Career, Career Development, Jefa Conversations

Jefa Conversations-Becoming The First Gen Mentor

January is National Mentoring Month, and I can’t think of a better time to feature this amazing jefa! I connected with Giovanna “Gigi” on TikTok last year and have been following her journey ever since.

Her commitment to the first-gen community is inspiring and exactly what this community needs! Keep reading to learn more about Gigi and her journey to becoming The First Gen Mentor.

What inspired you to start The First Gen Mentor?

I joined Tik Tok for fun as a distraction from the pandemic in 2020. Since I had free time, I decided to see what it was all about. At first, I was scrolling and watching funny videos, but in March of 2021, I came across a viral video of a white woman bragging about being a legacy law student and how both of her parents are lawyers. She talked about how she has it so much easier because if she gets stuck on her homework or with something she’s working on, she can hop on a Zoom call, and they can walk her through it.

As a first-gen myself, I thought about all the other first-generation students who would come across the video. So, I decided to stitch the video with a positive message directed at the first-generation community. It was well received and resonated with a lot of people. It made me realize it was a voice missing on Tik Tok and an opportunity to serve an underserved community by providing mentorship and financial literacy education.

What topics do you talk about on your platform?

I focus on three pillars: financial literacy, career advice, and race relations related to personal finance and careers.

Personal finance education is lacking in our community, and first generation students and BIPOC need to understand this information early on. Financial literacy education isn’t provided to us in school or at home, and financial jargon intimidates us. So to me, it’s important to simplify personal finance and stay away from jargon to make it accessible to everyone.

Growing and maximizing your income go hand in hand, so I also focus on sharing career advice specifically for women. And intertwined in those two, I talk about race. I’ve done a lot of introspection lately, and I’ve learned that financial literacy isn’t accessible to many people because of system issues. And It’s important to note that as first-gen and BIPOC, we are often swimming against the current. It’s also made me realize and acknowledge that my path has been harder because of these unspoken rules.

Your videos on social media are so creative and informative. Where do you get your inspiration and what has been the response from your community?

I mostly share my personal experiences, whether it’s my mishaps, my career failures, or any other challenges I’ve encountered. I’ve realized there are many systemic barriers and real challenges in being a WOC in the workplace or being the first one in your family to do anything. The response from my community has been positive. I receive many messages of people sharing they learned something new or thought about something differently. Every time I get messages like this, I realize we need to normalize these conversations, and Tik Tok can be a great educational tool!

What are some of the unique challenges the first-generation community faces right now?

One of the biggest challenges we face is that we have limited financial support, if any, from our families. And it’s important to acknowledge that the toxic mindsets that helped our families get by will not allow us to thrive. Many of us have to worry about taking care of our parents, whether it’s giving them a monthly stipend or dealing with the possibility of providing for them during their retirement. People who have access to generational wealth don’t have to face this, so we need to acknowledge we have a different starting line. I hope to inspire the first-generation community to take action sooner rather than later.

Is there a one experience that has made a significantly impact on your career?  

The biggest realization I had was when I realized that working hard and being humble is not enough in the workplace. It’s important to self-promote even if it’s uncomfortable. It’s still uncomfortable for me! Once I embraced the importance of self-promotion, I started seeing a significant change in my career and how my boss and colleagues treated me. I think it’s the immigrant mindset where you work hard and don’t want to be seen, but corporate America is not set up this way.

What are five things that you would tell your younger self?

-Learn how money works sooner rather than later, and make it a priority in your life. Your school, your parents, or your employers are not going to do it for you. The earlier you learn about personal finance, you will set yourself up for success.

-Seek mentorship. That’s not something I did, but many people are willing to support young people. You can find a mentor through work, a professional affiliation, or your alma mater, and it will help you tremendously in your professional and personal growth.

-Make building an emergency fund a priority, at least 4-6 months of expenses. I didn’t understand the benefits of having an emergency fund at the time, but I would’ve avoided a lot of headaches in my twenties if I had done this. I would’ve avoided burnout, mental health issues, and financial stress.

-Don’t lose sight of your career goals. It’s easy to get complacent with a job that might not be exactly what you want to do, but it pays well, and you have your weekends off. I was very passive the first three and a half years of my career and had to do a career pivot. So, take the time to check in with yourself every 6 or 9 months and ask yourself if it’s still what you want to be doing.

-Normalize talking about your salary with your colleagues. It’s important for compensation and transparency to have this conversation, and most people are willing to discuss salaries, especially if it’s someone you have built trust and rapport with.

What’s one key takeaway you want your community to have when they watch your content?

I want people to know that we first gens have a different starting line. Many of us don’t have generational wealth or parents who can help us with career navigation. We need to acknowledge we have a different starting line, but we are intelligent, have grit and resilience, and can do just as good or even better than anyone else.

I hope you enjoyed this jefa conversation and stay tuned for more!

You can support Giovanna by following her on Instagram @gigithefirstgenmentor and TikTok @thefirstgenmentor and visiting her website

More about Gigi: Giovanna is a first generation American, first generation college graduate and first generation wealth builder. She recently joined The Great Resignation and quit her corporate job in investment management to pursue her true passion- teaching financial education to young adults. She teaches financial literacy and career readiness to college students at universities and on her TikTok account @thefirstgenmentor where she’s built a community of over 165,000+. (Bio written by her friend Gabby)