Folu Ogunyeye used her own experience, and the first coronavirus lockdown, as the catalyst for a revolutionary programme to boost students’ career prospects.
Folu (Human, Social & Political Sciences 2018) knows she is one of the lucky ones, having secured a job when she graduates next summer in human resources with BlackRock, a Fintech company, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
However, she wants to support others through her social enterprise, Vamos Careers, by providing interactive career planning tools, industry insights, and peer support.
“It became apparent to me with the pandemic that there’s more need than ever for online resources to help students and young people with their careers, because it’s become more uncertain and there are fewer opportunities to get work experience and to find out about careers,” says Folu, who received financial support from Fitzwilliam College through the Charitable Project Awards.
Folu also wants students to be put first, not to be persuaded into traditional routes or avenues, unless it tallies with their ambitions and skillsets.
She adds: “It feels like a lot of careers support – many of which make money from advertising for employers – focus more on the employers’ needs than students’ needs.
“I really believe the best way to make sure you’re making a strong application is by applying to the right thing in the first place. I came up with Vamos to help students understand how they can develop themselves in a way which aligns with what employers are looking for and how to ensure they’re applying for the thing that’s right for them.
“I think everyone wins when we help students to understand and to identify the pathways they enjoy the most – it ensures employers hire students who are the best fit, and students end up in roles they’re excited to go and do after they graduate. That’s what needs to change.”
Folu, pictured, acknowledges patience will likely be required to land dream roles in the near future, and urges her fellow students to accumulate skills and experience in tasks they enjoy, through societies and extra-curricular activities, then using those in their career search.
She points to her experience in securing an internship with BlackRock in summer 2020, which ended up taking place virtually due to COVID-19. The interviewers were interested in her summer 2019 experience volunteering in Tanzania, asking about ‘soft’ skills like team work and communication.
Initially, Vamos is targeted at all Cambridge students, but it could expand. She is particularly interested in supporting those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who do not always benefit from traditional forms of career support.
She adds: “When I started researching the issue of social mobility and graduate employability, I found that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be reliant on online information than others, who could talk to a relative, or family friend.
“I see Vamos empowering those who especially don’t know where to start with their career journeys, to help them to take control of their futures and reach out to relevant places, and to think critically about the support they do receive to ensure it really is in their best interests.”
Folu says university is a good time to expand your skill base and implement ideas, by networking with those with similar interests. She has spoken to Sophia Arora, the President of the Cambridge University Consultancy Society, for example.
Folu says: “I don’t believe you can make ideas happen on your own. The best way to do it is to lean on the support around – and Cambridge does have plenty of support to give you confidence and knowledge to develop your idea into something that’s actually viable.”
“For Cambridge students interested in entrepreneurship, they should reach out to their college for support and advice, as well as research the various entrepreneurship societies and events on offer.
“Some colleges run entrepreneurship competitions or provide funding opportunities. There is a good entrepreneurship ecosystem here with the Judge Business School, but not enough undergraduates are aware of this.”
- Current students: Register for the Careers Fair, taking place on Saturday 14 November.