Social entrepreneurship is in my DNA. After finishing graduate school, I wanted to give back to my community, but I needed to earn a living. After a few months of job searching, I reached out to my mentor Angela Reddock Wright for job leads and advice. Although my previous work history with Angela as a student was spotty, she believed in me and offered me a position on a project team she was leading for the Los Angeles Urban League.
The first three months on my new job were rocky as I adjusted to a new culture, expectations and an expanding set of responsibilities. But I recall looking forward to Angela’s feedback. It was ongoing across every aspect of my work product. The process ultimately strengthened my work ethic, and Angela’s coaching lent me the social capital to not only secure and keep my first job but to grow from a project manager into the senior program officer at the Los Angeles Urban League.
Angela granted me more than a job but a job + coaching that put the jet fuel behind me that I needed to excel in my career.
The young people starting their career journeys in Los Angeles need more Angelas. Recent research has shown that Generation Z (Gen Z) wants support for their career development even more than money. But the majority of young adult job seekers in our community don’t have access to coaches, and most coaching isn’t free. There are other ways, however, to bridge the social capital divide that separates our next generation of talent from economic mobility. It’s simple logic and a call to action for the elders in our community: Get a young person a job and they’ll be grateful. But get a young person a job and a coach, and they will be better positioned for success. I call it the job-plus strategy.
Gen Z is the first generation that will experience a multiculturally dominant America. Nearly half (48 percent) of Gen Z is comprised of people of color, so they will dramatically change the face of our workforce as they enter the labor market in the coming years. This is a major opportunity that we, generations ahead of Gen Z, must seize in order to thrive long term.
The next generation of talent is entering the workforce in search of social capital that will fuel their career development, advancement and performance. Coaching is key to strengthening the talent pipeline for businesses and empowering future leaders, because it is a more intentional space reserved for meaningful conversations about short- and long-term challenges, such as finding a career path and succeeding at work. It’s also a great opportunity to help young people navigate new experiences, expectations and environments.
From where I sit, the biggest opportunity our community has in front of us is ensuring that 100 percent of our young people not only have access to career and economic opportunities, but that they also have access to a network of caring professionals with the social capital and experience to help them maximize their potential. If everyone in L.A.’s Black community were working, there’d be an influx of $500 million added to the local economy. In that context, coaching makes economic sense on a broad scale. And with Gen Z having the largest cohort of young Black people since the Baby Boomers, coaching also ensures that the growth and accomplishments of the next generation of Black talent is connected to the generation of trail blazers ahead of them.
With Gen Z craving more support with their career development, tantamount to addressing the youth and young adult employment crisis is getting people who look like them to invest in them. That’s the job-plus strategy the next generation of diverse talent needs to succeed in the globally competitive economy.
That said, Gen X (and beyond), we need you. You are the solution to the crisis that is disconnecting our young people from opportunity and mobility. It’s not just about connecting to education and careers, or professional development; it’s about connecting to social capital. That’s what our young people don’t have that members of preceding generations can provide.
We already know that a resume isn’t enough, especially in industries that severely lack diversity, such as entertainment, technology and financial services. Who you know (your social capital) may be the only access point. Sometimes even I, at the president and CEO level, experience a social capital gap. Acquiring mentors and coaches who bridged the gap for me is why I’m where I’m at today.
Research shows that Gen X volunteers more than any other generation, and that’s good. They’re followed by Baby Boomers and Millennials. But Millennials are pulling up the rear, getting more engaged as they themselves meet career and financial benchmarks in their own lives.
But I have to say of all the each-one-teach-one rhetoric, the reach back from Gen X to Z is a sleeping giant within our community. So, consider this a call to action to boldly activate the elders of the village as volunteer coaches and mentors to ensure that Black and other young adults of color are in the workforce and succeed, because we need them to.
We know that Gen Xers are super busy. We also know that in order for this coaching movement to be impactful, we must meet our young people where they are — on their smart phones. To address the needs of both generations, LeadersUp has designed a mobile app, the Future@Work Connected, that allows elders in the village to sign up to provide e-coaching to our young people in a very streamlined straightforward fashion.
At LeadersUp, what makes our impact enduring is the reservoir of social capital that these young people tap into. Coaching is the secret sauce that draws causality between the career growth and education attainment we strive for through our employer and education partners. As our young adults set a vision for themselves, we, as a village, need to be there to put the jet fuel behind them to manifest that vision. Won’t you invest some of your social capital in the next generation of talent? The comprehensive future of our community depends on it. To volunteer as a coach via our app, or at our hiring events, text CoachLA to 64600.