How We Started a Career Development & Mentorship Platform During the Pandemic - This is Our Story
Snigdha Suvarna & Micah Kirscher (Co-Founders & CEOs of YORKonnection) in NYC during their semester at “Oxy at the UN”.
If you talked to us a year ago, I don’t think we ever would’ve thought we’d have started a career development & mentorship company together. But looking back now it makes a lot of sense; we always talked together about career ideas and our frustrations with the current system. It’s funny how life works - there are some moments when you don’t get your way, but once you look back a few years later everything starts to align. Looking back, you realize that you would not want it any other way. This is one of those stories!
After a year at Oxy, I started to notice some differences between me and my peers at bigger universities. I noticed that they had access to really cool technical workshops and career fairs with amazing companies like L’Oreal, Deloitte, Bain, etc. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see these opportunities at my own school. So, with this in mind, I automatically knew that I had to work 10x harder to get to where I wanted to be. This meant I had to go out and forge my own connections, one way being through internships.
I remember my sophomore year of college I secured my first ‘real’ internship at an advertising start-up agency. There, my boss taught me about career development, like how to have informational interviews, and tips & tricks for ‘networking’. While learning these foundational skills, I was prompted to start using these techniques on my own and reach out to Oxy alumni to learn more about their careers. This effort led to me landing dream internships & opportunities and gaining incredible mentors who are still in my life today (3 years later)!
Seeing the impact of these techniques firsthand, I began teaching my friends how to cold message on LinkedIn, properly format a resume, attend career & networking events, and so much more! This whole process of passing on knowledge was extremely fulfilling, yet aggravating at the same time—while I was so happy to help my friends, I was frustrated that we weren’t being taught this from the start.
Snigdha and I have very different stories, at least in the beginning of our college experiences. I knew for a long time that I wanted to go to a liberal arts college and that I was interested in international affairs and languages, and so attending Oxy and majoring in Diplomacy and World Affairs was a natural decision for me.
I had never thought too much about careers in the first few years of college, until I began to realize that getting an internship was necessary if you wanted to be competitive in the job market. I was really excited about the prospect of getting work experience, but it seemed like no matter what I did, progress was limited. It wasn’t until I took initiative to reach out to alumni myself that I began to see how impactful and important alumni mentorship could be.
I began realizing that, to no fault of my own, the job and internship application system was just flawed! In some ways, this was a huge revelation for me, because it can be really demoralizing to get either rejections or no response at all - you begin to wonder if it’s something about you personally. Even though I was lucky enough to learn these practices myself, I know that the majority of Oxy students still aren’t being taught this information, which is what prompted me to take on this initiative.
In the Fall of 2019, we were both a part of the Oxy at the UN Program where we actually roomed together in a small NYC dorm room. During this program we had the opportunity to attend organized alumni networking events. It was during these events that everything clicked into place, and we realized that maybe we could organize something like this for the entire Oxy community. After coming back from our semester in NYC, we went back to Oxy to finish off our senior years. However, COVID happened, and our senior years were disappointingly cut short.
Even though the world was filled with uncertainty, we don’t think we would have gotten the time or drive to start YORKonnection if things had happened differently. The current pandemic and suffering job market showed us that there is a need for guidance in career development and mentorship especially in this growing virtual environment! As we started reaching out to alumni and students it became more and more apparent that YORKonnection was needed! That gave us the final push to go all in on this project, and we’re so glad that we did.
We’ve only been on this journey for six months, but we’ve seen such a big impact already. Students tell us that because of YORKonnection, they have had inspiring mentor matches and have been empowered to take charge of their career journeys. We’re so grateful for all of the support we have received so far, and we can’t wait to see what the future will hold.
Snigdha Suvarna '20 (CEO & Co-Founder of YORKonnection)
Micah Kirscher '20 (CEO & Co-Founder of YORKonnection)