Never Too Early to Network

By Melissa Johns, Executive Vice President

It’s not what you know but who you know, right? For youth growing up in foster care, it’s hard to find career mentors and build a professional network. As first-generation college students, they have limited access to professionals who can provide career insights and guidance. To help fill this gap, this summer Pivotal launched a new career development workshop series for its post-secondary scholars. For the capstone project, we matched 31 scholars to community volunteers who were eager to engage in virtual informational interviews. The result? Each of these scholars has a new connection to a professional working in their field of interest, and a realistic preview of the job they hope to pursue.   

When students enrolled in the program, they shared with us which career fields they wished to explore. Their answers included a broad range of interests, ranging from forensic science to sports medicine to clinical psychology to accounting! When we reached out to Pivotal’s army of volunteers asking them to fill these requests for interviews – we were overwhelmed by the response! Within a matter of days, every scholar was matched to a volunteer. 

Autumn Casadonte, Senior Director of Corporate Communication at Cupertino Electric Inc. was thrilled to take part in this volunteer opportunity. “It can be overwhelming to figure out how to start on a career path—especially if you don’t have someone to talk to about what works and what doesn’t. I volunteered because I love to share knowledge with students who are truly interested and can really benefit from understanding how to navigate the system. It’s only a small chunk of time out of my day, but it makes a big impact.” 

We matched Autumn with Monserrat, a first-year college student at UCSB, who is interested in studying marketing and communications. Their 40-minute informational interview via Zoom went by quickly and was a fabulous experience for both women. “Monserrat was well prepared. She had some specific questions, understood the industry, and asked good questions that would help her get a jump start on the competition,” said Autumn. Monserrat credits her preparation to the Pivotal workshops. “The workshops gave me the opportunity to learn about how to present and communicate in the virtual world. I had a great time speaking with Autumn and appreciated the opportunity to meet with her.”

Our scholars’ professionalism and preparation stood out when Randy Phelps, Chief Technology Officer of East Side Union High School District, was interviewed by David, who’s interested in pursuing a career in computer engineering. David really appreciated the opportunity to ask Randy a few questions he’s been mulling over for a while. “What a fantastic young man,” shared Randy. “He was passionate and thoughtful, and demonstrated empathy and insight. He did a great job linking questions and responses.” Of the opportunity for scholars to conduct an informational interview, Randy continued, “I think it’s a really powerful tool on multiple fronts.”

Beyond providing priceless real-world information, a great informational interview can open doors to networking opportunities that can connect young people to their dream job. Time and again, Pivotal’s scholars show us that they’re ready to do the hard work and heavy lifting, and that they just need a little help to access these opportunities. We’re proud of them and grateful to our community of supporters who shared their time with our youth!

If you would like Pivotal to add your name to our database of informational interview volunteers, click here to sign up. Your career field might just match one of our scholars’ interests!