By: Selina Radlein, Moffitt Cancer Center, Education Connection Committee Member
Many young professionals today could tell you precisely what pieces of advice they would give their 21-year-old selves – that typical list of “things I know now that I wish I knew back then.” If only someone would have told me! I personally wish I had sought out internship opportunities, built better relationships and read A LOT more books! Hindsight is 20/20, they say. That period right after college is so instrumental in shaping the adults we later become. We have so little responsibility and so much freedom to make errors. Some new graduates have a hard time navigating the working world. Some of this is likely due to lack of skills or knowledge. Most is probably attributed to lack of connections or experience. How great would it have been to have some more guidance?
Fortunately, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce has a created a partnership with the local colleges and universities to address this very problem. Education Connection brings business leaders together with the academic community to help mold Tampa Bay’s future workforce. This has been quite a successful partnership, so Emerge Tampa Bay wanted to get in on the action. Who better to help provide guidance to young people than slightly-older, more experienced young people?!
It was a privilege to be the first Emerge member to speak with a class at the University of South Florida as part of this effort. I come from a public health background, so I was paired with an instructor of technical writing for health science majors. I won’t lie, I was a bit apprehensive at first as I thought, “What insight and information could I possibly provide to the most digitally connected college students in history that they couldn’t find in 0.5 seconds with their thumbs?” I grew a little more concerned after I entered the classroom that was filled with computer monitors. “Will they even be listening?” I thought. To my surprise, I had a lot to say and they were taking lots of notes.
I gave the students some background on my career journey and told them all of those things I would have told my 21-year-old self. They also had a lot to say, asking many questions about resources, internships, networking, mentorships, jobs, work-life balance and the list goes on. Some were even interested in gaining experience at my organization. And none of them knew they were able to join Emerge! The 30 minute talk I was anxious about turned into an hour and fifteen minute discussion session that flowed effortlessly. At one point, a fellow student answered her classmate’s question when I was unable to do so. In that instance I said, “My next big piece of advice is to talk to each other.” This moment stood out to me because I realized I was giving these students advice that they would one day have given their 21-year-old selves. Yes folks, the most digitally connected college students in history could use some help with building face-to-face, mutually beneficial relationships.
After the class I followed up with an email to the instructor, providing her all the information I’d gathered on questions I could not answer and thanking her for this opportunity. We both agreed we would remain connected, as this partnership could be beneficial to her current and future classes. I definitely encourage my fellow young professionals to participate in this initiative. It is one of the most effective ways to contribute to Emerge’s mission.