Who are First Generation Professionals? First Generation Professionals are Trailblazers. They are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment (i.e. parents’ careers consisted of traditional blue-collar positions or those not requiring a college education). They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce, and when leveraged, they help agencies optimally serve our diverse public.
First Generation Professionals (FGPs) are smart, innovative, resilient, and motivated - the kind of people who make great leaders. Yet, some may face institutional barriers and personal challenges when traversing into the professional work environment. FGPs represent a promising resource, if we can ensure that our federal workplaces create a welcome and inclusive environment that enables them to thrive and successfully contribute to our mission accomplishment.
Opportunity is within our grasp. There are first generation professionals in our ranks who have all the requisite qualifications, raw talent and ambition. They only need equitable access and opportunities. It is imperative that we implement an FGP program that will (1) raise awareness of this population of first generation professionals, (2) identify the systemic barriers, in the form of policies and practices, that may impede our ability to maximize and leverage them in our workforces and (3) implement programs that provide critical information and resources to realize their full potential. FGPs provide intrinsic value to our workforces, especially if we can leverage not only their career-related qualifications, talents, skills, and abilities, but also their backgrounds and life experiences to provide culturally appropriate service to our diverse public constituents.
First generation professionals have already passed through a gauntlet of new and bewildering experiences in life and in the academic world, long before they step through the door on the first day of their career as Federal employees. Personal victories have proven their grit, tenacity, determination and intelligence, yet they may still have challenges with (1) self-efficacy, (2) managing financial quagmires, (3) tapping into social networks and building social capital, and (4) navigating unwritten workplace rules and advancing in their career. These are some of the areas our research has identified as obstacles and that our program will focus on.
The idea is to start small, building a program for first generation professionals in the Federal government, in partnership with other federal agencies/departments and local colleges and universities with First Generation College Student Programs. The goal— to optimize the use of this valuable resource to achieve our collective federal agencies’ missions.
FGP Initiative in the News: