Never think that you’re stuck in your professional life; you always have options.
That was some of the advice that full-time MBA students shared with a slightly-younger, but equally ambitious, group of young adults from Our Piece of the Pie during their visit to the Graduate Business Learning Center’s Hartford campus on Thursday.
The MBA students, some of whom are simultaneously pursuing law and medical degrees, shared personal stories of disappointing jobs, career setbacks, and the realization that pursuing a dream involves taking risks. But they also talked enthusiastically about how they were able to refocus their careers and life plans when their initial strategy didn’t work out.
That resonated with Alexis M., 22, of Hartford. She has been thinking about going to college but was worried that she was too late since she hadn’t enrolled right after high school. But by Thursday afternoon, she was again considering pursuing a college degree to foster her goal of opening a 24-hour child-care center.
“Someday I’ll have kids and I can’t tell them, ‘You’ve got to go to college!’ if I didn’t do it. I’d be a hypocrite,” Alexis said. “I’m young and I don’t want to not do something and regret it. I always thought you had to go to college at 18 or else it was too late. Now I realize I don’t have to rush.”
MBA Students Eager to Serve Greater Hartford
Students in the MBA program have worked with four community agencies this semester in an attempt to give back to Hartford, their host city.
Our Piece of the Pie (OPP) is a nonprofit organization that works with Greater Hartford and Eastern Connecticut youth (age 14 to 24) helping them achieve degrees and certificates leading to economic self-sufficiency and a a better quality of life. Thursday’s event included lunch, a panel presentation, a “speed networking” session and a tour of the campus.
In February, MBA students worked with Junior Achievement to help students, 5th grade and younger, understand financial literacy, business and entrepreneurship. Later that month they helped Habitat for Humanity build a home on Main Street in Hartford. And, in March, they helped the COMPASS Youth Collaborative with a resume-writing workshop.
“Many of our students are not Hartford natives and they are eager to establish a connection with Hartford, its people and its culture,” said Ryan Baldassario, MBA program administrator. “We have been looking at pilot programs that would be mutually beneficial for the community and our students, and all four of these seemed like a great match.”
The OPP visitors seemed equally receptive to the partnership.
“Many of our clients are starting to figure out their next steps. Many are looking for broader exposure to careers and opportunities and they want to network and talk with peers and those who are a little older,” said Karen Kakley, director of Development & Engagement at OPP. “There are options available today that are different than they were a generation before. For our young people to hear first-hand about what people are doing makes it that much more achievable.”
The UConn students also talked about making personal sacrifices to get ahead, finding great mentors, and the importance of putting in extra effort at work and in school. They recommended the students broaden their professional network, get involved in clubs and extracurricular activities, find unique ways to add value to their company, and develop their own personal brand.
Abby Guo, a first-year MBA student from New Haven, helped organize the event.
“We wanted to create an environment where UConn students could connect with OPP participants, share their journeys, and start a dialogue of what career planning looks like,” she said. “We really enjoyed engaging with them.”
“I was very fortunate to have mentors and resources guiding my career path,” Guo continued. “Our Piece of the Pie gives these young adults the tools needed to embark on a profession. I wanted to bring them to campus and say, ‘There’s a great option here to consider as you move forward.'”