Should College Pedigree Matter? Apparently Not. First-Generation College Graduate And Lifelong Educator Alicia Jackson-Warren Makes The Case Hiring Managers Need To Hear, Episode 53

Whether you think you have or lack the pedigree to be successful is a big topic amongst my career coaching clients. This conversation was such a pleasure because Alicia Jackson-Warren and I had a great dialogue that covered a myriad of ideas around someone’s pedigree in terms of academic credentials and we touched upon messages based on our cultural backgrounds. This is a ripe conversation for anyone who has felt overlooked, unseen, or even marginalized due to having gone to a community college, or not having worked for big-name brands, or simply because you may have not felt as “fancy” as some of those working for the world’s most competitive Fortune 500 companies. Alicia and I share how you can market yourself and sell yourself for your resiliency, ability to think creatively, and rise up as the underdog we both love advocating for.

Alicia Jackson-Warren is the Program Director of Career Development and Internships at Prince George’s Community College. Ms. Jackson-Warren has been employed at PGCC since 2006 and has worked in multiple roles including Adjunct Professor of Spanish, Retention Advisor, Interim Program Director of Student Support Services/TRIO, and Academic and Career Advisor. Ms. Jackson-Warren has received awards and recognition for exemplary service and leadership in student affairs and community involvement. She represented PGCC in her appearance on the News Channel 8 “Let’s Talk Live” program.

Most notably, Ms. Jackson-Warren appeared on Good Morning Washington for the Guide to Launching a Successful Career segment. This interview garnered more than 30,000 likes on social media within one week following its posting. The segment continues to be viewed and circulated on social media. This segment also led to Ms. Jackson-Warren earning the Dare to Excel award from Prince George’s Community College. Ms. Jackson-Warren is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and serves through Delta Zeta Zeta Chapter of Prince George’s County, MD. Throughout her 30+ year membership, she has served in various leadership capacities in the sorority.

Currently, she chairs the Autism Awareness committee and is the 2020 Team Captain for the Autism Speaks Walk – Baltimore. Educational achievements include: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (ODU); Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and Certificate of College Teaching (George Mason University) Candidacy in the Doctor of Education Leadership program and pursuing her Educational Specialist in Leadership degree (American College of Education). This is such a great conversation for anyone who has felt like they had to prove themselves in pursuit of their upward mobility whether you are a first-generation college grad or not. This is so shareable. Enjoy the candid conversation.



  • Education Why did you decide to pursue a PhD?
  • Pressure How does it feel to be a first-generation college student and/or graduate? 
  • Obstacles The reality for plenty of community college students sometimes includes being teenagers taking on adult responsibilities in addition to getting an education.
  • Supporting Others Here are some ideas on how to encourage each other as online learners and on how we can bring awareness to important topics so we can all make well-informed choices.
  • Pedigree Self-belief vs. how others perceive you. Any stigmas around hiring 2-year community college grads?
  • Ready We discuss the idea of staying ready so you don’t have to get ready in pursuit of upward mobility.
  • How To Ask For Help Breaking-free from cultural messages and self-sufficiency norms (Latinos, People of Color)
  • Fear Of Being Judged Learning how to value yourself and your efforts vs. caring about what others think
  • Hiring A Community College Graduate What’s the value of bringing in someone unlike yourself to join your team especially now given the need for new thinking given the pandemic?
  • Mindset What can’t I do vs. what can I do?
  • Marketing Your Degree If your alma mater does not have a “brand” name then the onus is on you to master marketing yourself, here’s how.
  • Life’s A Relay Race The notion of paying it forward regardless of your circumstances is discussed.
  • Hope For Everyone’s Safety Call to action and hope on getting through this pandemic in the U.S. and beyond.
  • Reaching Out To Alicia Check her out on Twitter

Links to quench your curiosity:

Did you enjoy the conversation? 

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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