When Sekou Kaalund started a job as a 22-year-old in New York, rent was so expensive that he contemplated ending his 401(k) savings enrollment plan so he could get more in his paycheck.
He was advised not to make the move, told that the company was matching his contributions and that it would be worth the investment. He took the advice. "Seventeen years later, that nuanced decision has probably quadrupled the investment," Kaalund said.
Those kinds of financial lessons and more are being offered to recent graduates of historically black colleges through the Advancing Black Pathways Career Readiness Series, an online program launched by JPMorgan Chase for recent graduates of historically Black colleges and young professionals of color.
"The goal is to uplift young African Americans, get them ahead of the curve as it relates to jobs, careers and finances," said Kaalund, the head of Black Pathways.
The coronavirus canceled college graduations and crushed the economy, limiting job opportunities for new candidates seeking to enter the workforce. The program is aimed at providing information that betters their chances when they get virtual interviews, as well as helps them learn financial responsibility, interview for jobs and more.
JPMorgan Chase has committed to hiring 4,000 Black college graduates by 2024. One of them is Evelyna Rosario, 21, who recently graduated from Paul Quinn College in Dallas. She worked as an intern at JPMorgan and has accepted an entry-level job that will launch what she hopes to be a career working in philanthropy.
"It was interesting," Rosario said of the first Black Pathways session last week, titled "How to reinvent your career in a virtual environment." It was livestreamed on LinkedIn Live.
"These are different times. Just to have it was great, because you don't know what to expect, but they care enough to create this avenue for us to learn. What I got out of it the most was that we all are going to start our careers virtually. No one is going into the office. And so we have to learn how to be good employees and productive working from home."
Rosario is part of the Corporate Rotation Program, starting in July. She will work in different departments for eight months over the next two years. She lives in her hometown, St. Paul, Minnesota, while her base will be in Texas.
Not sure we need to print the syllabus verbatim here. We can cover it in a single graf something like this:
The series covers reinventing your career in a virtual environment, exploring career opportunities in banking, maintaining financial stability after college, exploring careers in virtual banking, tips for creating strong LinkedIn profiles and exploring a career as a financial adviser.
"We're committed to equipping the next generation of Black talent with the tools and insights they'll need to build lasting and rewarding careers both as entrepreneurs and in Corporate America," said Brian Lamb, the company's global head of diversity and inclusion. "We're being intentional about increasing access to well-paying careers, and intend to grow our network of Black talent through the (series)."
As a young person ready to absorb as much as possible heading into her career, Rosario said the opportunity to be fed information that will help her is invaluable.
"It's so important to have these resources at your fingertips," she said. "Those who take advantage of it will get a lot out of it."
Kaalund said: "There's so much to this for young Black professionals. We have to get them exposure to vital information early in their career. We have to get them financially healthy. We have to ingrain in them the idea of save, spend, invest."
Many recent graduates or young Black professionals, Rosario said, have been mired in unemployment or forced into jobs outside their areas of study because of the unique dynamics created by the coronavirus.
"I know so many friends and classmates who are hurt so badly by these different times," she said. "There are friends who want to be teachers but cannot take the teacher's exam to get their certification. And they are like, 'What am I supposed to do?' A lot of them are taking jobs at places like Walmart just to survive.
"And that makes this Pathways series more valuable. Because things are so unpredictable, you don't know what's going to happen,” she said. “But you can gain information that will help you at a time when you need it most."
Hundreds of young graduates tuned in to the first Pathways session, and Kaalund hopes the number expands exponentially as the word spreads.
"Advancing Black Pathways is about empowerment," said Kaalund, who is also JPMorgan Chase's managing director. "We have a unique opportunity to empower communities — with the resources and support — and build pathways for more promising horizons in education, careers and wealth."