First Generation / Low Income Students

Your identities can be an important part of your career, and may influence how you explore your options, prepare your story, decide on opportunities, or approach your career goals. This community is dedicated to information and resources that can help you reflect on your first-generation student identity and help you navigate pathways to success. If you know of any other resources that you’d like to see added to this page, contact Katie Kriegel.

Advisers in the CLS are here to help guide you towards the many resources and opportunities available to you as a Grinnellian, especially when it comes to out of classroom experiences like research, internships, campus groups and events, and experiential learning. The best way to get started on your own career path is to schedule an appointment in Handshake.

As a first-generation student, you have many unique strengths, qualities and skills that will help you on your career journey. Some of these include: initiative, persistence, focus, motivation, self-awareness, resilience, responsibility, independence, resourcefulness, problem solving, and determination.

  • Create Meaningful Relationships. Share your unique story with others who can serve as mentors on your career journey. Developing connections, building relationships and social capital will help you learn about careers, give you insight into the job and internship search, and help you grow your network. Faculty, advisers, supervisors and peers can all be great resources.
  • It’s okay to ask questions. Your family can help answer questions about your history and values, which can be a large part of finding meaning in your career. Your peers can help answer questions about your college experience because they could be going through it as well. Faculty, staff, and alums can answer questions you have about career resources and share their stories.
  • Gain Experience. A degree is only part of what you need for career success. A CLS adviser can work with you to find meaningful opportunities to explore and experience different types of work and environments.
  • You are already on your path to success! Take time to acknowledge your strengths and several accomplishments. Then assess where you are in the process, determine your next steps and who can help you move forward.

Your CLS adviser is here to help you clarify your career goals and plans, help you find jobs and internships, as well as how to present your skills and talents in resumes and interviews. Below are some questions that might be helpful to ask your adviser in an appointment:

  • Could you tell me more about what resources the CLS offers?
  • Could you give me more information about starting a… (resume/cover letter/internship search)?
  • What are some career options for people with my major?
  • What kinds of jobs have alums secured?
  • How much experience do I need before doing an internship?
  • How do I prepare for an internship?
  • What are some ways to find internships/jobs based on my major/interests?
  • How can I find alums with similar interests and backgrounds who can help with my internship/job search?
  • What’s the best way to prepare for an upcoming interview?
  • What is networking and how do I get started?
  • What should I be doing as a student to ensure I am able to get a good job after graduation?

Resilience and Self-Promotion

It can be strange to talk about yourself, especially when trying to say how great you are. You might be uncomfortable with self-promotion and might not be able to think about the last time you had nice things to say about yourself. That’s okay! The CLS is here to tell you how to do it humbly and still promote the wonderful future employee that you can be.

  • Add transferable skills to your resume: Include any past retail, babysitting, or high school activities. When first creating your resume you’ll need to think about previous work experiences, as these were all learning moments for you and is exactly what employers are looking for. Make an appointment with a CLS adviser to go over your resume together.
  • Don’t shy away from including scholarships or grants: For example, if you are a QuestBridge Scholar, you need to include this on your resume. These programs are wonderful achievements and show employers that you are a determined and committed student. This could very well be a talking point with someone reviewing your resume.
  • Develop a 2-minute story about yourself: Think of this as your go-to notes about yourself the next time you get asked “what do you do?” or “what do you want to do?” Think about classes you’ve taken, a favorite project you’ve worked on, what you might want to do after Grinnell (it might change many times, and that’s normal!).

Grit and Transferable Skills

Employers want to hire candidates that are reliable and responsible. You have already proven what you can do, now it’s time to show it!

Between managing your course load, part-time job(s), family responsibilities and check-ins, extracurricular activities, friends and more, you may find yourself stretched thin. There can be fatigue in getting it all done, but this is where you start to put yourself first. Think about your transferable skills.

Transferable skills are skills you have developed through a variety of experiences that can be applied to many different jobs and career paths. You have several that you might not even be aware of – give some thought to how your career can be enhanced by what you offer as a first-generation student. Here are some examples of what it means to use grit and transferable skills in the workplace:

  • Time Management: You are used to being busy and you always get the job done.
  • Prioritization: You know what your values are and how to arrange your to-do list accordingly.
  • Multitasking & Balance: You’ve probably worked a part-time job while being in school and you understand how to manage tasks when they start to pile on.
  • Work Ethic: You know what it takes and will work hard to make it happen.
  • Strength & Reliability: People know they can count on you and you will put your best effort forward.

Adapted from Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA).

Featured CLS Resources:



Build Skills

LinkedIn Learning courses are available to all current students.  For Alumni Access please visit LinkedIn Learning to start an account.

Contact Us

(641) 269-4940

John Chrystal Center
1103 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112


Monday 8:00am–5:00pm
Tuesday 8:00am–5:00pm
Wednesday 8:00am–5:00pm
Thursday 8:00am–5:00pm
Friday 8:00am–5:00pm
Alumni Connections  |  News  |  Events  |   Experiences  |   Jobs  |   Resources  |   Videos