How This First-Gen Baruch College Student Struck Gold During The Pandemic
by Isaiah E. Bailey | on 5 May 2021
"It’s how you handle and how you cope with those hard times that build you as a person and determine who you are as a person."
"The hardest part in life, especially at 18 years old, is knowing who you are, but you have to start to analyze yourself and see where you may fit the most and be the best fit."
Access. We all need access - access to people, access to resources, and access to opportunities. But for first-generation college students, finding access can be a miserable and fearful process.
The Black Accountants Talent Network (BATN) caught up with Brian Sterling, Statistics and Quantitative Modeling major at Baruch College, to learn more about how he was able to successfully navigate the job search process during the pandemic.
How did you navigate your job search and the related struggles of the pandemic’s virtual elements?
I definitely feel like our internet use needs to be increased - most importantly LinkedIn. When I first met Isaiah I had just made my LinkedIn. I really didn’t know anything about it. I had no connections, I’m a first generation college student, and my parents don’t come from the financial industry. I had to use LinkedIn, and I had to develop myself.
With everything I did I put it on my LinkedIn to put myself out there. I really want to stress the importance of LinkedIn and making sure you get your accomplishments out there. If it’s not on your LinkedIn and you did something no one will know. No matter how small – even a college essay you may be happy about – celebrate yourself.
What are some of the things you’ve done as a first-generation college student to get access to the people and information that you need?
First thing I had to do was speak to individuals that were also first-generation college student. We have to work 10 times harder and need to be more motivated because you really don’t know what happens if college doesn’t go well.
There are many programs and opportunities out there though that will help you succeed. For a lot of first-generation college students there a programs out there like ModernGuild that help push out first-generation students, find them opportunity, and help them network with professionals.
Find clubs, as early as freshman year, that connect you with these organizations that are tailored to helping first-generation and minority students. All of these organizations are here to help you and push you. They have connections and help you develop and analyze yourself.
The hardest part in life, especially at 18 years old, is knowing who you are, but you have to start to analyze yourself and see where you may fit the most and be the best fit.
What advice do you have for those who may be fearful or scared to reach out and make connections?
It was very difficult for me when I first started my professional journey. It was something I was afraid of ever since I got into college – that question your parents ask, “What are you going to do when you get older?” But really that fear – and getting over the hump of tackling your career – is going to come from meeting other individuals who also aren’t sure. Talk to your peers. Keep learning. Keep researching. It will help you get over the fear.
I also started attending events. Being at Baruch College I was able to be around a lot of motivated students that would support me. I really started to connect with them, and I started to build my LinkedIn.
As you start to build your LinkedIn and develop yourself you’ll see a lot of people want to start connect with you. Soon you will see you’ve changed from mentee to mentor. This was something that was key to me. You can’t be silent anymore, and you have to speak to people. It’s key for career development.
How did you do it? How did you strike gold and get your offer?
Getting that internship all starts with you. Life isn’t easy. There’s going to be failures and you’re going to go through hard times. It’s how you handle and how you cope with those hard times that build you as a person and determine who you are as a person.
It’s like that rollercoaster that’s been scaring you when you was a kid and then you finally ride and feel so relieved. It gets easier. The hardest part is starting – just like going to the gym. But once you’re in it and get into your groove, it gets easier and easier.
You may also like to read:
Isaiah E. Bailey
Founder, Black Accountants Talent Network (BATN)
I am passionate about creating constructive conversations aimed at improving and implementing actionable and impactful diversity and inclusion strategies applicable to all industries. I am also a dedicated mentor to high school and college students across the Greater New York City and Philadelphia areas.
I am an experienced accounting and auditing professional with over 5 years experience auditing financial statements and documenting, validating and assessing financial systems, strategies, and controls that significantly improve business operations. I have a strong ability to analyze and organize data and communicate results across all levels of an organization both verbally and written.
I have experience providing financial statement audit, carve-out audit, single audit, audit of internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR) and IFRS quarterly reviews for engagements both domestic and international, ranging from start-up to billion dollar companies both private and public.