After a severe leg injury, Aliya thought she might never walk again. As a young woman in one of the region’s poorest communities near Mumbai, India, her injury had potentially dire implications. It meant she could no longer work in the house to help support her family. Worse, it jeopardized her ability to pursue a career of her own. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Aliya’s situation depicts the reality facing more than 350 million marginalized youth worldwide: career development opportunities are limited, and minor events can become major setback.
As she recovered, Aliya took some big metaphorical steps forward. She studied hard and engaged with a valuable community resource. That’s where she met Elsa Ceccato, a mentor from Baker Hughes.
Ceccato is a longtime volunteer with Life Project for Youth (LP4Y), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that empowers disadvantaged youth worldwide. Ceccato had previously volunteered with LP4Y in India. But last year, she helped Aliya build the skills to land her first professional job through virtual mentoring.
About Life Project for Youth (LP4Y)
- LP4Y is dedicated to the professional and social inclusion of young people (17-24) living with extreme poverty, disabilities, domestic abuse, and exclusion with programs in 13 countries worldwide
- Established in 2009, LP4Y believes that all young people have potential and that inspiring them with an entrepreneurial mindset will help them contribute to an inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous world
- LP4Y was granted the special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council and its work meets 11 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals
Giving back: When early career development meets business mentoring
Career development is about building the hard and soft skills to grow professionally. It takes learning, guidance from mentors, and hands-on experience. At Baker Hughes, the ASPIRE program accelerates the careers of interns and entry-level professionals over two years. An essential part of ASPIRE is social impact – giving back.
Unable to volunteer in person, ASPIRE members from across the globe partnered with LP4Y over the last year to provide virtual career mentoring, mock interviews, and professional networking to disadvantaged students struggling to find jobs and internships.
Values at work: Young professionals coaching marginalized youth
“It was very moving to hear what Aliya had gone through and how she had somehow benefited from that terrible injury to realize that she was ambitious and wanted to be independent financially,” said Ceccato, a Lead Finance Specialist based in Florence, Italy.
A graduate of the ASPIRE program, Ceccato has a personal appreciation for the value of mentorship. “We should all be benevolent and try to give a confidence boost to their skills so that when they leave LP4Y, they can be interviewed without fear.”
Ceccato mentored six young people, including Aliya. “I asked them to introduce themselves and describe their target jobs. Based on their answers, I then asked typical interview questions and gave them feedback to improve next time.”
Dianne, one of Ceccato’s mentees from the Philippines, described her experience. “I am astonished because I learned so many things I can apply on my next interview,” she said. “I like the way Ms. Elsa asks a question and I answer unprepared because I don’t know what it is about…but it’s okay and I am proud because I know in myself that I can do it.”
Making an impact: Career coaching and corporate social responsibility in action
“This virtual mentoring was invaluable, not only to help these youths gain confidence in job interviews, but to help us appreciate different cultures and the challenges they face,” said Anojan ‘Ano’ Sriskandarajah, a Lead Sales Specialist based in Bristol, UK. “We also provided digital learning content, which allows them to gain IT accreditations and build skills to enhance what they’ve learned in school, especially if they can’t go on to university.”
This virtual mentoring was invaluable - not only to help these youths gain confidence in job interviews, but to help us appreciate different cultures and the challenges they face.
Ano Sriskandarajah, Lead Sales Specialist,
Ano and Maxine Bell, an Aberdeen, UK-based Sales Manager, lead the ASPIRE Social Impact Committee on its mission to "transform the lives of vulnerable communities across the world.” Based on a recommendation from Ceccato, LP4Y became one of three NGOs the committee supported for 2020-2021.
“As we were considering NGOs, LP4Y stood out.” said Bell. Everyone across the ASPIRE program came out of university and was lucky enough to be hired by one of the leading global energy technology companies. LP4Y provided us with an opportunity to give back while continuing ASPIRE’s focus on continued learning and development. Supporting that focus for youth without access to good education, training, and job opportunities was quite important to everyone.”
When the going got tough, fundraising got creative
“Previously, we held big charity fundraising events and bake sales,” Bell said. “But the pandemic made those efforts much more difficult.”
Despite the challenges, ASPIRE raised over $27,000 for LP4Y. Fundraising took place from offices (where applicable) and remote locations worldwide. One highlight was the #Move5ForYouth challenge in which employees walked, ran, swam, or biked 5 km, nominated five friends to join via social media, and encouraged each other by pledging donations that the company matched.
In 2020, LP4Y was selected as one of six charitable organizations which collectively received $100,000 from the Baker Hughes Foundation. Other top beneficiaries included:
- Oxfam’s frontline relief efforts in war-torn Yemen
- TECHO’s work to build homes and empower communities in Latin America and the Caribbean
From the funds raised to the valuable connections made, this project demonstrates the power of lifelong learning, resilience, collaboration, and giving back.
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