Strategies for Jobseekers and Employees from Underrepresented Groups (Shared from DeVry University Blog)

While many conversations around workplace diversity tend to focus on top-down strategies, there are creative ways individual employees and job-seekers can also support diversity in their careers. Consider one of the tips below to help improve your job search or help gain mobility in your career.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK RECRUITERS ABOUT DIVERSITY.

If you’re looking to find a company that will support your identity and differences, take time to  ask the right questions to screen employers. Use your interview as an opportunity to discuss topics around diversity that the average applicant may avoid. “If diversity is important to you, ask about it,” Morales suggests. “Don’t be afraid to ask recruiters or the person interviewing you about diversity at their company because the question should be welcomed and if it isn’t, then you may have your answer.”

Three diverse technicians using a comuter in a server room.

Research the company, as always, but once you do, feel free to ask honest questions. “Even during a phone screening, it’s fine to say: ‘Diversity and inclusion are very important to me. Can you tell me some of the ways that shows up at your company?’ This question can invite an open dialogue around work culture and values that you’d like to have on the job,” says Morales.

In addition to preparing personal questions, she encourages jobseekers to also ask interviewers about their own experiences with gender and diversity in the workplace.  As the recruiter shares stories, note the details you hear and follow-up questions you’d like to ask. This can give you a sense of what you may experience while working at the company and if it offers the right culture for you.

BUILD YOUR INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL NETWORK.

“No matter your identity or where you are in your career, you should make every effort to build your network—and that doesn’t just start at your job,” Morales says.

There are a number of professional organizations that support women and individuals from underrepresented groups, such as The National Association of African Americans in Human ResourcesPropsanica: The National Association of Hispanic ProfessionalsAccounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. These groups are usually organized according to profession, so you should be able to find one that aligns with your career goals and needs.

Also, if you’re a jobseeker, research companies that already offer established programs that can help build your internal network. For instance, LinkedIn provides an Allyship Academy that focuses on training employees to remove bias from their language and support inclusive partnerships at work. This kind of program provides opportunities for underrepresented employees to build new allies across LinkedIn and learn leadership skills while bolstering their network.

Whether you’re searching for your first entry-level job or planning your next career move, make researching diversity programs and professional organizations part of your routine job search or career planning. When you speak to a hiring manager for a company, be prepared to ask about networking groups, workplace diversity and programs that support your goals.

Two businesswomen having coffee during a mentoring moment at the office.

SEEK “MENTORING MOMENTS.”

If you ask someone to be your mentor, depending on their work schedule and availability, sometimes that request can feel like a long-term commitment which can be difficult to maintain. For this reason, instead of requesting a lengthy mentorship, Morales encourages employees and jobseekers to consider “mentoring moments.”

“Yes, mentorship is important but it doesn’t have to all fall on one person,” Morales says. “I focus more on having mentoring moments. That means when I have a question about a career move or an idea that I want to discuss with someone I trust, I call that person in my network and ask them out for coffee. During that conversation, they may coach or advise me, which is a mentoring moment. Strive for those in the early stages of your career.”

Awwad also encourages women to pursue similar mentoring moments. For instance, members of EDGE were encouraged to participate in Girls on the Run, an event that allows female mentors to identify a young girl from the Girls on the Run organization to accompany during a 5K marathon. The girls and mentors run together during the event where they have a chance to interact and learn more about each other.

“It’s really fun,” says Awwad. “We run with the girls and talk about their goals or anything on their minds.” Small, event-based activities can help foster “mentoring moments” that feel authentic and create opportunities for future networking.

DO GREAT WORK AND HIGHLIGHT IT AT YOUR COMPANY.

“Culturally, depending on a person’s background, it can be very challenging to discuss your accomplishments and work because some people may associate this with bragging and boasting, but it’s not,” says Morales. “Some people are encouraged to lead more with a community mentality that focuses on ‘us’ rather than ‘self.’ If a person comes from a culture or background where talking about themselves isn’t common, focusing on their own accomplishments may feel unnatural—but it’s essential.”

To succeed in business settings, jobseekers and employees from underrepresented groups should become comfortable discussing their accomplishments among business leaders because “that’s a key component to thriving in a company or corporation,” says Morales. “Heads down and hard work doesn’t get you very far, so find someone who can help you amplify your work because when you share your work, you find sponsors and leaders who are willing to support you, which is precisely what you want to grow in your career.”

By Meaghan Wood (She/Her)
Meaghan Wood (She/Her) Career Coach Meaghan Wood (She/Her)