August 31, 2022

An Uncertain Future

Pre-Note: We invited our newest and youngest member of our team, Phoebe Sajor, to take over today’s Wednesday Words. Here’s her story of how she found her way after graduation with the help of the college-side of Experience Institute: Experience Lab at Penn. Enjoy!

Finishing UCLA should have been a celebratory moment.

But for me, graduation was a mixed bag. I loved my college experience, but I was leaving school with little guidance for my career. Salaries, benefits, job responsibilities, and interview etiquette were all foreign languages to me. I didn’t know what I wanted. And even if I had known I wouldn’t have known how to get there. And the real kicker, I graduated right when the pandemic hit.

The program that changed things for me

One day, I received an email from a program I’d never heard of: Experience Lab. The email described a six-month college-to-career fellowship focused on giving recent graduates real-world work experiences. By working with growing companies, Fellows learn and apply skills in digital marketing, business development, or data analytics. It was just what I needed. Within a few months, I was starting the program.

Beginning a Field Experience

As a digital marketing fellow, I was placed with a small marketing agency. So small, in fact, that I reported directly to the CEO and founder.

Working so closely with the CEO afforded me the opportunity to get my hands dirty. I was in one-on-one meetings with clients. I developed decks for presentations to Chief Marketing Officers. I even designed and wrote for the company Instagram page. And I excelled. This was work I had never done before, but found myself naturally leaning into.

Learning from a CEO

My CEO held her position with grace. I was able to see a woman of color lead with intelligence, warmth, and hard work. And as an expert in her field, I gained insight into digital marketing I would never have gotten from a textbook. In turn, I brought value to my work with my dedication, willingness to learn, and attentiveness. I was able to make a positive business impact, build my confidence, and learn.

At the end of my field experience, I was offered a contract role with the company. And though I decided to move on, I still use the skills I learned at that agency every day in my role at Ei. In fact, today I report directly to a CEO and founder (Hi Victor)!

Creating a Bridge From College to Career

My time at Experience Lab, and with my field experience company, was an accelerator for my career. By the time I had my Penn certificate in hand, I had filled the spaces my college experience lacked. I had a portfolio of real-world work, valuable technical skills, and a confident answer to the question, “What do you want to do after college?”

Others Like Me

Today, I have a cousin who’s a sophomore at UCLA. We have so much in common it’s uncanny. And those similarities include the uncertainties I felt about life after college. When I talk with her about her future, it makes me wonder how we can make this kind of opportunity more available to students like her. What will it take to make experience-based learning accessible for all students and recent graduates? How can universities, educators, and companies create a better pathway for college to career?

We’re starting to take those steps with Experience Lab. Giving recent graduates the chance to prove their talent and worth at real companies is more meaningful than most people realize. And it doesn’t just have a real impact on their life, work, and career trajectory, companies are also finding new talent in a more meaningful and sustainable way.

To change the system, it’s going to require a collaborative effort between higher education, people in transition, and companies. If you’re interested in working with diverse, talented, hardworking recent grads, you can learn more about our program, or even become a field experience company, at the Experience Lab website.

Thanks for reading. And happy Wednesday.


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