Posted February 21, 2020 by Mark Perna
Despite her hard-earned four-year tech degree, Gen-Zer Lliana Hwang was missing something: a real job—with a real salary. Mark’s article, “How A Young, Underemployed College Grad Finally Got The Breakthrough She Needed,” published at Forbes.com on February 21, 2020.
Even with today’s ever-tightening labor market, underemployment is a pervasive problem facing young workers, especially new or recent college grads. Unable to find a “real job” that aligns with their education, many are forced into part-time or minimum-wage work that not only fails to pay the bills, but also stifles their talent and full potential. Add heavy student loan debt into the mix—with roughly 1 million borrowers defaulting for the first time every year—and you’ve got the perfect storm.
In my last post, I introduced Mohammad Khan, a 23-year-old Gen-Zer from the Bronx who beat the odds to realize his dream of an upwardly mobile career. His contract internship through Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a NYC-based nonprofit that places underserved individuals at major companies, changed his life. And, better yet, his success story isn’t unique.
Meet another 23-year-old Gen-Zer: Lliana Hwang. Like Mohammad, Lliana’s career took flight with WOS. First, however, she had to endure some bumps in the road.
Growing up, Lliana believed the message that permeates countless high schools in America: Go to college—and you’ll land a good job. But like so many of her peers, she discovered that in the real world, it doesn’t always work that way.
In April 2019, Lliana graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Information Science—her ticket, or so she thought, to launching her coding career as a young woman in the tech space. But as the weeks—and then months—passed, her fruitless job search left her feeling dejected, disillusioned and, at times, even desperate. In the end, she was forced to take a position in a bakery. “As someone who values creative and challenging work, it didn’t feel like the right direction for me,” she laments—and justifiably so. By any measure, she was underemployed.
Enter WOS—and a whole new way of approaching career preparation.
Lliana first encountered WOS, along with the concept of contract internships, through an Indeed job posting. Intrigued, she applied for the ACSC Entry-Level Web Development program at the Automobile Club of Southern California. A rigorous one-year program, the first half is spent in training, with the second half in full-time consultancy. Lliana was accepted to the program and, as if by magic, everything changed. “With WOS, I immediately felt taken care of. I honed my coding skills, gained so much confidence, and most importantly, felt supported every step of the way.”
Lliana gave the program her all, knowing it could be her breakthrough into the career she had long aspired to. And, much to her delight, she was right. “I was ecstatic to finally land my first creative job out of college with Automobile Club of Southern California. Here, I can put my coding skills and knowledge to work every day.”
Today, Lliana is dreaming big. “I want to follow computer science wherever it takes me, and without WOS, I would not be making the comfortable salary I am now, nor would I be challenged intellectually in my career. After sending out so many job applications, only to have them ignored, I finally feel valued. WOS has prepared me not only for my career, but also for the future at large, and whatever it throws my way. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.”