By Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D. & Rabbi Adam Grossman
Endless Technology and its Next GEN Cost:
Many of us today could not imagine our lives without modern technology. It’s benefits are numerous including instant access to knowledge, increases in productivity, endless funny cat videos, etc. but there is a downside to always being connected. A study by B2X found that on average Millennials (22-37 year olds) look at their phones for over 5 hours a day! Other studies show that Millennials and Gen Zs are interacting with their peers via their smartphone more than they do in person. This reliance on technology has come with a great cost: limited knowledge of vital interpersonal skills and a drastic decline in the number of in person interactions people have with one another. This has resulted in the loss of meaningful personal, professional, and soulful relationships which are necessary for us, humans, to thrive.
A Model of Change With a Torah Twist:
Career Up Now, incubated as a national program by UF (University of Florida) Hillel, strives to solve this issue by facilitating organic mentorship opportunities and creating soulful connections among participants. By engaging emerging professionals (18 to 26 year olds), young professionals, and industry leaders with immersive experiences that promote the creation of personal and professional mentorships, networking, and community rooted in Jewish learning, wisdom, and tradition. With the help of a curriculum developed in partnership with Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, Career Up Now facilitates personal, professional, and “soulful connections,” to facilitate “organic mentorships.”
What?!? Soulful Connections & Organic Mentorships:
Soulful connections are relationships that form when individuals vulnerably share strengths and weaknesses guided by Jewish texts. Organic mentorships are based upon the Jewish wisdom of “Make for yourself a mentor” (Pirke Avot,1:6). The commentary on this mishnah is that it does not mean make a “primary mentor or teacher” or a Rav Muvhak, rather one should learn from all people one encounters and that all individuals can be mentors (The MaHaRal of Prague on Pirke Avot). At Career Up Now, we teach our participants that every individual that a person meets in life, and particularly in the Career Up Now setting, is a mentor – and that these mentors can serve as a tremendous value on their journey within their lives: personally, professionally, soulfully, and communally. By teaching soft skills and creating safe spaces in which mentees choose their own mentors and vice versa, both mentors and mentees are comfortable being vulnerable with one another. Career Up Now creates a space where individuals can speak not only about their strengths and accomplishments, but more importantly their failures, shortcomings, and weaknesses. In this environment, the seeds for personal, professional, soulful, and communal connections are sown, and with time and nurturing, they flourish.
Proof in our Model: It’s working!
Equally important to mentorship, Hillel the Elder encourages us to remain connected to the Jewish community (Pirke Avot, 2:1). A recent participant reflected upon their Career Up Now experience, “this experience was the catalyst I needed to spark my interest in building a Jewish and professional community here in Atlanta … It was inspiring to learn from the mentors and more on how to incorporate Jewish values into one’s everyday life.” Using universal Jewish values found in Pirke Avot 6:6 such as humility, having a sense of humor, attentive listening, quoting sources, careful choice of friends, and 43 others (48 Sensibilities for Professional Success, Cook & Grossman, 2016) to create a safe environment conducive to vulnerable interactions, in which participants share wisdom and develop micro-communities that are modeled after the overall Jewish community. Rather than the typical model where rabbis teach Torah wisdom, Career Up Now empowers and trains the mentors, who span the Jewish spectrum of connection and engagement, to facilitate group conversations around these values and the role they play in their personal, professional, and communal lives.
Reconnecting with our Roots while Connecting with Jews from Different Spaces:
As dozens of industry leaders turn out en force for each cohort, the emerging professionals feel the embrace of the Jewish community and the desire of accomplished individuals to help them advance both their careers and their Jewish journeys. Approximately half of the industry leaders and emerging professionals who engage with Career Up Now self-identify as having low to no current Jewish engagement. Each population has also indicated that through this inclusive approach, many, for the first time, feel that Judaism is relevant infor them in their daily lives. For example, one emerging professional in Los Angeles reported, “The concept of ‘not taking credit for what is good’ has always been important to me in my environmental engineering work, but I didn’t realize that it was a Jewish concept. Now, being Jewish is something that I can engage in everyday, which is a lot coming from an atheist with Jewish ancestry.” Another participant remarked, “I never felt I had a place in the Jewish community, but now I feel like I am part of a community that really cares about me.” One mentor, a well-known fashion designer, remarked, “This is the first time that Jewish learning ever made sense to me… This is something I can relate to.”
The Need = Scaling Nationally:
Career Up Now’s many early successes have poised the organization to scale nationally by pioneering organic mentorships and soulful connections developed through applied Jewish wisdom. With 11 cohorts and over 800 cohort members including 300 emerging professionals and 500 industry leaders in the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Long Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and San Francisco, Career Up Now has made it clear that there is a need, there is a market, and most importantly, there is ripe opportunity to develop and strengthen inclusive Jewish communities in which emerging professionals can put down their phones and meaningfully engage with mentors, their Jewish community, and Jewish wisdom.
Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D., is the co-founder of Career Up Now and believes that every Jewish community and soul can thrive. He is a Birthright Israel Fellow, Upstart alumnus, and Eli Talk Fellow. He speaks nationally, helps organizations reimagine their mentorship programs, and can be reached via email: [email protected]
Rabbi Adam Grossman is the CEO of the University of Florida Hillel which led to the co-founding of Career Up Now and The Selling Factory. He is an Eli Talk Fellow, Slingshot Guide Award recipient and member of Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders network. Adam can be reached via email: [email protected].
Click here to access the 48 Sensibilities for Professional Success Periodic Table