Photo of Jonathan Negrete smiling with an office background

Advice From a First-Gen Grad: College is About the People You Meet 

by Elaine Fernandez Bravo

Making Waves Education Foundation » Resources » Advice From a First-Gen Grad: College is About the People You Meet 

Jonathan Negrete (he/him) graduated from California State University, Chico in 2022 with a degree in business administration – finance. Now, he works at Fidelity Investments as a relationship manager.  

Jonathan was not always planning a career in finance though.

For his first three years of college, Jonathan was an exercise science major. After joining a student-run club known as The Investor’s Club, which focuses on sharing finance and market tips, Jonathan realized his strengths and interests were in finance.  

“I realized my strengths were heavier in finance, economics, and business. My college degree has helped me learn essential skills like financial analysis, strategic planning, and effective communication,” Jonathan shared. “These skills have been indispensable in my career advancement.” 

A first-generation college graduate, Jonathan said his education has given him a competitive advantage in this constantly changing field. To continue pursuing his education, he has obtained a Series 7 (general securities representative) and Series 66 (uniform combined state law) license.  

“These vigorous exams were challenging, but my finance courses in college created a solid foundation,” he said. 

The journey from exercise science major to finance major to an associate at Fidelity hasn’t always been easy. For example, Jonathan had to overcome imposter syndrome, especially when establishing himself in a new major and thinking about his career goals.  

“I also didn’t have any family members or connections in this industry to guide me,” he shared. “I worked exceptionally hard to gain a secure network, access to industry insights, knowledge, and competence in my field.” 

“However, I used these challenges to strive to continue being a positive catalyst for younger generations not to be discouraged to pursue careers in finance,” he shared. 

Jonathan shared that he hopes other students know it is okay to be vulnerable.  

“Don’t fear failure, seek the discomfort that comes with it and learn! By surrounding yourself with like-minded people, it can encourage you to be the best version of yourself,” he shared.  

Reflecting on his career post-graduation, Jonathan said he is honored to work at a place that values its employees and invests in their professional development through training, career advancement, and mentoring.  

“I enjoy the company culture at Fidelity and their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” he shared. 

After changing his major in college, growing his skills in the finance field, and pursuing different networking and internship opportunities, Jonathan has a few tips for current and future college students.

“Join student clubs and attend events related to your field. Pick people’s brains, but don’t take random advice; take advice from people who are where you want to be,” Jonathan shared. 

Apply for internships

“Leadership and communication skills are vital in the business world,” he said.

“Leadership experience will show you have the ability to take initiative. Communication skills will help you communicate clearly and constructively. Gain these skills through hands-on experience in professional settings through internships during college.” 

“You need to explore and branch out of your comfort zone to find all the resources and support your campus and community have to offer,” Jonathan said.

“I highly recommend becoming familiar with resources at your college like the food pantry, first-generation programs, and extracurricular activities.” 

“Another opportunity in college is to study abroad,” Jonathan shared.

“People may get intimidated by the thought of moving to a different country for their education, but it may be one of the best decisions of your life! There are scholarships and program advisors who can help you find locations that could cost the same per semester as the college you attend.”

“It’ll allow you to explore new cultures, develop a global perspective, and enhance your academic and career prospects. Most importantly, it’ll help you develop independence and confidence and force you out of your comfort zone.”

“I got to study abroad in Valencia, Spain for one semester in fall of 2018. Through that I got to travel to Italy, France, Netherlands, Portugal, and all over Spain. I met people from all over the world and it helped me gain valuable life experience; I could not advocate for this enough!” 

“If there’s one thing I learned as a student, college is about the people you meet, not the classes you take,” Jonathan shared.

“Successful people want to help! Reach out and be vulnerable. Invite people for coffee or to virtual meetings to hear their stories. Don’t be afraid to fail.”


At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.

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