As Black women we face many barriers when entering the workforce.
One of those barriers occurs during the hiring process.
According to a 2021 Diversity Report, analyzing over 17 million applications in 2018 and 2019 qualified Black women are “58% less likely to be hired for a government job” than white male counterparts.
What’s even more unsettling is the “blinding PII” otherwise known as personally identifiable information actually increases the hiring rate of Black women by 26%.
Many of us may have been subjected to using the blinding PII by choosing to not share our race on a job application or changing our name from "Malika" to "Michelle" to appeal to white standards of professionalism but we should not have to tolerate workplace discrimination.
In addition to these barriers, the pandemic further proved the long-standing inequalities that disproportionally affect Black people.
The stress of finding a job while dealing with economic hardships caused by racial disparities can be burdensome.
However there are ways to uplift and educate one another as we navigate the ever-changing workforce.
I want to help us break down these barriers and create more inclusive work spaces to open doors for more African Americans and women of color.
For this reason I’m sharing some useful tips to help you get your foot in the door.
To listen to the podcast episode for this post you can open Spotify.
Here are a six things I wish I knew when applying for a job:
1. Experience Comes In All Shapes & Sizes
I still remember the day I created my first resume and the thoughts that raced through my mind at the time. I thought to myself:
Who would ever hire me? What expertise and skills or training do I have? I don't have any useful work experience.
Girl, was I ever so wrong!
One thing I learned my freshman year of college when I made my first resume is that experience can come in all different shapes and sizes.
Volunteer Work. For example is one of the main experiences that helped me jumpstart my career. Helping out at your local library, church, or dedicating your time to a local non-profit you’re passionate about is a great way to gain professional experience.
Professional Hobbies. For example writing for your school newspaper, photography, or even computer programming are all great resume builders. Don’t be afraid to look into clubs you can join or start your own. I loved participating in clubs after school like Essence Literary Magazine, American Sign Language, and Debate team!
Non-Professional Experiences. For example, you can add study abroad trips, side jobs (even if it’s tutoring, babysitting, or manual labor!), and managing a blog to your resume. Really use this as an opportunity to show that you manage your time wisely even when taking a gap year.
Interests. For example, any athletic activities, technical skills or language skills you‘ve learned over the years can help you stand out compared to other applicants.
Don‘t worry so much about the amount of time you’re able to spend each week or month. Focus more on your efforts and commitment.
Even a simple tasks such as shelving books at your local library can show employers that you have great organization skills and are attentive to details.
In addition, this pandemic has taught me that taking a gap semester or year off from work or school can still be meaningful.
I used my time off to start this blog and become a remote marketing and communications volunteer.
Getting closer to your goals of being an experienced professional may be closer than you think if you reframe your definition of professional work experience.
Sometimes life provides the best hands on experience we can get.
2. Know Who You Are Working With
It is imperative to not only have a basic understanding of the experiences that will set you apart from others but you should also know who you are working with.
This may sound obvious but for many who are desperately seeking employment it may be enticing to only look at the job posting.
You or someone you know could potentially see the amount of pay, location, start date and qualifications and think that’s all they need to know.
However, there are other aspects of a job that should always be considered before submitting your resume.
Such as how long the company has been established and what they represent.
To gain a deeper understanding of this information you can visit a companies website and look at what they’re about.
Connect with others who support the company or work in that community to gain another perspective of the culture.
Figure out if your employers mission aligns with your core values and the potential benefits of working with them.
Some people may choose money over company culture, but if you focus on the culture your more likely to find more fulfillment and less stress down the line.
3. Be Honest
When filling out a job application it is important to be honest with yourself.
Don‘t fill in gap years with inaccurate employment dates, instead briefly explain what happened during that time.
Employers will likely run a background check on your past work, education, and criminal record.
Stretching the truth won’t get you very far.
Instead accept where you are and play on your strengths. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will give you more confidence in your job search.
Rather than saying, “You have difficulty working in teams” try adjusting this to “I am working on my teamwork skills by being open-minded and listening to new perspectives.”
Everyone is a work in progress whether they want to admit it or not.
It can actually be refreshing when employers see that you are trying to improve yourself and eager to learn more.
It shows that your potential is limitless.
4. Edit Your Profiles
It may do you some good to edit your profiles and social media accounts.
Make sure you’re LinkedIn profile is up to date with your work history and education.
There are features you can use to let employers know you are seeking a job.
Use a clear avi so your face is not blurry and there are not a lot of distractions in the background.
Check in with the career center at your university to schedule a professional headshot in person or virtually.
Gain advice from your instructors, parent or guardian about what is and isn’t appropriate to display online.
You may need to rebrand yourself, even if your social media accounts are private.
Be careful about who you allow to tag you in photos on Facebook and Instagram as well.
Google yourself and take a moment to see what information pops up. Do you like what you see?
Always be mindful of what type of post you share and how you display yourself to others.
5. Be Intentional About Keywords
In today’s technological world with so many potential applicants applying online most employers don’t have time to stop and review every single one.
Instead they rely on an automated system to quickly skim for the exact candidates there looking to hire.
While this is great in terms of advancing technology, you can miss out on really great opportunities simply by using the wrong words on your resume and cover letters.
It's important to use words that correspond with the industry you are looking to work in.
In addition, if you pay close attention to the "about" section on a company's website you will likely find keywords as well.
Avoid using passive verbs when describing your skills instead use words such as "supervised, achieved, and developed."
Employers respond to candidates who are leaders and show measurable and specific goals they have accomplished.
6. Never Sell Yourself Short
If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s okay to take a break.
Applying for the position is half the battle. Give yourself props for creating a resume, cover letter, and doing your research to begin with.
Treat networking opportunities as job interviews. Ask questions before, during and after the hiring process, the more you know about what to expect the better.
In addition, don't be afraid to raise your desired salary to above average because you deserve it. Always get paid your worth.
Let them know that no amount of “lunch on me,” t-shirts, or team building is going to work.
Never sell yourself short, you have the power to become a great leader.
Lead with passion and be open to learning new things. When you focus on being dedicated to your goals and not the outcomes employers will recognize the value you bring to the table.
Never be afraid of failure, the only way you truly fail is by never trying at all. It may take several job applications before you find the right fit.
Also be prepared for multiple rounds of interviews. Even when you are weary never forget that the only thing standing in your way is yourself.
Never let any barriers hold you back!
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