First-generation students may be at a disadvantage when searching for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs. Yet these students can minimize or even reverse these disadvantages or even reversed them. How? By working closely with the professionals in their college career centers.
I recently reached out to some career experts to pick their brains about how first-generation college students can find new part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs. Why? Because College Recruiter believes that every student and recent graduate, including first-generation college students, deserve great careers.
I was grateful to hear from two experts who work for the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College. The school’s mission is to provide an intellectually adventurous education in the liberal arts and sciences through academic programs recognized internationally for their excellence and range; to draw students from all backgrounds into an exceptionally diverse and inclusive learning community with a highly accomplished, committed, and responsive faculty and staff; to continue building on the College’s historic legacy of leadership in the education of women; and to prepare students, through a liberal education integrating curriculum and careers, for lives of thoughtful, effective, and purposeful engagement in the world.
Roshonda DeGraffenreid, Senior Associate Director, External Relations, strongly recommended that first-generation students make good use of the services provided by their college’s career center office. “College career centers are in a position to offer guidance to first-generation college students during and after their college experience. Through career exploration and experiential learning, career advisors help them to broaden their perspectives and career possibilities.
Jennifer Watermill, who manages the career exploration and experiential learning team, added some helpful definitions. “Career exploration is the practice of both understanding yourself (your values, interests, strengths, and personality) and exploring all of the possible careers that you could pursue, in the interest of identifying careers that will be satisfying and meaningful to you. Experiential learning is, simply put, learning through experience. Students engage in real-life activities while purposeful reflecting on how those activities enrich their academic studies as well as building skills, abilities, and self-awareness. Internships, research, study abroad, volunteering, student jobs, student government, and athletics are all examples of activities that can all be utilized for this purpose.”
“Career centers also provide access to professional networks and mentoring opportunities with alums and employers”, continued Roshonda. “In doing so, first-generation college students are able to build meaningful relationships and experiences that will support them in obtaining their post-graduate goals. Career exploration and experiential learning connect academic work with high-impact experiences through identifying a student’s individual skills, values, and career interests. Examples of high-impact experiences are internships, undergraduate research, laboratory and field experiences, capstone projects, studying abroad, & involvement in student organizations.”
Bottom line? Work closely with your career services office to understand your career-related goals, create a plan for reaching those goals, and then execute on that plan by, as said by Jennifer, using “experiential learning to ‘try on’ potential careers through activities such as internships and research.”