Mentorship Cultivates Resilient Future Leaders

Capital One is developing a future workforce of resilient, innovative leaders capable of managing unexpected challenges

A recent CNBC article describes the class of 2020 as the class of COVID-19 – forced to give all of their future plans a major rethink. From school to finances to where they’ll live in the fall, today’s students, the next generation of leaders, are left to exist with more questions than answers, with feelings of heartbreak and optimism that come in waves. And while it is difficult to say how things will play out, Capital One is prepared and at-the-ready to help, which is why we’ve decided to honor our paid summer internship plans through virtual platforms for the incoming class of nearly 1,000 summer students. 

A Story of Mentorship 

Pre-pandemic, our very own Capital One Canada President Jennifer R. Jackson participated in a mentorship program called CEOx1Day, which gives students the opportunity to learn business and leadership skills from top executives, encouraging diverse representation at the top. Joining her was twenty-year-old student Mohammed Ali.

Programs like CEOx1Day may be especially helpful for participants like Mr. Ali, a third-year student at York University’s Schulich School of Business, and a mentor himself to students at Toronto-based Schulich and in his community.

“What I appreciated about this program was that it had a good mix of students from underrepresented groups that you don’t see as much in corporate Canada,” says Dr. Jackson. “My ability to leave an imprint on the rising next generation was really appealing. And, as a leader, now more than ever is the time to support the people coming after us who aspire to be where we are.” 

Research shows that mentors are instrumental for the academic success and career development of diverse talent. According to a 2019 U.S. study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, taking a more intentional, inclusive and evidence-based approach to mentoring students could help engage and retain a broader group of students. The report also found that effective mentoring relationships had an overall positive effect on academic achievement and degree attainment, as well as on career success and satisfaction. 

In a post COVID-19 world, mentorship programs like these are even more instrumental in developing a future workforce of resilient, innovative leaders capable of managing unexpected challenges on a global scale, creating better pathways to vibrant futures and financial well-being for generations to come. 

We asked Mr. Ali if his thoughts on mentorship had shifted since the pandemic, but he said,  “COVID-19 has caused roadblocks for students in ways we never imagined. Students can’t pop over to a mentor’s office for a quick question or brainstorm session on a whiteboard. The tangible is now intangible. But, a great mentor is able to tackle each situation with resilience. Personally, I believe one of the best ways to cultivate resilience is by embracing vulnerability.” 

He went on to say, “I sensed that Dr. Jackson, as a black person like myself, and a female [business leader] in Canada, had probably gone through some adversity. And in fact, she shared with me that our upbringing was very similar – she also went to a high school outside her area to get a better education, so we immediately discovered a common ground. She seemed like someone I’d known for a long time.”

Providing a Rewarding Learning Experience for Future Leaders

Our remote internship experience aligns with our existing, company-wide approach of having the vast majority of associates work remotely. This change allows us to continue to provide a rewarding and impactful learning experience for our interns while prioritizing the health and safety of the entire Capital One community.   

Knowing students’ experience will be virtual for the indefinite future, we’ve communicated to interns that they are welcome to work from wherever is most convenient for them. To alleviate any anxiety around travel or finding housing, there is no expectation that our interns will be in or near the office location originally selected for their internship. 

“The circumstances we’re thrown into (good, bad and ugly) happen for a reason. It’s all about our ability to adapt and stay optimistic,” said Mr. Ali. “A saying that I have always lived by is, ‘Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain. Now, more than ever, we need to learn to control the things that we can and let go of the things we can’t.’”  

Of course, the remote internship program at Capital One is just one of the ways we continue to show our support of the next generation of leaders. We aim to cultivate resilience through each challenge we face, gaining more experience and wisdom along the way.

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