Things That Matter

11 Career Struggles Only First-Generation Immigrants Understand

Whether you’ve recently graduated and are just entering the workforce, or you’ve taken strides in your chosen career for years, you probably have been through your fair share of hurdles. Us first-generation immigrants deal with career struggles other people could never understand — and we’re that much stronger and more powerful for it.

If you’re first-gen, you might feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your back: your parents’ expectations after sacrificing everything to give you a better life, an extremely frustrating pay gap, and even less job opportunities.

Sometimes, we let go of our dreams to make our families proud, and other times? We can’t stop feeling guilty for earning more than our parents. The struggle is extremely real, and there’s not enough conversation about us first-generation Latinos’ mental health as soon as we step into the workforce.

Still, it’s good to know we’re not alone — that’s why we decided to compile 11 career struggles only we as first-generation Latinos understand.

1. First-gen immigrants can feel “selfish” for following our actual dreams— especially in the arts.

2. Many of us choose our careers simply because a field needs way more representation.

3. Imposter syndrome is a thing for many of us Latinos. But we need to let go of it — you earned this.

4. We were raised to stay humble and agradecido… but sometimes that gets in the way of negotiating with our boss for the pay we deserve.

5. Sometimes we find ourselves choosing a career to fulfill a parent’s dream instead of our own goals, or take on more responsibilities than we can handle.

6. At work, we can sometimes be gaslighted by being called “fiery,” “passionate” or overly emotional… all on the basis of our Latino culture. 

7. Us first-generation Latinos were raised with a “si se puede” mentality that means we go hard at work and can be perfectionists, even sacrificing our own mental health.

8. The pay gap is very real, with Latinas making only 57% of what non-Hispanic white men are paid. Even after landing our dream job, many of us BIPOC still deal with differences in pay.

9. Many of us feel a desire (or even obligated) to financially take care of our parents, especially if we earn more money than they do.

10. It’s always a good idea to ask for help, even if our first instinct is to deal with things on our own.

11. Our parents left everything they knew to make sure we never struggled like they did — and their sacrifices will never be lost on us!

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