Finding your career path after graduate school can be daunting when you come from a family in which your parents did not graduate from college and are not in professional roles. As a child of refugees who was among the first in my family to attend college and also the first to pursue a Ph.D., I often felt that understanding the job-search process and professionalism in the workplace did not come naturally to me.
Fortunately, working in career services as an undergrad, in executive search after my Ph.D. and now advising graduate students and postdocs at the University of Pennsylvania on their careers has given me a stronger appreciation for how first-generation graduate students can level the playing field and achieve career success. I will offer some concrete advice on how first-gen graduate students can prepare for their future careers based on my personal and professional experience. Some advice might seem obvious, but I hope the reasoning behind why each action is important can empower students who may not have career support from their families to feel confident in forging their own paths.