Durable first-generation students who complete degrees report positive outcomes throughout their years of college, and upon graduation, throughout their careers, According to a Gallup-Poll study. As you near graduation, keep persevering as you look for your first job outside of college. As a first-generation college graduate, I understand what it takes for you to achieve this.
If I could go back and give myself advice at college age, it was this: Find mentors and attend networking events your college offers. You will be much more successful at getting your first job with the help of mentors and connections created at networking events than applying for a bunch of jobs online.
As a first-generation college student at the University of Cincinnati many years ago, I was focused on my studies so I could graduate and part-time so I could make money. I did not have a support system within my family or friends to guide me on what it was like to find a job. It was only when I finally got my first job and mated with a mentor that I realized how helpful mentors are.
What is a Mentor?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a mentor as “a trusted counselor or mentor, teacher, coach.” To me, a mentor is someone who is a fan of yours. They really want to see you succeed and help you make your dreams come true.
Mentors can be formal or informal. Some companies offer formal mentoring programs where you are paired with a mentor-mentor pair. I had an official mentor in my first job. She was someone I could ask about my responsibilities at work or ask for help in understanding office dynamics.
Informal mentors are more common. I have had many informal mentors throughout my career. In graduate school, one of my professors was an unofficial mentor. He opened my eyes to the different ways I could advance in my career, and he encouraged me to stay in school even if I felt I was not suitable.
How to find a mentor?
You can have several mentors at the same time. To find a mentor, think about your communities. Is there a professor you want to learn more from? Stopped during their work hours. Has anyone met you at a job you admire? Invite her for coffee. Does your college career office offer networking events? Attend!
Your goal is to start talking to people about what you want to do in your career. You may need to put yourself out there by sharing your passions and dreams so you can meet people who want to guide you.
Remember that formal or informal mentors want to help you. They share the same interests as you. They may have enjoyed mentoring in the past or they may be eager to help others. They want to pass on their knowledge and appreciate the connection.
It’s never too late to find a mentor. If you are young or senior in college, work on finding some mentors who will support you upon graduation and find your first job. When you do find a mentor or meet informally with someone, come prepared with questions and be open to conversation.
Why first-generation college students need a mentor
The reality is that most jobs are through networking, not through online job applications. Many first-generation students do not have a family network to help them professionally. A mentor can help you find new job opportunities by recommending to people in the companies you want to work for, by answering your questions about the meaning of job titles, or by reviewing your resume. They are knowledgeable professionals who can help you translate your experience and interests into a format that will appeal to recruiting executives. They are there to support you during your job search.
Remember you took impressive steps to be the first in your family to graduate from college. Now you have a career in which you will take new steps that continue to change your life. Finding your first job will take effort. It’s okay if it’s not your dream job. You want to find a job that is related to what you have learned or your passion. Your career will evolve, and eventually you will work in a job that excites you. And mentors will be there to help you along the way.
–Amy Adkins-Davidi is a first generation college graduate. She is the founder of # 1 Premiere for Continuing EducationOffering to first generation students a Last-dollar scholarship with a mentoring program.