Starting a career with optimism and enthusiasm. Junior Kone. Success stories

Junior Kone is currently studying for a Master in Management at IESE in Madrid and hopes to start a career in management consultancy

It is a challenging time for graduates starting out in the world of work with aspirations to senior management. The uncertainty caused by the global political and macroeconomic situation means companies are reluctant to make decisions about investments in people, making it difficult for individuals to get on the first rung of their career ladder. What’s more, this was perhaps the cohort whose education and development were most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and they are still suffering the consequences.

Despite these formidable obstacles, Junior Kone, 23, currently studying for a Master in Management (MiM) at IESE in Madrid, remains resolutely optimistic about the future. Embracing an unwavering belief in the cyclical nature of economic downturns, he confidently asserts, “Usually after these very bad moments, the economy starts growing, so opportunities will come.” His enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring.

Embracing change

He is especially excited about the potential offered by the current technological environment, especially artificial intelligence (AI). As he observes, “A lot of things will be substituted by AI. But this also means that new job opportunities will open up. This is how it works; things have always worked like that.” He is, however, well aware of the possible threats and pitfalls of this new technology. “We have to use AI as a support for decision making and not as a substitute for people taking decisions: we have to be the responsible ones,” he warns.

As, hopefully, one of those people taking those decisions in the future, Kone is clear what kind of values will be necessary, as they are now. Above all, he believes, leaders need to have a mission that goes beyond motivation based on money or power or prestige: “It’s taking responsibility, trying to do something that can be beneficial for the community, whether that’s local or global.”

Kone also says that leaders need to be flexible, to be able to adapt to different circumstances, to integrate into different environments. His multicultural upbringing and diverse academic trajectory underscore his adaptability and resilience. Born in the Ivory Coast to an African father and Colombian mother, his family’s journey took them from Africa to Italy, where Kone spent his formative years. His academic pursuits led him to Reims in France for part of his undergraduate degree and a work placement in Brussels, Belgium, before his current studies in Madrid, Spain.

The importance of mentorship and networking

At this early stage in his career, Kone is very clear about the need for mentors and role models. His parents, entrepreneurs who have navigated various ventures, serve as his primary sources of inspiration, instilling in him a deep appreciation for adaptability and tenacity. Reflecting on their experience in the movie industry – distributing African content throughout Europe – he admires their ability to pivot when the internet reshaped their business landscape. His father’s belief, “If you don’t have a job, just create it,” echoes as a guiding principle in Kone’s worldview, one that he believes comes from the African entrepreneurial spirit.

As a way of expanding his contacts, Kone is a member of two organizations aimed at helping young talent get ahead. Mentors4U is a mentorship program that connects students at Italian universities with experienced professionals. “When I joined my mentor was working in in a leading consultancy in Italy. He guided me through my career path, trying to understand if consulting was the right choice for me.” The experience of these mentors is invaluable, he believes: “Trying to understand your career plan and giving insights from their past experience because they’ve been through all the things that you’re going through right now.” The other organization he belongs to is Nova, a platform that has the ambitious aim of connecting the top 3% of the world’s talent. Every Wednesday Kone has a meeting with someone from around the world. Just talking to people and learning from them is something that he finds very helpful.

The spirit of entrepreneurship

Once he has completed his MIM, Kone aims to be a consultant in a top consulting firm. In the longer run, Kone’s main objective is to become a CEO. The alternative is starting his own company. And he has a bit of entrepreneurial experience, as he describes: “I remember when I was 15 or 16, one summer I was supposed to be studying for a French test and I had to learn the verbs, but I didn’t want to do it, so I decided to create a little app for my mobile that could be like a game where I could learn the verbs as a game. The problem is that I spent the whole summer doing that…! But when I finished, I decided to sell it to my classmates, and I made a little bit of money.”

Kone embodies a mixture of optimism, adaptability, and resilience, backed up by a clear set of values. His journey symbolizes the fusion of diverse cultural influences and a steadfast determination to forge a career path that has a global impact but that gives something back to society.

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