The Connecticut Governor’s Innovation Fellowship (GIF) is an initiative designed to help keep top talent in the state by placing promising college graduates in positions at some of Connecticut’s most innovative companies. The program’s pilot year kicked off in August of 2020 and ran until June of 2021. Despite the many challenges surrounding COVID-19, GIF was able to help 18 graduates from the class of 2020 secure full-time employment with high-growth companies in the city of Stamford. In 2022, the program is expanding statewide, with a goal of recruiting 30 students and placing the cohort in jobs across Connecticut. In addition to gaining a permanent full-time position, each Fellow also receives a personal letter from Governor Ned Lamont and a $5,000 stipend from the state. In order to receive the stipend, fellows must establish or keep their residency in Connecticut.
In addition, the most important and valuable resource GIF has to offer is being included in the network of peers that Fellows build by participating in professional development activities throughout the year. Each month, there is one professional event and one social event for all members of the cohort to join.
The professional programming offered is a great way to enhance skills, learn lifelong lessons, and connect the fellows with important mentors in our state’s professional ecosystem. For example, last year the president of GrayWolf Consulting facilitated an interactive workshop about emotional intelligence and communicating with clarity in the workplace. The Fellows participated in workshop activities and thoughtful discussion sessions as they talked about ways to deal with frustrating situations at the office. On top of working hard, GIF Fellows also get to play hard. The 2020 cohort participated in various social events. Some of the favorites were virtual trivia, paint night, yoga, homemade pasta tutorial, mixology class, and other competitive game nights. Next year, we hope to hold these events in person.
Luckily, not everything was virtual for our 2020 GIF cohort. The Fellows were able to meet face to face in August for a welcome event before starting the program later that month. They also got to meet several key leaders in Connecticut, including influential CEOs, the deputy commissioner of the DECD, and other executives who were eager to wish them good luck on their new journeys. This June, after 10 months of programming and frequent communication, the 18 Fellows were honored at the annual closing ceremony. Governor Lamont was there to personally congratulate the cohort, and reward them with a proclamation officially signed by him. Once again, many state business leaders throughout Connecticut were present to support the GIF Fellows.
Fellows have found that the knowledge they gain and relationships they build through the interactive programming will have value throughout their careers. Fellows will have the opportunity to connect with future alumni as GIF continues to expand, and we hope many will become mentors for new cohort members. In addition to developing connections directly tied to GIF, Fellows will also have special opportunities to network with other professionals in the business community. This summer, several fellows attended a sunset sail hosted by Connecticut Innovations, where they met over twenty recent graduates and interns from companies in and around Stamford. This was an amazing chance for them to receive even more valuable introductions to peers who can help them for years to come.
Participating in the Connecticut Governor’s Innovation Fellowship will open many doors for graduates as they navigate their first full-time jobs and begin their professional careers in the state. Connecticut is truly a dynamic place to live and work and is home to some of the most innovative and fastest-growing companies in the world. “The Governor’s Fellowship is an experience that I’m so grateful for, and I would recommend to anyone considering the program to apply,” stated Eunes Harun, a 2020 GIF fellow and Wesleyan University graduate. “Once you start working ‘in the real world’ you realize that GIF helps you learn the skills that you actually need to succeed and get ahead in the workplace… things that college doesn’t teach you. From the networking events with business leaders to workshops on persuasion at work, GIF gave me the connections and the skills I need to advance at my first job and impress leadership at my firm.”
Applications for the 2022 GIF cohort are open until December 15, 2021. We encourage anyone who wants to accelerate their career in Connecticut and meet key leaders in the state’s professional ecosystem to apply today. Visit the GIF website to submit an application or learn more about GIF. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.