Economically disadvantaged college and university students face a unique set of challenges when it comes to securing internships and early career opportunities. To help, we’ve gathered nine insightful tips from employment specialists, including career counselors.
Conduct Thorough Company and Role Research
Research! I worked as a corporate HR Director for over 15 years, and the reason I would hire someone is that they demonstrate in their resume, cover letter, and interview that:
- They know exactly how their skills and both paid and unpaid work experience can benefit my company in this role.
- They know exactly why they want to work for my company (based on reviews, customer testimonials, company mission, values, and history).
Using an interview prep sheet, researching interview questions and answers for the position through Google or YouTube, and following the company on LinkedIn will help you stand way above your competitors and get that job!
Bea Bowen, Employment Specialist, Evergreen Goodwill of Western Washington
Showcase Skills Through LinkedIn
Utilize a LinkedIn profile to show off your talents. Make sure to create a resume that directly correlates to a job description; the same goes for a cover letter. Lastly, don’t give up! Keep applying! Work with a career counselor if you can! There are so many free resources available to you, including many programs like Avivo, CareerForce, and Hired that can help you along the way.
Amanda Meuleners, Career Counselor, Avivo
Prioritize Long-Term Career Growth
Your first early-career employment opportunity will make it harder or easier to get your next job, so prioritize getting the right experience. Even if it means less money or some other inconvenience, make your decision based on “What will help you get the job you want in three to four years?” If you only focus on the current situation, you’re likely to make a decision that you wish you could change a few years down the road.
Logan Mallory, Vice President of Marketing, Motivosity
Utilize College Career Services
Make the most of your college’s career services. College and university career services, though increasingly recognized, remain underutilized treasures for aspiring graduates. These departments offer a wealth of resources that can significantly boost your chances of success.
From refining your resume to honing your interview skills, participating in career fairs, and even accessing internship and job-placement services, these offerings are tailor-made for students eager to kick-start their professional journey.
You needn’t wait until your senior year to tap into these resources. In fact, the sooner you engage with your institution’s career services, the greater your advantage in securing your desired job post-graduation. Even as a freshman, I encourage you to seek counsel from career counselors. They possess the insights to guide you toward appropriate courses and specializations that align with your career aspirations.
Jonathan Merry, Founder, Moneyzine
Focus on Networking and Connections
I didn’t have the luxury of connections or resources when I started out. The best advice I can give to economically disadvantaged college students is to prioritize networking.
During my senior year of college, I reached out to an alumnus from my school on LinkedIn. Despite my hesitation, they responded, and that simple message led to my first internship in digital marketing. It wasn’t about the number of people I knew, but the genuine connections I made.
Start conversations, attend workshops, and never underestimate the power of one meaningful interaction. It can truly open doors.
Joe Troyer, CEO and Growth Advisor, Digital Triggers
Leverage Support Resources and Programs
For economically disadvantaged college students seeking internships or early career opportunities, my advice would be to leverage resources and programs designed to support your journey.
Many organizations, universities, and government initiatives offer scholarships, grants, and mentorship programs specifically aimed at helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, take advantage of career centers, job fairs, and online platforms that provide information about internships and job opportunities. Seek out companies that emphasize diversity and inclusion, as they are more likely to offer support and create inclusive environments for all employees.
Don’t be afraid to share your story and unique perspective during interviews—authenticity and resilience can make a powerful impression on potential employers. Lastly, utilize social media and online networks to connect with professionals in your field and tap into their expertise and advice.
Sai Blackbyrn, CEO, Coach Foundation
Expand Your Referral Network and Attend Career Events
Networking is key. Many times, the best job opportunities come through networking and referrals from people you know. When looking for an internship or a job right out of college, it may help to reach out to family members, friends of the family, teachers, former employers or co-workers, and even alumni from your school to see if they are familiar with any openings that may fit your interests and skills.
Additionally, attending career fairs or other events where you can meet potential employers in person can give you an edge when finding the right opportunity for you. Building your network of connections is a great way to expand your knowledge of available job options and increase your chances of success in your college-to-career transition.
Mark Buskuhl, Founder and CEO, Ninebird Properties
Seek Remote and Flexible Work Opportunities
A key tip for economically disadvantaged college students seeking early career opportunities is to explore internships, fellowships, or jobs that offer remote or flexible work arrangements. Remote work can significantly reduce commuting costs and other financial burdens, allowing you to focus more on your career growth.
Additionally, look for organizations that provide stipends, scholarships, or financial assistance for internships or professional development programs. Leveraging online job boards, career centers, and networking can help you uncover these options and secure opportunities aligned with your goals.
Brian Clark, Founder and CEO, United Medical Education
Consider Start-Ups for Dynamic Learning
Start-ups are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to larger companies. They’re often more flexible, less bureaucratic, and can offer more opportunities to learn and develop professionally.
They’re also more likely to offer flexible or alternative working arrangements, such as remote or hybrid work. This is important for economically disadvantaged students because these arrangements can allow them to maintain an education or continue to support themselves while continuing to look for a job.
Moreover, start-ups not only foster a dynamic learning environment but also encourage hands-on involvement across various aspects of the business. This immersive experience can greatly enhance the skill set of economically disadvantaged students, equipping them with a well-rounded foundation for their career journey.
Luciano Colos, Founder and CEO, PitchGrade