Samay Williams is a graduate of San Diego State University. After not finding a job in her field, she got in touch with Back to Work San Diego Connect2Careers. In partnership with Access, Inc., this program supports youth to get started on their career journey by meeting their individual needs, whether that’s internships, more schooling or finding a job. We spoke with Samay to learn about her experience navigating the workforce during the pandemic.
I have always been interested in cybersecurity. I connected with the idea of helping businesses keep their information safe. When it was time to pick a degree, the information systems program at San Diego State University was a perfect choice.
I graduated in December of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, an entire semester earlier than I had anticipated. The two internship interviews I had the week the shutdown began were immediately discontinued. Internships are critical for college students to gain work experience, especially in a field like cybersecurity, where even entry-level positions require 2–3 years of experience.
Like many of my peers, I was pulled into uncertain circumstances. I applied for job after job, never getting any callbacks. I finally received one phone screening and was told by the recruiter that I wasn’t a great fit and that I should apply for another position; I did and didn’t receive a callback.
After six months of applying, I began to feel discouraged and reached a point where I just wanted any job. I knew that I had the skills, but I was having difficulty communicating what I knew to employers. I didn’t work while in college, so I had no experience on how to sell myself to hiring managers.
That’s when I saw an ad for the Connect2Career program. I did some research, quickly applied and connected with a career coach at Access.
My mom got job help from Access about 40 years ago, so it is truly amazing to see this come full circle. Access originally focused primarily on refugee services, and my mom was a refugee from Cambodia. Access and the San Diego Workforce Partnership have been doing great work for so long, and it seems like this program was meant to be.
The career coach helped me build up my resume to highlight my school experience. My resume was too wordy and they helped me shorten it and then taught me to explain my knowledge in more detail during the interview.
It was great working with the staff at Access who are all passionate about their work. I built a relationship with the team and the program supervisor was impressed with me and saw my potential. When they said they were hiring, I immediately applied and now I am a part of the Access team as a case navigator.
Working at Access has been an excellent way for me to get started on my career and gain work experience. But, I have not lost sight of my original goal to become a security analyst. I am currently applying to cybersecurity master’s programs to be more competitive in the tech field.
If you’re thinking about joining the Workforce Partnership, do it. Everyone can benefit from their great programs. The incentivized work-readiness training is great, and the staff are knowledgeable and personable and have allowed me to go above and beyond. Access tailored the program to me, so I encourage job seekers to sign up to further their career and educational goals.