It may sound like a simple piece of advice, but CFES National Advisory Board (NAB) Member Kevin Kelley speaks from experience when he tells students to “always say yes.”

Following that advice has served the Director of Life Sciences Production at TransPerfect well during his career since graduating from Fordham University in 2009. “The word ‘yes’ will unlock many doors for you,” Kelley tells his mentees. “Early in your career, either as an intern or just starting out in your first job, the word ‘yes’ allows you to get exposure to things outside of your job description.”

Kelley is part of a mentoring partnership between CFES and TransPerfect – the world’s largest privately-owned language services provider – that recently hosted 20 CFES students to expose them to new careers. TransPerfect employees volunteer at CFES schools to share stories about their own pathways to college and the workplace.

Growing up in Buffalo with 26 aunts and uncles and 47 cousins, Kelley had plenty of mentors, including his father who he puts at the top of the list. “He has been a tremendous source of professional support for me,” says Kelley, who cites his manager Alexandra Sinick and senior vice president Jin Lee at TransPerfect as professional mentors. “For most of his career, he has been in a management role and his experience in being respected as a manager, but not always liked, has helped guide me tremendously.”

“Your time is finite so you have to fill it with the activities that you are going to get the most benefit”

Kelley draws from his own experience while in school to help students make a connection between their passion and a potential career. In high school and college, he was very interested in international politics and global policy, but lacked direction on how to translate that into a career.

“I’ve helped former mentees form ideas about how to convert their interests and passions into real-life career trajectories to help them find a career – not just a job,” says Kelley. “Helping students understand the difference between the two gives them an opportunity to get an early start in their careers, and ultimately do what they feel most passionate about.”

Kelley also stresses the need for hard work and a sense of urgency to get ahead, offering mentees this piece of advice: you’re never going to find the time, so you have to make the time. The CFES Essential Skill of Goal Setting is especially important when it comes to making that time.

“Your time is finite so you have to fill it with the activities that you are going to get the most benefit,” he says. “It takes time and practice to understand what those things are… but if you allow yourself to be consumed by daily tasks, you will never advance and achieve your most aggressive goals.”

Kelley also coaches students on what not to say like “this isn’t my job” when asked to do something new. Saying yes and volunteering exposes you to learning opportunities and career advancement, he says. “In practicing this you will absolutely become overwhelmed by responsibility,” he adds. “We will never have an understanding of what our limits are unless we exceed them, so being a person of ‘yes’ allows you to put that to the test.”