Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student, Part II

By: David

From the previous post I had written, I took up on the concept of the experiences of first-generation students (FGS) and decided that I would elaborate on my own experiences as a first-generation student. From the previous post, I mentioned the two ways that helped me through college were: (1) capitalizing on campus resources & opportunities and (2) connecting with staff and faculty. Today, I’ll be exploring on two more ways that really helped me in navigating through college. With that being said, let’s dive in!

Navigating as First Gen 2

Finding a Social Network
For any student entering college, it is crucial to connect with a community or group of individuals who they can socialize and find support within. As an FGS, it becomes especially difficult since there is no prior knowledge of the college environment and thus creates a barrier in finding a social network to connect with. Fortunately, most college campuses give students the opportunity to find social networks to get involved in, whether it’s Greek Life, student organizations, academic opportunities, employment, etc.

For me personally, the most difficult part about finding social networks was actually connecting with other students. Granted, I came to college and roomed with 3 of my friends from high school, but I still had the desire to branch out and network with other students. Finding a social network was not easy and required a lot of trial and error. After my first Student Activities Fair, I was so excited to join the various organizations I had interacted with, but was quite disappointed when attending many of their meetings and events because I simply didn’t feel like I belong. My turning point came when I made the effort to get involved with the Multicultural Center. As a student of color myself, there were a lot of similarities I could identify with and reasons to get involved. It truly helped me find a social network with Asian Pacific American Association (which I have mentioned about numerous times in previous blog posts!). To segway into my next point, what worked best for me in terms of expanding my social networks was to get involved on campus!

Getting Involved!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know by now that I am a HUGE advocate for getting involved on campus. Ultimately, my college experience has tremendously shaped my ability to navigate through college. Join a student organization, find on-campus employment, participate in events and activities hosted by the university, and conduct or assist with research in your academic department. These are SOME (many more out there) examples of getting involved on campus. So why get involved you ask? From the previous 3 points (capitalizing on opportunities, connecting with staff & faculty, finding social networks) I made in this blog series, getting involved is the best way to tie all of these together. I say this because through getting involved you pretty much cover all three areas and it is something tangible, or an action that anyone can make in terms of navigating through college.

My first year coming into college, I recall seeing a poster (you know, those inspirational quotes with the pretty pictures?) in a staff member’s office that greatly shaped my college philosophy. The poster quoted, “build bridges, not walls” and it had the most mesmerizing picture of a bridge I’ve ever seen. My point is, after reading that quote along with the captivating bridge, my philosophy was (and still is) to connect with as many students, staff, and faculty as I could before graduating. In doing so, I took up as many positions and opportunities as I could to branch out and expand my horizon of knowledge. In truth, this required me having to step outside my comfort zones and it was difficult at first I’ll admit; but as I reflect on my experiences, those moments of insecurity and vulnerability only allowed me to grow at a rapid rate professionally and personally. Being first-generation, it didn’t help that I didn’t have the knowledge or capabilities to interact and connect with others as I had wished, and often times I didn’t know what I needed or wanted to know. Life was rough, I tell ya. Fortunately, direct experience in leadership positions and active involvement really gave me a deep sense of knowledge and skills.

Conclusion
To wrap things up, I want to say that I am aware and sensitive to the fact that these four ways of navigating through college as an FGS might not be for everyone and that there are a lot of other ways to do so. By keeping things broad, I hope it helps push you to find your own way in succeeding throughout college. On a side note, I have come to observe the relationship between first-gen students and the university (campus life programs, academic programs, etc.). My conclusion is that the two have to meet in the middle. Students need to take an active role in securing (or at least attempt) these opportunities and services offered and be willing to step outside their comfort zones. On the flipside, the university needs to actively promote their services so students know what’s available to them and in addition, explicitly state their sensitivity and awareness of first-generation students.

My final tip for other first-generation students in navigating through college is this: be humble and open-minded. As an FGS, I understand that there is, to some degree, a sense of pride in NOT seeking help or assistance when struggling. The source of pride may vary from student to student, but it definitely exists. Furthermore, it is important to be vulnerable and allow room for constructive criticism and learning moments for your growth. This is more of a life tip, but keep your thoughts open to different perspectives to further expand your own and reserve judgement until proven. Stay warm Bulldogs!

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Photo source: Unsplash | Richard Tilney-Bassett

Social Media Squad at the UMN Job Fair

By: Tori

UMN Job Fair Logo_2017

We’re back from running social media at the U of M Job Fair! And what a successful event it was!

My co-peer educator, David, and I headed down to the Minneapolis Convention Center on Friday, February 24th to assist with showing students what the largest job fair in all of Minnesota was truly like. Check out the videos we posted on Facebook.

David & Tori UMJF

Lounge Tweet

Even though job fair season may be over, we have some great tidbits of advice from students and employers at the UMN Job Fair to share with students back on our home campus of UMD (Go Bulldogs!)

In Preparation: 

Tori & UMD Student UMJF

A UMD Mechanical Engineering student (above) shared advice on how to professionally prepare for the fair by: “Reviewing your resume and purchasing a portfolio. You’ll always win points with those two things!”

“Research the employers going to the fair by using the job fair app. That way you will know who employers are AND where they are located at the fair. You won’t have to look around and be distracted trying to find employers.”- Kimberly, Peer Educator at UMD Career and Internship Services (2nd from left in photo below).

Kimberly & Friends UMJF

At the Fair: 

“Take a look at how long the lines are, talk to other employers first to practice, then go to your top choices and dream jobs.”- PJay, Front Desk Student Assistant at the UMD Career and Internship Services.

Sadie Instagram

Sadie (above), a Front Desk Student Assistant in our office gave us her favorite tip while at the fair: “Collect business cards from every employer you talk to & follow-up.”

“Do a lap, know where things are. Be yourself! Dive in! Just go for it!”- UMN Student

Employers also offered advice to students at the Job Fair:

UMJF Employer Collage

“Research companies and apply for open positions before the fair, and then come say hello!”

Employer Resume Advice: “Keep it looking clean and easy to read by utilizing bullet points, bolded letters, customized headers, and formatting that flows.”

When approaching employers, “Confidence is key to standing out.”

“Don’t be shy, ask critical questions, be curious!” and remember, “It’s your time to interview us (employers) too!”

I hope this advice is helpful to you as you begin preparing for your next job fair, interview, or interaction with an employer! It’s okay to be nervous and not know what to expect, but use the resource you have to take the next steps.

Check out these social media sites for more information and tips from the UMN Job Fair:

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Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

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Ways in Preparing for Your Career Success, Part II

By: David

From my previous post, “Ways in Preparing for Your Career Success,” I mentioned that I would expand and explain on the tips and advice that I received from a workshop I attended a few weeks back. Though many of these may sound self-explanatory, I will still add minor details to each piece of advice. Well, what are we waiting for, let’s get started!

What Can You Do While Still in School?
As college students, we are privileged in so many ways, yet there is still so much to learn whether it’s in the classroom setting or a taste of the “real” world. So what is it that we can do while still in school to prepare for career success? Wait no further, let us learn more and dive into these 10 tips:

Develop your brand!
From online to offline, it’s important to put yourself out there in the professional world. Whether it’s now or later, branding will always prove to be an essential component in career success. Branding is important because it’s the image that you are portraying to others to see. Check out a past blog post from Abby, one of our alums, on 3 easy steps in starting your brand process.

Clean up your online image
In addition to branding, it’s important to clean up your online image! With the rise of social media, students today are finding ways to keep up to date with the social scene. Though this is very entertaining, it can also prove to be embarrassing as employers today are using social media as a tool to check on candidates more than ever (Source: CareerBuilder).

preping-for-career-success

Build relationships offline
Okay, I’ll admit it and flat out say that I suck at this myself quite bad. For our generation today, I perfectly understand that building relationships outside of our social circles have become quite the challenge. The anxiety (even for an extrovert myself) of making sure there’s no awkward silence when conversing has been quite the goal for students today. Regardless of communication abilities or the anxiety of awkward silences, it is still important to build relationships in real life.

Build relationships online
On the flipside of the coin, as important as it is to build relationships offline we should put the effort in doing the same online. Whether you recently met an interesting peer at a job fair, had a great discussion with a new colleague at a conference, or simply met a new friend at a party – Continue. To. Grow. That. Relationship! This is important because you’ll never know when you’ll need to keep in touch with that person again and it’s not as if you need to be their best friend or ally, but rather, don’t be a stranger should something come up that involves the two of you.

Tailor your LinkedIn profile
Going off building online relationships and branding, it is important to also tailor your LinkedIn profile! I can’t tell you how many times people have added me without a proper LinkedIn profile (no picture, no description of what you did, no message indicating of how we’re connected, etc.). Aside from my social media pet peeve, I want to emphasize that having a strong LinkedIn profile will attract a lot of recruiters and employers, and in addition, your friends and peers will be quite impressed. 😉 So take the time to tailor your LinkedIn every here and then.

Target your efforts
If you’re anything like me, it may be really hard to narrow things down sometimes (well, it’s hard every time actually). So what does it actually mean to “target your efforts”? In literal terms, it means, well, to focus your energy. A big mistake that I often run into is wanting to do everything! Despite checklists and planners, it can get really hard to focus on one thing, but, as always, just take it one step at a time.

Share your passion(s)
No matter what field or career path you decide on or even if you haven’t decided yet, don’t forget to always bring and share the things that you are passionate about – whether it’s art, social justice, sports, education, or anything else. There will always be opportunities for your to share the things you are passionate about and blend it with the work that you are doing.

Show gratitude
You don’t need a turkey and mashed potatoes to be thankful. Showing a token of appreciation to those who helped you goes a long way. This is especially important in cases of recommendation letters, referral to a position, or even connecting you to a third party. Always show your gratitude.

Follow-up
I’m terrible with this myself, but it’s important to always follow up with connections. This can be with professionals, professors, workshop presenters, staff members, peers from an event, etc. It’s always nice to send a quick reminder of who you are and to touch base with the person. Another thing to keep in mind is to always follow up after an interview. Following up and showing gratitude for the interview itself is nice and proper etiquette, but make sure to follow up as soon as possible!

Give back to your network
We all know that one person (at one point in time in our lives) who just leech and mooches off everyone – take, take, take, take, with nothing to give back. If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it would be this: don’t be that person! Be genuine and authentic towards your network, social groups, and relationships. Yes, there’s a sense of professionalism that needs to be maintained in your career but always be willing to give back to your network to help and assist others.  Don’t be afraid to be the first to “scratch other people’s back,” but do know that there’s a breaking point and that you’re not being taken advantage of. All in all, my guess is that majority of the people out there in the workforce will be willing to give back to their network, so don’t be afraid to do so either.

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Photo source: Unsplash | Daria Shevtsova

Ways in Preparing for Your Success

By: David

Several weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Midwest Asian American Students Union Fall Leadership Summit over at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. While at the conference, I attended a workshop related to career success led by Shane Carlin, Founder and President/CEO of Asian Student Achievement. From the workshop, I wanted to highlight two key aspects that I took away from the workshop and list out a few tips and advice that Shane wanted students to grasp while still in school.

Network During Your Time in College
For the icebreaker portion of the workshop, the sixteen of whom signed up were to partake in a networking activity. Essentially, it was a speed meet-and-greet, but the twist in the activity was that the time interval between every encounter was set at different times. For instance, the first encounter was only for 30 seconds, the second for 45 seconds, the third for 15 seconds, and so forth. At the end of the activity, Shane brought up two key points – the first one is, “What about you will people remember about you for the rest of their entire lives?” which we will explore in the next section of the post. The second point, “Network and give out your contact information. Just because ya’ll are college students doesn’t mean you can’t connect with one another.” This was one key takeaway I was able to grasp from the workshop.

To further explain, this really hit me because it made me realize that networking with other students is an important aspect of networking we usually don’t think of because we are so caught up in trying to network with professionals. Additionally, the activity made me realize that students are always networking, but we aren’t using it to our advantage. Yes, we may have these wonderful connections with other undergraduate students, but how will we use those connections to leverage in terms of career success, and at the same time, how can we help others in getting them to where they want to be.

Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself?
Every single interview that I have been through all had the golden question, “Tell me/us about yourself.” (Just to clarify, this section of the post will not be directed at how to tackle the question step by step, rather on some ideas to consider when asked the question or when networking in general). Back to the takeaway mentioned earlier, “What about you will people remember about you for the rest of their entire lives?” This is truly a deep question and Shane suggested that we all begin by asking those close to us in what makes us unique.

To further expand on this, there are some key aspects to making people remember you for the rest of their entire lives (okay, maybe not entire lives). First off, it’s important to make sure that whatever it is you are talking about that it’s positive and unique. The example given in the workshop was that you wouldn’t want people to know that you had 60 romantic partners in the course of a month. Instead, you could talk about how you were able to overcome some form of adversity and leverage it to your advantage. This key point then typically co-exists hand in hand with the second point, don’t talk about an achievement that everyone else already has! The example that Shane mentioned was a time when he worked with a student and this student happened to be a founder of a non-profit organization targeted towards helping cancer patients. The reasoning behind the student’s motive was that they, themselves were a survivor of cancer. This story, as Shane mentions, is what gets people moving (emotionally) and therefore will make people remember you for a lifetime. The last piece to all of this then is delivering the message. Talking about one’s passion, ability to overcome adversity, or personal achievements are great things, but what’s more important is the way in which you deliver the content. For instance, consider the student who started their own non-profit, if asked in an interview think of how much of a difference it would make if they either (a) talked about the experience as if it were another achievement, or (b) enthusiastically talk about the energy and effort dedicated to starting this organization because of personal experiences. I’ll let you be the judge of that. All in all, coming up with a story or aspect about yourself that people can remember for a lifetime will be a very difficult and time-consuming process, but hopefully, these three points will help guide you in “peering into your career” on a deeper level.

Final Pieces of Advice and Tips
In closing, these are some bits and pieces of advice that I jotted down during the workshop presentation to consider and think about. Though many of these seem common sense already, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves every once in awhile in what needs to be done in terms of career success.

What can you do while still in school?

  • Develop your brand!
  • Clean up your online image
  • Build relationships offline
  • Build relationships online
  • Tailor your LinkedIn profile

Professional Tips

  • Listen first!
  • If you don’t know, ask!
  • Follow the ethical path
  • Incorporate feedback into work
  • Keep track of your accomplishments
  • Have respect and courtesy for ALL staff despite their positions

Stay tuned for my next blog post as I will be following up on these tips to further expand and explain them and why they’re important!

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Peering Into the Crystal Ball, Part 2

By: David

Hey folks! We’re back at it again from my previous post in “Peering into the Crystal Ball.” As I mentioned in the last post, these experiences are experiences I wanted to reflect on throughout my undergraduate experience and with that I will also follow up with what I plan to do moving forward.

On vs. Off Campus Housing
For college students, housing is always one important aspect to the college experience. From the dorms to the on-campus apartments to off-campus housing and simply living off campus. A person’s experience may vary depending on their housing options. Coming in as a first year student, I chose to room with my high school friends and we all ended up living in Oakland Apartments. Following my first year, I decided to live off-campus and have been in the same apartment ever since (until I graduate). Now if I had the chance to redo my housing options, I would have enjoyed trying the other housing options for the college experience. For instance, I’ll never get the experience to live in a college dorm in my entire life again (but then again I don’t know if I would necessarily want to) nor will I get the experience in living in a house with roommates.

Moving forward, hope is not entirely lost as I still have my graduate experience to look forward to, though the two experiences are vastly different. With my current housing experience consisting of mainly commuting from an off-campus apartment, I look forward to on-campus housing options when looking into graduate school. It’s an experience I would like to have again as campuses are never the same and graduate housing is typically different than undergraduate housing.

Studying Abroad
It’s safe to say that traveling is an experience that every student wishes to have eventually in their life time, and the opportunity to travel as a student makes it even more special. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had the experience nor will I get the chance to study abroad through my undergraduate career which is one of my biggest regrets as a graduating senior. If given the chance, I would have enjoyed studying abroad anywhere for an entire academic year. If anything, to simply be away from home and get a taste of other parts of the world.

International traveling is an opportunity that can be done any time, and I look forward in taking advantage of future opportunities. For instance, one position that I have seriously been considering is teaching English as a foreign language abroad. 

Conclusion
In ending, as I reflect on my experiences throughout my time here as a student, I can truly say that I am quite content despite wishing to have the chance to redo or achieve certain opportunities in college such as studying abroad, specific housing options, academics, or selecting a different major. For every graduating student who is about to leave the undergraduate life, it’s a bit scary and sad to be leaving behind a time that has consisted of so much. It’s easy to reflect and regret on certain experiences that we did or didn’t do, and the important thing to recognize is that it happened. College is such a unique experience filled with numerous opportunities and a time for us to learn about ourselves, others, and the world and whether or not we were able to take up on those opportunities, we all turned out to be different individuals than we were when entering college. All in all, despite having certain holes in my undergraduate experience I’m truly happy with the things that did happen from leadership positions, coursework, social interaction, etc. My undergraduate career will be a time that I will never forget as I look forward into the future scope of things.

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Peering Into the Crystal Ball, Part 1

By: David

As I finish up my final year of undergrad, there are many things that I wish I could have done differently. Though I do not regret a thing, if I had the opportunity to redo parts of my undergraduate experience, I definitely would.  So come hither thy crystal ball and peek into my moments (excuse my random instant of Old English). Anyways, with each experience that I relive I will also follow up with ideas on moving forward so that these instances don’t become long-lived regrets (hopefully!). Also, in shortening the post I have decided to split this topic into two different posts. Enjoy!

Academics  

Like many students that I’ve interacted with or know, the biggest thing I wish I could redo are my academics. Rewinding back to my younger years I had an abundance of fun indeed, but now as a senior looking into graduate school I wish would have at least tried a little harder. Granted, my academics aren’t in the hole, but of course, they can always be better. Whether it’s studying a little harder for an exam, putting the extra work for extra credit, taking less naps in between papers, or skipping out on hangouts with friends to work on an assignment, I do look back and wish I would have made productive decisions to benefit me now.

Despite not being happy with my grades in my early years of undergrad, I still have some time to make up for it. Moving forward, I am committed as ever to bring my GPA up for grad school purposes. Two semesters does not seem like a lot of room, but in the end it’s better to finish with a bang and leave UMD satisfied. And that’s what I intend to do through precise prioritizing and time management (which have never been my greatest strengths). In the long-run, this will be something that I will come back to should I restart on my academics (graduate school).

Declaring A Different Major  

Reflecting back, if I could declare my second major I would do so differently. Currently, I am a double major in Communication and Psychology, but if I could, I would have declared in Communication and Sociology. By all means, I appreciate and still love my Psych degree, but through my experiences being a student leader I have grown a lot in being politically and socially aware of topics and issues facing our society. It wasn’t until my senior year where I became invested in topics related to social justice, equality, and equity. I believe I would have gotten to the point where I wanted to be mentally and intellectually (which is now) a lot sooner had I taken more courses related to race, society, and identity.

Moving forward, though I didn’t get the chance to educate myself more on social topics and issues in the classroom I know there will always be opportunities to do this: reading books, attending conferences/workshops, undergo training, etc. Ultimately, whatever career path I take I would like to incorporate these aspects into my career.

Conclusion

This sums up the first half of my insights and reflection of what I wish I could have done differently throughout my undergrad. Come back and check out the second half of my “crystal ball” moments soon in the future. Until then, stay warm, stay safe, and stay gold!

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