Lessons Learned from a First-Generation College Student (Part 2)

There are too many career tips for first-generation students to pack into one blog!  Please refer to Part 1 of Lessons Learned from a First-Generation College Student if you’d like to learn more about networking, internships, and graduate school. In this blog, I will provide advice about how to make the most out of campus resources, actively engaging with peers and faculty, self-advocacy, and embracing your identity.

4. Utilize Career Services and Campus Resources 

I’m not proud to share this, but as an undergraduate student, I never stepped foot in the career center.  As a graduate student, I attended two programs and one walk-in appointment.  Most people trying to climb that economic ladder aren’t lucky enough to have access to a career center.  Schedule an appointment with a career consultant to help you with job searching, career management, and professional development.  Go into these appointments with the understanding that no question is a stupid question.  Take advantage of other campus resources such as academic advising, connecting with faculty members, attending events and the library.  As you all know, college is much more than academic classes, so participate in as many opportunities as possible while you are still a student.  

5. Ask All the Questions

I cannot emphasize enough how important communication is in college and the workplace.  During your time as a student, I challenge you to communicate with as many people as possible.  Sometimes lack of communication is connected to imposter syndrome, which is the belief that a person hasn’t earned their success due to the effort they put in.  If you feel like an imposter, you might think the more I communicate, the easier it will be for people to find out I don’t belong in college or the workplace.  I encourage you to communicate with as many people as possible and ask all the questions necessary.  You wouldn’t be in college if you didn’t earn it. 

6. Self-advocacy 

Another misconception for first-generation college students is that self-advocacy and exhibiting confidence can come across as arrogant or bragging.  There is also an underlying understanding amongst first-generation students that we shouldn’t be questioning supervisors or authority figures.  The sooner you advocate for yourself, the easier it will be.  Start by reaching out to professors if you have questions about the grade you received.  After you start asking more questions in college, it becomes easier for you to speak up for yourself about professional development opportunities and ask your supervisors questions when you’re in the workplace.

7. Stay True to Yourself

Play the game, but don’t lose yourself along the way.  Be proud of where you came from.  As a first-generation college student, you have a unique story to share that can inspire others from similar circumstances.  Your experience and adversities have shaped who you are.  You can mention your story in interviews to discuss the skills and characteristics that make you an asset for a company or organization.  If someone ever judges you for who you are, that’s on them, not you. 

Stay tuned next week for part 3 of Lessons Learned from a First-Generation College Student!

By Sophia Givre ’11, MA ’13, PhD ’17
Sophia Givre ’11, MA ’13, PhD ’17 Career Consultant Sophia Givre ’11, MA ’13, PhD ’17