From intern to making a Forbes 30 Under 30 list: Riley Jones shares his secrets to success
At 23, Riley Jones IV has already enrolled in law school and started his own business
Freshman year of college can seem daunting as you try to navigate the overwhelming realities of a new school. But what if you had received a scholarship that provided financial funding, a mentor, a sponsor company, and access to conferences and a network of like-minded peers?
All of this was available to Riley Jones IV through the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) scholarship program when he started at Columbia University in 2013. In honor of ground-breaking baseball player and civil rights leader Jackie Robinson, the Jackie Robinson Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that gives four-year grants and comprehensive support services to minority students to help advance their higher education.
“Every JRF scholar gets a corporate sponsor, and Guardian was mine,” said Riley Jones, now a law student at New York University. This led to internships with Guardian in the summers of 2015 and 2016, and in the spring of 2018.
His Guardian mentor was Ellie Nieves, Vice President and Counsel for Government Relations. “She told me her journey to where she was in Guardian, and really exposed me to a world of not just the law, but the variety of things you can do with a law degree,” said Riley about their first meeting.
Besides the valuable mentor guidance, the program also gave Riley a competitive advantage because he learned so much about the real world while still in college thanks to the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s Strategies for Success curriculum, his mentorship from Guardian, and making relationships with colleagues.
Riley’s favorite part of the program was “connecting with peers who shared similar experiences in terms of background or socioeconomics, and who shared a commitment to academic excellence.”
On top of being a JRF scholar and three-time Guardian intern, Riley is a notable entrepreneur. Riley and Princeton University graduate Amina Yamusah co-founded Bloc, a software program focused on tailoring resumes and cover letters for the jobs to which students of color were applying. This program, he says, is transforming lives.
“People come to me pretty randomly,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Hey are you apart of that Bloc thing? That changed my life.’ Being able to see the impact four or five years later is really powerful.”
So powerful, in fact, that Riley and Amina ended up on Forbes 30 Under 30 list of social entrepreneurs. They were aware that they were in consideration but didn’t find out that they made the list until the day it was posted. At only 23, Riley was one of the youngest people to make the list. “That was pretty cool,” said Riley with a laugh.
When he graduates law school in the spring this year, Riley has an idea about where he’s heading next. He wants to work at law firm that deals with higher education similar to what he does with Bloc. But he doesn’t see the program going away anytime soon, as Bloc recently received a large grant.
And while his life has become busier, he calls his non-stop schedule “a great problem to have.”
With so many things already achieved and a busy future, Riley’s advice about being successful is surprisingly simple. “Reach out to people and just get to know them.”
Riley’s continued relationships with people he met at Guardian prove his point. “If you’re really able to dig in and get to know the people, people will be helpful,” he said. “For example, Ellie [Nieves] and I stay in touch to this day. Those people are very important down the line, it’s an investment in a relationship.”
It’s people, Riley advised, that can make all the difference in your career.
“To be succinct, take time to invest in people. That may be your fellow interns, your supervisors, senior staff – when they come speak to you, take advantage of those things, because they really are giving you insight that will give you a leg up.”
Riley was mentored by Tracy Rich, a former Guardian leader who recently passed away. “Tracy took me under his wing during my time as a JRF Scholar and Guardian intern,” said Riley. “Tracy’s example has shaped and will continue to shape my academic and professional journey.”
Guardian partners with the Jackie Robinson Foundation as part of our workforce development program, which helps prepare people, especially minorities, for careers. Our focus on workforce development is to address the skills gap and provide the right resources, including career coaching, advising on curricula and experiential learning, to fill those gaps.
Learn more about interning at Guardian here.