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Published: Monday 28th of October 2013
Big companies and Universities are always on the lookout for young and talented people. One may even compare them to a shepherd picking the best sheep for their flock. Besides the mandatory top-notch skills and an ability to work as part of a team, diversity has received a surprising downpour of attention. Gone is the mindset of the lone wolf who pushes everyone else aside to strive for the top. Wanting to be the best is still appreciated but not as a part of an archaic form of bullying. Acceptance and compassion are some of the qualities that will get you hired by a big company or let you wiggle your foot in the heavy door of Academia.
Faculty jobs can be a challenge. Teaching and shaping young minds has never been easy. That’s why Schools are prioritizing hiring individuals whose scholarly skills match their pedagogical background. Faculty wants to hire candidates who are well rounded, with an emphasis on understanding and promoting diversity. Think of it as the Liberal Arts system; learning a little bit of every subject, so in the end, you have a solid grip on the fundamentals of Math and are able to quote Shakespeare by heart. It might seem like a lot to ask, but teaching is a big responsibility. The faculty is in its full right to request any skills they deem necessary from candidates.
Big companies focused on entrepreneurship have similarly strict criteria when reviewing diversity statements. As mentioned above, nobody is looking for “The Wolf of Wall Street” type of employee. Think of Angelina Jolie instead of Leonardo DiCaprio when presenting yourself. Be elegant, with an air of acceptance around you. The vibe you send off to people should match the position you are targeting. Don’t be aggressive when applying to be a part of the HR team. Under no circumstance don’t mention your experimental drug phase on the off chance someone might relate (even though the person who interviews you might seem friendly and easy to get along with, always keep in mind that it’s their job to pick the most suitable candidate).
First off, never lie. Lying on your application to a committee is not only unethical but potentially lethal for your future career. Academic hiring agents go through extensive training to vet out unsuitable candidates. They know exactly what they are looking for and have the training to spot false information a mile away. Getting caught in a lie (claiming you helped in a food kitchen when you were actually out clubbing) will automatically result in a termination of your application.
If by chance you do pass the first line of interviews with false information and land yourself on the short list of candidates, a closer inspection into your extracurricular activities will show the truth. Not every College or University does extensive background checks, but most will put in the time to at least fact check your employment dates, references, and personal statements. Many faculty members truly believe in making a change. As a result, they will pay close attention to any discrepancies that might pop up from the time you submit your documentation to when you get interviewed.
Also, remember that a lot of faculty members belong to the minority groups. They have dedicated their careers to benefiting the community, inside Schools and outside in the real world. Think carefully: Are you actually interested in diversity and equity? If the answer is no, then you might want to rethink your choice in profession.
Second, write from experience. Don’t just submit a tear-jerking story that might be better suited for a series on Telemundo. Speak from the heart. Think carefully about what shaped you as a person. Who made a difference in your life and why? How did you fight discrimination; not just against you but when it was happening to someone else. Remember, discrimination is not just limited to race and sexual orientation. There are many horrible ways one can be discriminated against: body shaming, family, and money are just a few.
If you want to come out sincere, include examples of these struggles. Successful candidates often add community service as part of their diversity statement. These may include, but not necessarily, working in a soup kitchen for the impoverished, teaching classes at community college, volunteering at a Nursing Home for the Elderly, or being an intern at a free clinic. Many outreach centers for runaway youths offer a “big brother” or “big sister” program where a student or young adult can spend time with someone who needs it. These programs are great because not only do they showcase empathy towards those in need, but directly benefit the victims.
Another thing that will benefit you greatly are extracurricular activities. Whether you are about to graduate high school or college, getting involved in the community is a great step in becoming a well-rounded and desirable candidate. As mentioned above, volunteering and internships are perfect for building some connections and good references. Most of the time the pay isn’t great, but the name you will make for yourself is worth your time. Helping out in places like these will bring you closer to people coming from all sorts of places. Be kind and learn.
Alternatively, consider starting a blog. It might seem like it doesn’t connect with Academia or landing a job at a big company, but you’re wrong. Social awareness is at the front of diversity. The right word at the right time means the world to thousands of people. Similarly, the wrong word might do more damage than you think. It’s a double edged sword, one that needs to be wielded carefully. Write a weekly article about your city. Include things like charity drives, outreach programs and events that showcase the celebration of diversity. Avoid attacking or blaming those who have a different opinion from yours. Getting in online battles over such sensitive topics will hurt you in the long run. Always remember: don’t say something online that you might regret in the future. After all, everything is eternal in the cloud.
Next, make sure you’re applying for the right position. Whether at a company or faculty, don’t send your application and diversity statement to the wrong place. It will be a waste of your time. Tailor your documents to the place you want to work at. It’s important to add something unique to every application. It’s a lot of work, but the results are worth it. Having a unique statement for every place you apply to shows maturity and interest in the position. Never copy/paste the same initial email. Sometimes corporations let universities use their database for research; as a result, they have access to some correspondence, including application emails. Taking the short and easy way might land your application right in the trash bin.
No matter what you do, however, if you’re truly not interested in diversity and equality, and making a change in the world, you will not be hired. You must have a genuine interest in the subject and a drive to help others. You can fake it, of course, but ask yourself this: Do I want to pretend to care about someone in need?