According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), there is a “trend toward first-generation students accounting for a larger share of four-year enrollments,” which shows that there is more need for the college career services to offer support for first-generation students.

If you are a first-generation student, you are not alone. Being a first-generation student myself, it was not easy when it came to making decisions about my career path or choosing a major. When I started my undergraduate studies, I didn’t really have my family’s input about what major to pick, simply because they didn’t really know how to provide that suggestion.

According to NACE, “the resource that yielded the largest difference between first-generation and non-first-generation students was the use of parents and/or relatives in the job search.” Many students on campus don’t realize that the Career Center not only helps with sharing job search strategies but also career and major exploration.

For example, students can meet with their career advisor to get assistance with exploring different industries to work in. I made follow-up appointments with my career advisor that helped me to put together a resume, learn how to go about the job search, and how to prepare for an interview. Throughout multiple appointments with my career advisor, they assisted me in navigating the process throughout college. “The Career Center meets with students from all class standings, freshman through graduate student, to discuss topics such as the jobs search, review resumes, and major/career exploration,” said Renee Carrigan, career advisor.

NACE also suggests that career services departments host activities like mock interviews, or on-the-job networking where first-generation students can be introduced to expected formal etiquette that is required for job interviews.

The Career Center offers various programs each semester to all students so they can network with professionals. Specifically, the department hosts events every semester that first-generation students can attend that touch career readiness. Some of the career readiness events include LinkedIn Workshops, InstaCareer, and Career Chats. When I started thinking about going to graduate school and which graduate program would be the best fit for me, I also attended the Graduate School Series that the Career Center hosts every semester. It gave me a good overview of the application process, how to research different graduate programs, and how to write a personal statement.

Valerija Gercar, Career Center graduate assistant and first-generation student

Finally, as a first-generation student, it was hard for me to consider getting involved on campus. However, using campus resources and staying involved with different organizations helped me to better acclimate. While there are many Registered Student Organizations on campus, there is one dedicated to first-generation students called “First-Gen Redbirds,” which supports first-generation college students academically, socially, and financially by providing tips and referrals, to increase awareness to the campus community regarding the needs of first-generation students, and to reduce the deficit narratives often associated with first-gen students by helping to foster a community that speaks life & confidence into first-generation students.

What I realized the longer I was a college student, is that being involved can help me connect with professionals in the career that I would like to pursue. This, in addition to connecting with a career advisor and attending career-related programs, has helped me prepare for professional life after college.

Valerija Gercar is a Career Center graduate assistant studying project management. Connect with her on LinkedIn.