Thriving and Going Your Own Way

Summary and Highlights from Adapting to the Future of Work 2021 Surviving to Thriving 

On July 22, 2021, JobsFirstNYC hosted its annual Adapting to the Future of Work convening focusing on young adults. Since its inception in 2016, Adapting to the Future of Work has been centered on ways to generate meaningful discussions about the changing nature of work.

This year’s theme, Surviving to Thriving drew more than 550 registrants, including out-of-school, out-of-work young adults, high school and college students, nonprofit partners, and business professionals.

Young adults and the communities in which they live are at the core of JobsFirstNYC’s mission and every year the team works hard to produce an event that is a catalyst for change. “Our goal from the beginning was to create a forum for conversations about what it means to live and work in the future,” said Marjorie Parker, President and CEO of JobsFirstNYC. “When we conceptualized the first Adapting to the Future of Work, we envisioned an annual convening that would provide a relevant forum where the ambitions and pathways of young people weren’t restrained. The young adults told us from the beginning that they wanted to have a voice in the event and we have worked hard to keep them at the forefront.”

Justincredible, music artist and poet, kicked off the event with a moving original poem titled “Procrastination.” He shared his personal story of finding his way as a young artist and corporate professional after feeling stuck. “I would like to change the way you think about your future,” Justincredible told the crowd. “Think of it with these lyrics in mind. It’s my time, my moment, my season.” Justincredible’s words resonated with many in the audience. “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a poet speak before,” said one attendee. “It was really powerful,” said another, who noted he felt inspired to be more proactive in his career.

Following Justincredible, Keynote Speaker, Danielle Johnson, CEO of SparkFM Online shared the importance of taking time to slow down and reflect. “I think the biggest thing I learned from my life is that we all go through moments when we become discouraged.” Johnson continued, “Like Dory says in the movie Finding Nemo, we all have to keep swimming.” According to Johnson, she has learned a lot from her journey, including the importance of taking risks and keeping your goals in sight.

The convening featured a variety of workshops, including Thriving in Social Media: Build Your Personal Brand; Thriving in Financial Wellness: How to Stack Your Bread; Thriving in Cannabis: Working Through the Weeds; Thriving in Cryptocurrency: Securing That E-Bag, and Thriving in E-Sports: Winning IRL.

Khadijah Robinson, Head of Product at Shop Circulate and Miracle Olatunji, CEO of OpportuniMe, led a Business Entrepreneurship panel that was moderated by Vanessa James, CEO of VJ Media. The panelists reflected on what it means to be a young entrepreneur and how to explore your unique calling and then create the life you envision.

The conference also spotlighted a Making Power Moves panel that provided practical guidance from thought leaders including Shaquanna Boykin, Candidate, District Leader of Assembly District 57; 18-year-old Thomas Downs a former New York mayoral candidate; Kimberly Pham, Engagement Coordinator, Opportunity Youth United; and Pierina Sanchez, Democratic Nominee for New York City Council, District 14.

The Social Justice and Social Entrepreneurship panel discussed how to channel the passion for social reform into a sustainable and rewarding career. This workshop featured Alex Peay, Founder & Executive Director, One’s Up; America Lenox Former Program Manager, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans; Francisco Garcia CEO & Founder, Think Make Live Youth; Terry Greene National Training Coordinator, National Council of Young Leaders; and was moderated by Senior Fellow, Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solution Jamiel Alexander,

“My City, My Community” Competition
A key addition to this year’s Adapting to the Future of Work, was the My City, My Community competition, in which young adults pitched entrepreneurial ideas on how to advance social justice and make New York City better, using a 60-second video posted on social media.

From the pool of entries, five were chosen as finalists and awarded a total of $5,000 in prizes. The final submissions were evaluated and the winners were voted on by a panel of professional judges, including: Chase Ross, Head, Venture Community; Evan Ehlers, Founder, Sharing Excess; and Simon Yi, Program Director, Tachyon Accelerator. Conference attendees also had a chance to vote for their favorite finalist. All winners will also receive mentorship supporting the development and commercialization of their idea.

Winners included:

1st place – “Opportuniteens,” Cynthia Lei & Crystal Liang

2nd place – “Erasing EWaste,” Justin Shnayder & Alexandra Shakhnazarov

3rd place – “The Teens Program,” Victoria Chang

4th place – “Waste Terminators,” Matt Bradshaw & Chad Edwards

5th place – “Racial Inequality in the Justice System,” Destiny, Kyra, Steven and Kassandra

Most Innovative – “Racial Inequality in the Justice System,” Destiny, Kyra, Steven and Kassandra

Best Presentation – Cynthia Lei & Crystal Liang

The essential insights from the 2021 Adapting to the Future of Work young adult day were:

*You can go your own way but do your research and develop a network of support.
*Explore non-traditional career options and take advantage of community resources.
*Entrepreneurship spans many fields, so choose the path that motivates you.
*Social justice and social entrepreneurship activism are viable pathways to turn your passion into power.
*You are not too young or inexperienced to make power moves.
*The gig economy and social media ventures offer viable career pathways.
*Be mindful of the economy and how the job market is changing.
*”Keep swimming” towards your goals.

See the all-star lineup of speakers in Adapting to the Future of Work Booklet

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