AU Alumna, Rebecca Walcott Creates a New Kind of Resource for Undergraduates and Young Professionals

Spring semester means many things, from spring break bikini pics and quading in sun, to the underlying stress that comes with applying to summer internships and post-graduation jobs. By now we know the cycle: digging through LinkedIn postings, visiting the career center and constantly second guessing if you’ve been making mistakes every step of the way. When it comes to jobs and internships, it’s difficult to find trustworthy, realistic and relevant guidance. Sure, the Internet is riddled with articles about resume tips, how to ace an interview, and networking 101, but where do you begin? With the over saturation of career-development content, how do you know which sources to trust?

American University alumna, Rebecca Walcott, spotted a gap in the resources available to college students and recent graduates. One year into her professional career, Rebecca decided to create her own platform called Connect Forward to provide guidance to students from those that have already been there and have the tools to help. The website is an online platform that hosts resources and detailed advice backed by first-person accounts from current young professionals and students that use the same tools. Their content ranges from interviews with professionals with inspiring stories to blog posts and external links to more resources recommended by contributors. Connect Forward launched just a few months ago, so I sat down with Rebecca to discuss what she hopes people can gain from her platform and where she plans to take it in the future.

“For those who don’t know, “Connect Forward is a digital workspace for students and entry-level professionals,” Walcott explained her vision to me. “Right now, it’s just a website. We have an Instagram and we have a Facebook, but long term I would like it to be a community where people who just got out of college can talk with other like-minded individuals and figure out what are the best steps for transforming their career.”

Rebecca’s inspiration for starting Connect Forward came from her own experience after graduating AU and taking on the working world head-on. With little experience in the field she began working in, Rebecca was forced to learn on the job, something many entry-level professionals do during their first full-time job. She quickly recognized a pattern among her peers and set out to share those stories with other professionals with similar experiences and college students eager to know what to expect after graduation.

“I’ve been working at my job right now for about a year, and when I first started I had immense anxiety because no one explains to you when you’re in college how to navigate the corporate world,” Walcott explains.“I think it’s so tough because a lot of people go into it really overwhelmed, without the proper guidance.”

So what makes Connect Forward different from the content you find on a Google search? “Yes, there are resources online,” Walcott says. “But, there’s really not enough relatable, honest content. So the idea is that everyone that contributes to our website is between the ages of 18 to 26 and is actually experiencing these things right now, as it’s happening for all of us. That’s the uniqueness of Connect Forward - it’s current and it’s really written by people who are sharing their day-to-day experiences.”

Connect Forward is more than just a resume guide or a one-stop shop for professional development. The platform throws that format out the window because Walcott knew there is no one way to build a career. She says, “It’s not just blog posts. It’s a space where people can share which resources work for them. Many posts have attached links, apps, and a timeline of how long it will take you to grow a new skill or, say, redo your resume.”

For AU students juggling internships, part-time jobs, student organizations, and a full class load, it can be easy to get preoccupied with fitting the mold of what we think “success” looks like. Walcott wants Connect Forward to offer a different perspective. When I asked what she wants her younger audiences to take away from the platform, she said, “A lot of times you read blogs and articles and you collect all this information and try to mold it into what you want to do. The most important thing about Connect Forward is that we’re saying ‘do this exactly how you want to do it’ but these are the strategies that have worked for others.”

She knows, first hand, that there are so many different experiences in the professional world and wants to show that what works for one person may not always work for another. Walcott shared her own experience in her post-graduate journey. “Being a woman, and being international in the landscape that I’m in right now, I went into the professional world and even launching Connect Forward I felt so overwhelmed with what people would think or how they would judge me for telling my story.” Her anxieties sounded awfully familiar to how students feel making that LinkedIn post or sending a cold email.

Whether you’re just figuring out what you want to do, or changing your career path for what feels like the millionth time, Rebecca Walcott had some words of wisdom for getting over the hump. “Just start,” she said. “It’s important to be actionable with your intentions instead of just saying ‘I wish I could do this,’ go out and do it. Don’t make excuses for yourself and you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish.”

For more information, visit Connect Forward at www.theconnectforward.com and to stay up to date on the latest posts, and professional advice, follow Connect Forward on Instagram and Facebook at @TheConnectForward

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