By: Peer Career Coach Yunuen Rodriguez

You did it! You’re in college and pursuing a degree in your area of interest, so what’s next? Well, sometimes college can be intimidating, especially if you’re a first-generation student like me. Don’t worry, it tends to happen to the best of us. I struggled to adjust because I felt like I didn’t belong. Everyone else around me was either doing an internship, research, and/ or juggling a part-time/ full-time job related to their major. Even though I’ve had six different positions (mail clerk, youth leader, election judge, team leader, usher, factory worker), I felt like my experiences were irrelevant in comparison to what everyone else was doing. While everyone else was doing such amazing things, I was working at different factories packaging boxes of candy and assembling boxes the first four months of the fall semester. I kept applying to other places like Walmart and Target to get out of my factory job, but I kept getting rejected because they wanted someone with “experience.” However, one day I landed a job as a PCC, which was a game changer for me. I’ve only been a PCC for six months, but here are my five takeaways as a first-generation student, a first-year undergrad, and a new PCC.

Don’t downplay yourself!

You may not be shadowing professionals, working on the latest research in the tech industry, or creating the newest gadget, but that doesn’t mean you’re not as capable as those who are. If you know you have the intelligence and capacity to do something, do it! Find a professor that’s willing to help you, or find a mentor to guide you as you try to narrow down your career path.

Yes, impostor syndrome is real.

If you’re not familiar with this term, it basically means you feel like you’re a fraud who’s fooling everyone around you despite evident signs of success. Before you start to self-diagnose, no, it’s not a disorder, but it is a phenomenon that’s common among college students. As a new PCC, I definitely experienced this because I was the youngest one there. I automatically assumed that because of my age, my thoughts and ideas will be dismissed. However, it turned out to be the complete opposite and it has been a very positive learning experience that has contributed to my professional development. 

Your experiences are valid.

In some jobs I’ve had, I’ve been singled out for being the youngest one in the group even though we all had the same duties. Let me be one of the first people to tell you this: Your story is unique, own it! You will always have something to offer, no matter what others may think!

Age ≠ incompetence.Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise. For example, during my time in the factories, many of the older women I worked with assumed I wouldn’t be able to relate to their experiences. Some, however, didn’t discredit me and were surprised by what I had to add to the conversation, which allowed me to develop a positive relationship with them and converse on multiple different topics. Once you get rid of those negative thoughts, you’d be surprised by how many doors can open for you.

 

Success is NOT linear.

 

Stop comparing your chapter five to someone’s chapter nineteen! Your path will never look like someone else’s. This is something I’ve always known, but it’s also something that I have to remind myself when impostor syndrome kicks in. Yes, you may have to overcome many societal pressures, but recall that it’s your life, only you know what pace you should be moving at and what’s best for you. 

The final tip/ lesson/ reminder that I have for you is…. ready? I saved the best for last…

Be yourself!

Yes, it may be a cliche phrase, but being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t have FUN. You can be an old soul and still embrace your inner child! It’s a little something I like to call BALANCE 🙂

6 Things I Learned as a First Year Undergrad