A Guide for First Gens Navigating the Job Search

Written by Fridaouss Nabine

Retrieved from Fyrst Gen, A Guide for First Gens Navigating the Job Search


For first gens, there is no passed-down how-to guide for navigating job applications.

When applying for a job, the application is the first and sometimes most daunting step in securing employment.

This article shares tips and resources to help you quickly and effectively tackle the application process.

While job searching, you may ask yourself:

Do I have the qualifications for this position?

Will they read my application?

Am I filling the application out correctly?

Does my cover letter include what they are looking for?

These are normal questions to ask yourself while navigating the job search. With over a third of college students being first generation, you are not alone in navigating challenges when entering the job market.

First generation professionals often face challenges such as a lack of access to a network, lack of diverse recruiting by employers, and having to turn down unpaid internships in your field of choice.

Developing a targeted search and understanding how to utilize resources can help in overcoming some of these challenges.

Apply for jobs in your areas of interest

Make the search easy on yourself by narrowing the sector or field of jobs you are applying to. When thinking about your skill sets and areas of interests, what types of jobs do you think you would enjoy and contribute to the most?

There are millions of job postings out there, so do yourself a favor- limit the scope and pace yourself. Indeed.com suggests applying to 2-3 jobs/day.

Once you have identified the sector and/or field you want to work in, utilize your resources to guide you to the right types of jobs.

If you are in school, make your career center a first and regular stop on this journey. The people here are trained professionals in the art of employment. The career center most likely has step-by-step employment guides and will host or invite students to career fairs.

They can also connect you to alumni who have the job you want or work in your desired field.

If you are not currently a student, job finding websites are a good first step. While you are probably familiar with the job finding giants like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor, there are also websites and job boards that post opportunities by sector.

On larger, more general job websites, you can filter your search in a way that will show you all of the opportunities available in your chosen area. LinkedIn offers a quick how-to on search filtering best practices as well as general tips for navigating the job search to find the best jobs for you.

If you prefer to cut to the chase and gain access to hundreds of jobs you are interested in, job boards are for you!

Capterra’s blog provides sites for jobs boards by sector. Check out some below:

  1. Authentic Jobs  and TechFetch (Tech)

  2. Bridgespan.org (Non-profit)

  3. Foundation List (Foundations and philanthropy)

  4. Mediabistro (Marketing, business development, writing)

  5. HospitalRecruiting.com  (Physicians, nurses, and non-clinical position)

Have a job searching process

Job openings, whether stated or not, are on a rolling basis. The position is open until it is filled.

The key here is to apply for a job as soon as it is published. Early candidates have  a better chance at securing the position because employers are usually looking to fill a position as soon as possible.

You can sign up for job alerts on a company’s website to be among the first to know when a job is posted.

While searching for jobs, you may come across one that was published 30+ days ago. These opportunities may have either been filled already or the employer has moved onto interviewing candidates.

However, this is not certain. As long as the job is still posted, you can still apply.

To keep organized, start a spreadsheet that tracks:

  1. What jobs you are applying to

  2.  When the job was first posted as well as the deadline (if any is given)

  3. Application requirements

  4. The company’s website and any contact information available, so you can reach out and check on the status of your application

Once you have established this organizational foundation for your job search, you can dig into the meat of the process — the application.

Submitting your best application

The most common components of the application are:

  1. Resume

  2. Cover letter

  3. Writing samples

  4. References

When submitting your resume, ensure it is not more than 1-2 pages. Most employers prefer a resume of about 1 page.

A resume should be tailored to the type of jobs you are pursuing. While your Curriculum Vitae (CV) lists all of your work, education, and volunteer experiences, your resume should be tweaked to only include the experiences most relevant to the position.

Grammarly.com provides a resume writing guide  to aid in your process, and you can find common resume templates.

Cover letters are your chance to discuss your accomplishments and experiences and how they make you the right candidate. Aim to keep these to 1 page.

Begin your cover letter with gratitude. Thank the organization for the opportunity to apply for the position.

Next, state what the specific position you’re applying for and explain how your recent experiences have prepared you to excel in the position.

Afterwards, discuss why you are a good fit for the company. This explanation can cover how your personal/professional goals align with those of the company’s.

Novoresume touches upon these points in their blog with their best practices on writing a cover letter.

Many applications do not require a writing sample, however, writing and research centered-jobs often do. In these cases, you will be asked to attach a sample work that demonstrates you already have experience writing in the topic and that you can write well.

When choosing a writing sample, read any instructions given on the type of sample requested.

General rules of thumb are to include a writing sample that matches the tone of writing the organization uses, select a sample that was written recently (usually with the last year), and avoid more sensitive subject matter. Indeed.com explains these points in their Guide to Submitting a Writing Sample.

Employers may ask for one or more references. As you start the job searching process, reach out to previous employers or professors and ask if they would serve as reference.

Asking early will make for an easy process so that you are ready to put down their information on the application or as soon as the employer requests it.

Having a reference who holds a leadership position in the same or related field to the position you are applying to can garner points with the employer.

Additionally you will want references that know your work well so they can attest to your skills.

Network your way to your next role.

By nature of being a first gen, you may not have as wide of a professional network as your peers whose parents and grandparents have been to college and worked in the US their whole lives.

Nevertheless, use any connections you gained from college or look through your contacts on your phone or on LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who can introduce you to the right people.

Networking is a useful way to get to know people in your prospective field.

As people get to know you personally, they will be excited to connect you with job opportunities you want and to vouch for your potential.

Most importantly when building your network, connect with any other first generation professionals. They have been where you are and can be your greatest asset on navigating the job search.

Read stories that first gens shared about their experience building a network while finding their first job.

Additionally, networking can be done with the employer before you get the job!

After submitting an application, be sure to write HR a quick email alerting them that you have submitted an application and are looking forward to the next touch point. You can also send them a note a week or so after your submission to check on the status of your application.

Doing this will keep you top of mind as they pick candidates to interview.

Breathe, you will find a job.

The job-scape can be overwhelming for those who are navigating this arena for the first time. While there is no silver bullet, the tips above can lead you in the right direction.

Finding what works for you is about taking advantage of the resources presented to you and tailoring them to your situation.

The suggestions and guidelines given here to help your job hunt are only part of the recipe. A successful applicant also puts themselves in every application.

Don’t hesitate to showcase your accomplishments and brag about your experiences.

Utilize your first generation identity to your advantage. Your experiences will add to the diversity of origin, culture, and thought in your workplace.

Many employers are also impressed by candidates that speak more than one language. If you grew up speaking another language, that will make your application even more competitive.

The fact that you’ve made it here and are now ready to enter the job market without the same type of support as your peers in a multigenerational collegiate family demonstrates your resilience and wit.

Apply to the positions you really want and trust that sooner or later your experience will land you on your feet.

By Rachel Amezcua
Rachel Amezcua