Students find peer connections to be more impactful

Students find peer connections to be more impactful

Students find peer connections to be more impactful

Has your workplace become your friends’ workplace?

From relationships to social circles to friendship groups to job affiliations, almost everyone associates, either unspoken or not, with their peers and friends. This extends to universities too. On the surface, this might be seen as most students’ group, but the truth is it’s probably not.

That is unless you’re a ‘first-gen’ student – or a self-admitted first-gen graduate.

Of first-gen students, nearly three quarters (72 per cent) feel they grew into their groups after leaving university, while two thirds (66 per cent) also feel that their groups took on a more dynamic growth and leadership role. It’s also possible that a significant proportion of them have started their own groups or have joined others as their self-perception developed and their academic progress continued.

Students who identify as first-gen are increasingly likely to be involved in activities that offer a positive lifestyle experience.

Around a third (34 per cent) went on holidays together, while three quarters (76 per cent) are involved in extra-curricular activities and 43 per cent met for meals.

Factors encouraging first-gen students to join first-gen clubs

At the same time, there’s no doubt that formalised clubs and societies provide even more incentive to have meaningful experiences with peers. Although establishing friendships with others from their own shared background or environment might be difficult, it’s essential in creating lasting, authentic connections.

According to a study by the University of Leicester’s Institute of Management Studies (IMS), students who identified as first-gen were much more likely to take part in professional societies and social networks. This was despite not initially identifying with the ‘first-gen’ label.

“There are many reasons why those at university who identify as first-gen members of a group may feel a sense of belonging, particularly if they have limited face-to-face social interaction with other students,” explains Tasha Fisher, Professor of Public Policy at IMS.

“I have found that this can be due to their own home environment, friends, work colleagues, or how they met their partner.”

In much the same way that universities are very much a way of life for many students, supporting self-employed groups offers similar benefits.

Vendors and SMEs across the UK have a collective market of less than £13.2 billion – it’s a massive market to have to compete for. Using emerging platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to help students to find work can help them make connections and achieve benefits beyond what could be easily achieved in real life.

SMEs may find it easier to reach first-gen students when they’re part of a group that could otherwise feel difficult to fit into – also removing the risk of being identified.

Increasingly valuable and entrepreneurial skills for students

Like first-gen students, first-gen students may feel they’ve had limited opportunities to connect with others. Yet in this age of job insecurity, these relationships can have a highly beneficial impact on educational and career development.

Academic researchers from Nottingham Trent University found that students who felt they could confide in others shared similar characteristics as employees who reported feeling vulnerable – such as feeling motivated, motivated, confident, assertive, connected, communicative, confident, and principled.

Small groups – especially early-years clubs – could be a way to help teach first-gen students how to build a lasting relationship with their team. Depending on the level of community involved, this may also become part of formal club structure.

Ultimately, members of first-gen groups enjoy more and better social relationships and get more accomplished in their careers. And at university, ‘first-gen’ does tend to have more ‘value for money’ – as resources are allocated by clubs and societies in favour of people who act as valuable team members.

So at work and in the boardroom, first-gen students do offer valuable resources in challenging environments. And while many might be seen as a nuisance, they are also highly valued for their entrepreneurial savvy and, in many cases, for discovering new industries or ways of doing things.

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