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Career Tips for First-Gen

Career Tips for First-Generation Students

Strengths of First-Generation College Students

As a First-Generation student, you have many unique skills and strengths that have helped you pave your path to higher education. These same skills and strengths will be a tremendous asset as you continue to navigate into the workforce. Below are some tips to consider.

Important qualities you bring as a first-generation student:

  • A willingness to be first and take risks in pursuing a career.
  • A genuine, intrinsic desire to have a better life through higher education.
  • Wanting to bring pride to your family, school, and community with your academic and career achievements.
  • A resilient spirit with the ability to persist in your goals and dreams.
  • The desire and ability to overcome the odds and barriers of life.


Career Conversations

Did you know that only 20% of jobs are landed based on the old traditional way of job postings and applications. Today, 80% of jobs are landed based on a connection. There are thousands of alumni that currently work in your career field. Having conversations with people in your career field will open up worlds of opportunities. Not only will you learn what it takes to succeed in the field, but you will also be creating a network which could lead to amazing things.

Learn Soft Skills

Soft skills are the non-technical skills that relate to how you work. They include how you interact with colleagues (communication), how you solve problems, your ability to adapt to change, and how you manage your work – just to name a few. Employers are continually stating that today's employees lack the soft skills to be productive assets and advance within their companies. If you want to set yourself apart from others around you, you need to possess not just the technical skills, but also the soft skills employers are looking for.

Gain Experience

Many students leave college with nothing but a degree in their hands. While a degree will help, you must also bring experience with you as well. Find a job on campus that relates to your future career field. Join an RSO and work your way to a leadership role. Volunteer or complete a service-learning project to gain valuable experiences (and they look great on your resume).

Ask Lots of Questions

People with knowledge love to share that knowledge with others. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of everyone around you. Ask your family about the career history of your relatives. Ask your professors and advisers about their careers. Ask your friends what their family members do for a living. Ask your classmates about their college experience. Ask people in your career field about their journey.

Develop a Plan

You Are On Your Way! Create goals and a strategic plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Be sure to celebrate the accomplishments that you make along the way – big or small.

Utilizing the Ferris Career Services Center

The Ferris Career Services Center provides opportunities for students to discover their career interests, articulate their skills, and locate internships and employment.

  • Handshake: Handshake is the largest career-focused community for college students. It allows you to explore career options, and find jobs and internships based on your interests. This platform is associated with Ferris State University and allows employers to recruit Ferris students, so it will be very helpful to you as you get closer to graduation.
  • Resume Worded: Resume Worded is a tool that helps you write better resumes by giving you feedback, suggestions, and examples. Upload your resume and job posting, and in 10 seconds, this resume scanner will scan the job posting you're applying for and highlight keywords and skills your resume is missing.
  • Big Interview: Big Interview is a training platform that was created to help students practice their interviewing skills. However, they also have some great resume and cover letter tutorials as well. Once you create an account, you can begin playing around with all of the resources.

Questions to Ask the Career Services Center

The Ferris Career Services Center can help you with all of your career related questions, but sometimes not knowing what questions you should be asking is a barrier in itself. The career services center can help with all sorts of things, including: teaching you how to find jobs and internships, making connections with alumni, and learning how to showcase your skills and talents in your resume, cover letter, and job interviews. Below are some of the questions that you may find helpful to ask: 

  • Could you tell me more about the services offered here?
  • I am not enjoying my classes and I am not sure if this is the right major for me.
  • What are some career options for people with my major? What jobs have graduates secured?
  • Could you give me information on starting a… (resume/cover letter /internship search/job search)?
  • What is the best way to find jobs/internships with in my major? How should I prepare for an internship?
  • How can I find alumni with similar interests and backgrounds who can help me with my job search?
  • What organizations hire interns or full-time employees from my major?
  • I have a job interview coming up soon. What can I expect to be asked?  How should I prepare?
  • Why do people go to graduate school? Do I need a graduate degree? How do I apply?
  • What does networking look like and how do I get started?