By Skills

Kaishon Holloway, UConn 2015, shares his story and advice for current students looking to create their dream careers.

I was born in Fairfield County, Connecticut which is aptly named the Gold Coast — it’s home to countless hedge funds, billionaires, and sprawling estates. However, it’s also home to one of the largest wealth gaps in the country — that’s where I come in. I was raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut which is located in the northern part of the county and on the southern part of its socioeconomic spectrum. We don’t have many silver spoons in that part of the Gold Coast. This unique dichotomy of extreme wealth and extreme poverty was the backdrop of my life. Being Black, gay, and at the lower end of this ever-present wealth gap motivated me early on. I quickly learned that a formal education and a successful career was going to be my pathway to a storybook ending.

My career journey started in 2011. I had just graduated high school and landed my first job as a cashier at a local family-owned grocery store. A month later, I started my first semester at UConn Stamford, and a month after that my father passed away unexpectedly. Shortly after my father’s untimely death, my mom spent a month in the hospital dealing with her own health issues and I finally turned 18. This was a huge turning point in my life — facing my parents’ mortality while juggling the new responsibilities of young adulthood.

This series of unfortunate events gave me a life-altering jolt and much needed wake up call. Besides burying my father, the most vivid memory of that time was visiting my mom in the hospital on my 18th birthday. We spent hours talking about my future and mulling over existential questions about life and who I wanted to be in this world. All while facing the very real possibility that I may be doing it alone.

By the end of the conversation, I decided that I was going to pursue a career in luxury real estate. My interest in the field was heavily influenced by the beautiful homes in neighboring towns and the palatial mansions I saw featured on shows like Million Dollar Listing. That evening I started to design the life that I wanted; I looked up every luxury real estate brokerage in the area and emailed hundreds of agents about potential mentorship opportunities. Two weeks later I landed my first internship working for a top, high-end real estate agent in Greenwich, Connecticut and the rest is history.

Over the next four years, I worked various jobs and internships across multiple industries. This journey wasn’t always a yellow brick road and definitely presented its challenges. Some of those challenges included: working multiple jobs at once, commuting long hours on public transportation, getting rejected from my school’s business program three times, and being forced to drop out of college for a year due to financial strain. Even so, I was still able to stay employed, get back into school, and finally graduate. Ultimately, I leapt over all of the hurdles in my way to build the career of my dreams.

Here’s what I learned along the way:

Learning and staying true to these principles has served me well throughout my experience. I hope these tips help you navigate your career journey and fully live your own personal mission.

This content was originally published here.

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