Alumni share insight on interviewing and transitioning to the workplace as a first-generation and low-income student.

On October 22nd, CCE, First-In-Family Programs, the Academic Success Program, and FLIP co-sponsored a virtual alumni panel and networking event around telling your story as a FLI student. Alumni shared the ways in which their identity played a role in successfully navigating Columbia and the job search.

Identity in the Workplace

The FLI identity has come up for some alumni in professional settings, depending on the space, mostly in discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Alumni emphasized that your own level of comfort is an important factor — as this is part of your identity and if you don’t bring it up that doesn’t move it down on the order of your identities. There are a lot of professional settings talking about diversity and inclusion right now and people are being more direct about it.  

Is Diversity Embraced at your Target Organization? 

The interview process is an opportunity not only for a company to get to know you but for you to get to know the company. Alumni encouraged students to use the interview as a space where you can assess how an organization embraces diversity. For example, you can ask how first-generation or low-income students have been supported while working there. 

Research Before and Enter the Interview with Key Points

Before the interview, spend some time preparing by researching the organization as well as developing several bullet points you want to get across to your interviewer(s). By the end of the interview, you know you have at least addressed these core points before you leave. If your identity is one of those key points, you should feel empowered to bring it up. 

Alumni also advised that there may be times in the interview you cannot control for, such as microaggressions, however, you can keep control of the interview and proceed in the discussion. Explain how your background has motivated and prepared you to pursue the role and how the role fits into your long term goals. 

Lastly, alumni emphasized not to let whether or not you get a job affects how you see yourself. If you are competitive enough to get into Columbia, you can land a job in your dream company. Believe in yourself.

Use Your Time at Columbia Wisely

Alumni also reflected back on some of the skills and qualities from their Columbia experience that they were able to highlight in the job search process, including coursework (both technical and humanities) study abroad programs, and exploring interests through on-campus organizations. 

What’s Next?

Check out our Info for First-Generation and/or Low-Income Students page to learn more about ways to build your network as well as many other valuable resources in navigating your career.

Connect with us: You can schedule a virtual appointment with a career counselor through LionSHARE. We also offer drop-in hours through our Quick Questions.