BY ELIZABETH LITCHFIELD ’18
Job hunting is incredibly difficult, and it becomes even more of a challenge when you’re a first-generation student. I am one of these first-gen students trying to get my life together before I walk across that stage in May. My parents, while they both have a wealth of real-life knowledge, don’t have a wide variety of professional contacts that can help me score a job. I know my fellow first-gen students can relate to this, as it’s a normal thing for us to face.
Figuring out how to step into the post-grad world on our own is not easy. In addition to the lack of connections, I have to move out of my home immediately after graduation, because there are no job opportunities for me where I live, in rural Wyoming.
My town is what is called a boom and bust town. Our economy rises and dips depending on the mining industry, which has sharply declined recently. With this being the case, there are no opportunities for a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in politics and East Asian studies; there aren’t many opportunities for anyone.
A couple weeks ago I went into the CDC for a senior advising appointment. I was told that I should go home and network during winter break. When I told the employee that wasn’t possible due to where I lived she suggested I network within my family. I was a bit startled and didn’t know how to respond. I tried to explain to her my situation, asking for suggestions to secure a job before May. She responded in a way that made it seem like she didn’t listen to a word I said, and was avoiding my question entirely. Needless to say, I didn’t go to a second appointment.
I did however talk to my former advisor and a current professor of mine, both of whom were first-gen or low-income students in college. I explained to them what happened and how I just needed help. And this is what I got: suggestions for jobs to apply to, companies to look into, advice on post-grad education and even an offer to connect me with an alum in my field. I got all of this from two professors, not the place that is supposed to help me begin my career.
The CDC needs to realize that their step-by-step job finding plan doesn’t work for everyone. They have to know their popularity rate with students is low enough as it is. I hope for the sake of the students that come after me that they will get their act together.
This is my feedback for the CDC: Learn how to help all Mount Holyoke students, not just the ones who are easy to help. Not everyone can go home and network, not everyone can wait a year to find a job. Be better than this.
And to all my fellow first-gen/low-income/rural students reading this, know that you will find help in places you may not expect. Even if it feels like it, you’re not alone.
This piece appeared in the Nov. 9 issue alongside an article by NAIEKA RAJ ’19 under the headline "Upperclassmen weigh in on the Career Development Center."