YORKonnection serves as an up-and-coming resource for life after college

Students gather at the first Yorkconnection club meeting in Johnson Hall at Occidental College Los Angeles, CA March 22, 2022. GrayDavidson/TheOccidental

YORKonnection founders and CEOs Snigdha Suvarna ’20 and Micah Kirscher ’20 felt the same pressure that almost every senior will come to know, leaving the confines of college and venturing into the workforce. Despite having a well-funded career center at Occidental, they still felt that alumni with similar career interests were hard to find. According to Suvarna and Kirscher, this is exactly what led them to start their platform.

Suvarna and Kirscher said they participated in the Kahane United Nations Program in Fall 2020 and began to talk about what their future might look like. Suvarna said being surrounded by undergraduate and postgraduate students from other colleges during the UN program made her feel that there is a career development gap that liberal arts students can face.

“They just seemed more prepared, or their career centers helped them more,” Suvarna said. “We saw this gap that Occidental had, and general liberal arts schools have, where we get this amazing education in school but it’s not always transferable to the real world if you don’t put in the time and effort to think through it earlier on.”

Kirscher said she did not feel adequately prepared by Occidental’s career center for the abrupt change out of college.

“This life change was very daunting and it was coming up,” Kirscher said. “I felt quite unprepared and also just sort of like I was going into a black hole.”

Micah Kirscher Yorkconnection
Micah Kirscher’20. Co-Founder of Yorkonection. Los Angeles, CA April 8, 2022. GrayDavidson/TheOccidental

Kirscher said she herself eventually started to reach out to alumni and found the exercise beneficial, as it allowed her to talk with those who had been in the same position after attending Occidental. According to Kirscher, this mentorship allowed alumni to give undergraduate or newly graduated students career advice, speaking from a position of relatable personal experience.

In the wake of the pandemic, Suvarna and Kirscher said they saw a need for a centralized alumni network through which students could easily reach out to alumni with similar academic pursuits or career ambitions. According to Suvarna and Kirscher, this framework inspired them to create YORKonnection, with the intention of helping students find post-graduate opportunities through a clear-cut networking system.

Their website offers a database of their current mentors, listing everything from their current employment to the clubs they belonged to on campus. Almost two years later, YORKonnection has established itself on campus and has over 150 mentors. Their organization is dedicated to getting Occidental students to start thinking about their future earlier and how to pursue their ambitions with the assistance of an alum mentor. After browsing, a student can submit a Mentor Request Form and connect to an alum who best matches their interests. This past semester, YORKonnection has established their student club with the leadership of president Jonathan Fang (junior).

Jonathan Fang Yorkconnection
Yorkconnection member, Program Director and Diplomacy & World Affairs Major Jonathan Fang (junior). Los Angeles, CA April 8, 2022. GrayDavidson/TheOccidental

Fang said he got involved with the project early in its inception, assisting with setting up the website and boosting its user experience. Fang said YORKonnection is eager to reach more students now that they have a base on campus. Fang and other members of their executive board have been promoting the program by setting up speaker events and working with other Occidental clubs, such as Oxypreneurship. YORKonnection and Oxypreneurship co-hosted a talk March 24 with Abel Tiong about his experience in the venture capital world, advertised in an email to the whole student body.

Fang said YORKonnection is for everyone, and he recommends joining as early as possible.

“Join freshman year for connections or at least get access to the resources that might help you start thinking about, ‘Oh, here’s what I might be interested in, here’s what I may not be interested in. Here’s what I like doing, here’s what I don’t like doing or I absolutely hate — the earlier the better,” Fang said.

YORKonnection offers “practical workshops,” where students can think through questions about what interests them, what they would look for in a career and the skills they can offer to a workplace. Megan Wilson (sophomore), a social media executive for the club, said her mentor helped her navigate her daily school life, including discussing what classes she should take.

“She helps me with anything I have questions about,” Wilson said. “I asked her what types of classes she [was] taking, what she was involved in, all that different stuff.”

Fang said that getting alumni to become members of YORKonnection has been easy, but the difficult part is helping students know how to utilize alumni connections as resources. While students use Handshake more often, Fang said in his personal journey, networking has been the key to getting hired. He said he believes finding a job is easier with a personal contact compared to sending out online applications.

When Suvarna and Kirscher first embarked on this project, they reached out to different Occidental administrators to see how to get their project off the ground. Early on, they decided to start the program on their own rather than set up a formal partnership with Occidental, at least during the company’s first few years.

Snigdha Suvarna Yorkconnection
Snigdha Suvarna ‘20. Co-founder and Executive Director for Yorkonection
Los Angeles, CA April 8, 2022. GrayDavidson/TheOccidental

Suvarna said they chose the independent route to start off, but want to partner with Occidental in the future.

“I think the long-term goal could be to partner with Oxy because I think that’s the natural direction,” Suvarna said. “But I think we’re just so new, we’re just kind of going with the flow and doing what we believe in.”