This helps to boost their experience and confidence around networking, while expanding their professional connections.

Do you know a college student who could benefit from the Career Development Program? Share the application for them to join our winter 2023 sessions!


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