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Is Your Prospective Employer Getting Diversity Right?

Work place Diversity

In many ways college is a safe space, a place where the burdens of under-representation for African Americans can be slightly offset by the pedagogical drive to innovate and create new knowledge. This is particularly the case at HBCU’s where students have the room to embark on the path of creating knowledge, developing the skills that they’ll need, but also growing in a space that positively cultivates their Blackness in tandem with its rich history. So for many of these African American students, the idea of exiting post-secondary and entering into a largely male and monochromatic professional workforce, can be daunting.

Diversity in technology

Recently, Fast Company published an article about how leaders in technology companies are trying to change the game when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Regardless of your individual drive to work in tech or not — if the workplace diversity has you feeling nervous— here are some things to look for in prospective employers.

1) Transparency

Has one of your parents ever said, “you look like you’re up to something”? They probably put that out there because you actually are up to something. See, you as a prospective employee know what all parents know, which is that honesty takes the shape of forthrightness and the absence of a pensive attitude. If you get into the interview and your prospective employer downplays or outright doesn’t want to answer your questions about diversity, get out of there. The article points out that the most progressive CEO’s are pushing to make their diversity initiatives, and whatever successes they net, public knowledge. If an employer has diversity stats worth noting, you’d better believe they’re down to boast about it. Still, we can’t solely rely on the raw diversity data, which leads to the second thing you should be looking for.

2) Progressive Company Culture

The Fast Company article notes how Warby Parker’s main office has 25 conference rooms, each named after a famous literary figure. Upon further inspection, CEO, Neil Blumenthal noticed that less than half of the rooms were named after women or people of color. Things like this are dead giveaways when it comes to how much diversity is at the front of your prospective employer’s mind. How purposeful are they about diversity? Go into the interview and take a good look around the space. Are all the paintings or artifacts reflective of diversity? Are a majority of the people of color wheeling around office chairs or mop buckets? Is there a daycare facility, or perceivable benefits for employees with children? These are all things you can use to get an idea of how considerate the employer is of people with different needs who come from different backgrounds.

3) Who is Supporting Their Vision?

In this world that is becoming more and more fixated on the burgeoning sphere of startup/tech culture than it is traditional company dynamics, research who it is that provides the organization with investment capital. When CEO’s are on the hunt for seed money, etc., what they’re really on the hunt for is a person who shares their vision, and who that person is can dictate a lot about what the company’s diversity prerogatives might be. If an investor only has the finances and bottom line in mind, they might sidestep what they see as costly or time-consuming improvements to company culture, like recruiting outside of the “friend pool” or ensuring that the workplace is as accessible for disabled employees. Investor temperament can even affect things like the quality of your benefits package or the willingness to pay you what you’re worth.

Finding your workplace home

Above all else, find a place that makes you comfortable. If you love your work, take the job! Is your workplace not diverse enough yet? Then figure out how to bring that conversation to your boss. When it really comes down to it, the worst thing we can do for diversity is say nothing!

Raz Robinson, JournalistArticle by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City and Philadelphia. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, email at razrobinson9(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow on Twitter.

Feel free to send your questions about workplace diversity to thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com.

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It’s Official! Paul Quinn Is The First HBCU Work College

Paul Quinn College's football field after being converted into a garden.

Paul Quinn College’s football field after being converted into a garden.

After a two-year application process, Paul Quinn College has become the first HBCU to meet the Department of Education’s standards for the “work college” designation. As of Monday morning, Paul Quinn now joins seven other institutions trailblazing this new method for potentially reducing student debt.

Unlike traditional work study programs, whose distribution is based solely on the student’s financial needs —since 2015—every student at Paul Quinn, has either a job on campus or with a local business in Dallas, Texas. According to college president Michael Sorrell, due to 80 percent of students being eligible for Federal Pell Grant’s, a majority of the students at Paul Quinn can graduate with less than $10,000 in debt, as well as gain valuable professional training.

PQCMarqueeReduce College Debt

Though work colleges seem like a viable way to reduce college debt, the future of their funding is currently uncertain. As of right now, work colleges are allocated funding via the federal work study program, and in its budget proposal last Wednesday, the Trump administration suggested making cuts to the same program. As well as funding cuts, the administration is looking to make monetary allocation more need-based, rather than embracing a model that lets each student work to reduce debt across the board.

Raz Robinson, JournalistArticle by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City and Philadelphia. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, email at razrobinson9(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow on Twitter @razrobinson.

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Teaching Job Skills Employers Want With Digital Education

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania has launched a new digital education initiative. The program officially titled “Technology Applications for Professional Success” is funded by Title III grants to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Unicandidate-skills-ratingversities (HBCUs).  The project started off in a rather unique way that involved students — “updating” the university’s story on Wikipedia.

According to Dean of Student Affairs, Marcia Robinson, the goal of the program is to make sure students understand the way that technology and the new economy of information are having “an impact in our everyday lives.” Wikipedia is open source and almost 40 million people use it every day. It is the literal embodiment of the current and future information boom.

Though changing Cheyney’s Wikipedia page might seem like a small task and the program is focused on developing job skills employers want, the ramifications of the idea can completely transcend the simple updates.

Consider the fact that all information hosted on Wikipedia can be altered by anyone with a computer. Beyond that, updates are constantly being made to pages, with company employees and patrons regularly checking those pages for inaccuracies as well. For people learning the digital landscape, the effective ‘audit’ of your university’s information online is a great place to start and digital literacy progress.

The first step towards getting a person to accept misinformation is to convince them that everyone around them thinks the same misinformation is true, and the advent of the internet only makes that process easier.

In the era of fake news, it’s imperative that anyone who aims to be digitally literate understands the ease with which information online can be manipulated and served up to willing audiences. Companies are fully aware of this which is why you are probably being served up the information that you are every time you go online.  One of the difficult aspects of making sure you don’t fall prey to bad information and can thus become more knowledgeable (knowledgeable = employable), is to understand the tools through which you acquire that information.  Just look at the list from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and you will see that the ability to obtain and process information is one of the job skills employers want. Digital Literacy

Most people don’t pay attention to the fact that the news they see on say, Facebook, is largely based on the views of people who already agree with them. Programs like this not only help students build the job skills employers want, but it gives them a better understanding of the digital world and potentially where they will fit.  More than 30 percent of the Cheyney University students who responded to a survey on their confidence with digital literacy said they had never used a collaborative project tool like Google Docs.

Simply understanding how to use Google Docs is not all you need to get you hired, nor will it end our current obsession with “fake news.”  However, the attention to the subject through a digital education program like the one offered at Cheyney, could be a step towards giving every student more power over the information they consume.

Article by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City aRaz Robinson, Journalistnd Philadelphia. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, email atrazrobinson9(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow on Twitter.

Feel free to send your questions about Cheyney’s new digital education initiative to thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com.

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Tell Your Story and Push Past Networking Anxiety

Anyone who knows me well enough can tell you about my very real aversion to most conventions, among them, the traditional networking event. Something about the prospect of going into a room full of strangers— not necessarily to have fun per se— but to just chat about what we’re up to professionally and maybe exchange contact information, unnerves me. These events can often begin to feel tiresome when the meaningful exchange of ideas intersects with the need to self-promote, preach, or sell something. I’m not into that. Enough of my own discomfort. For everyone from the new grad to the seasoned professional, these types of events can truly facilitate the foot-in-the-door that you need so badly and can, more importantly, serve as inspirational springboards. That being the case, I realized that rather than wait for the nature of these events to change, I had to actively seek out thoughts that would make them more bearable.  So here are just a few ways I learned to get past my networking anxiety and make the most out of each one.

 Do Research and Connect Early

When walking into conventions, conferences and the like, be sure to familiarize yourself with the guest speakers, session leaders, and other people who have already RSVP’d. There are lots of ways to do this, social media being the most direct and innately comfortable since it’s not face-to-face. Shoot a quick Tweet to the leader of a session you plan on attending or try to connect on LinkedIn with someone presenting a project. These are sure fire ways to prevent some of the eye-to-the-floor meanderings that can make these events so anxiety inducing.

Don’t go Looking for a Job

CC0 Public DomainNow, networking events aren’t the place to go look for a job, but they are a good place to connect with new people who are employed at some of your target organizations. In fact, you could use the time to scout out if what you think about a place and what it really is like are the same things. Figure out who you want to talk to and take that time to just ask them questions like “How do you like working at blank?”, “What’s the hiring process like?”, or “What projects are you working on right now?”

Remember Everyone There is Looking to Help

 People at these events are really anxious to share knowledge. Don’t be afraid to go up to anyone and tell them what you’re up to. Have a cool idea for a project? Then bring it to someone there. This is especially the case when you’re a new grad. The economy and the workforce is developing in a way that we could never have predicted just 20 years ago. Couple that with the fact that a majority of millennial’s support themselves using multiple streams of income, the people there won’t be shocked if you show up with a new idea or a new take on an old idea. The number of people who go to networking events and conventions with little to no experience in their field is matched only by the volume of workforce veterans who are eager to help you out.

 Stay Active the Whole Time!

There are a few more layers to this one so I’ll break it up into two categories; stay digitally and physically active. This can be a tricky concept if you’re like me and have a real aversion to being seen on your phone while people are talking, or if you’re the type who enjoys occasionally retreating exclusively into the mind from time to time.

 Physically Active

 Staying physically active doesn’t mean doing sprints from table to table, frantically trying to talk to every single person in the room. It just means being present and not being afraid to take up the space that you naturally take up. Anyone can do this, even the wallflowers. I see you over there — feeling like the center of the dance floor is just a little too pompous hmmm? Maybe a tad inartful? Well look to your left, and now your right — chances are there’s someone else on the wall thinking the exact same thing! Go find a way to talk to that person about why they’re over by the wall too. It’s not all business. So many people go to networking events and conventions feeling as if when they don’t have something hyper-technical to say, that they should just stay quiet. Don’t start to lean up, hedge, or hide when you don’t feel like you can say anything. Instead, think of a question to ask, or about something you and another attendee might have in common. Being physically active in the space is more mental than anything. Your body will always be there, but you have to use your thoughts in order to project yourself into the space. The concept of ‘projecting’ carries over very directly into staying digitally active.

 Digitally Active

 When I say digitally active, I really mean that you should keep in mind that almost everyone in the room has a phone in their pocket that they look at on average of 110 times a day. Beyond that, a majority of the people you’re going to meet at these functions use social media in some capacity. Live Tweeting is a pretty specific and unobtrusive way of putting yourself out there and actually crafting a story around time spent at the event. Crafting a story around anything you do is a technique they’ll teach you in journalism school, but that I actually think is applicable in a wide variety of situations.  Say you’re sitting down and listening to a truly compelling presentation — take your phone out and record a piece of it to share online. Repeat this process a few times, and shout out or tag the cool people you meet.  Other social media savvy attendees will see that content, and that’s something you want because content within the capacity of a shared event is the grounds for a STORY.

Story is everything, it’s what builds the image that you want to be reflective of everything you find compelling. Ultimately, telling a good compact story about the time you’ve spent anywhere will attract more people (and opportunities) to you. Put emphasis on the term compact. Some of the most successful artists I know only post to Facebook once or twice a week, or month. The moral of the story isn’t to repeat what they do how they do it, but that engagement can consistently be high if the relevance of the content can be high as well. Now while not everyone who follows you on social media is going to find your content from the “National Association of Pastry Chef Professionals” relevant, your content is just a hashtag away from a platform where its relevance can’t be understated. Most convention speakers and performers, in general, understand that sharing things digitally is a huge part of how information works in 2017, so you should be using that as a way to make connections with people doing the same thing.

Get Inspired

Ultimately, going to conventions and networking events is about getting inspired. As much as people go there to meet other professionals and build their careers, they’re going to get their imaginations going as well. It’s not just about the nuts and bolts of finding a career path, but about finding inspiration and the tools to craft your story as well. It’s easy to feel anxious when faced with the prospect of networking, but the line between having a valuable and transformative experience and one that leaves a little something to be desired can be so thin. These are the things that work for me. Find out the things that work for you too! Be sure that you’re always putting together a checklist of the things that can help you overcome the very natural anxiety that comes from just putting yourself out there!

Article by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City and Philadelphia. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, email at razrobinson9(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow on Twitter and Instagram.

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7 Ways the Workforce is Changing

robotics at workThe workforce is changing and some of the questions to ask are – Am I keeping up?  How am I preparing to stay competitive?  What do I know about employment trends?

If you work with college students as much as I do, you too might find yourself thinking hard about whether or not colleges and training programs are preparing the workforce in a manner consistent with how the workforce is changing.  I read an article today in Forbes.com, that made me think that some of us still have a ways to go, to help our students wrap their heads and intellect around what is coming and how their program choices and interests now could impact their need for lifelong learning.

As the author confirmed, “the workforce’s future is increasingly uncertain” (Valet, 2016).  Pew Research confirms that Americans are increasingly thinking about how the workforce is changing and how it will impact them.  In a report this year, Pew data suggests that two thirds of Americans expect that robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans within 50 years (PewResearch, 2016).  However, in the same report, 80% of workers say the jobs/professions they work in now will still exist in 50 years.

That strikes me as a contradiction.  If you are entering college, in college or graduating soon, will any of these workforce changes impact your future careers?  What are you doing to expand your career and industry awareness?

How the workforce is changing.

Forget the Pew research about 50 years.  Here is how the workforce has changed in 10 years.

Workforce automation – 47% of jobs currently at risk of being phased out by robotics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Devices are now absorbing information and executing responsibilities being executed by professionals.

Sharing economy – UBER and AirBnB are making the meaning of “workforce” more fluid. (Valet, 2016).

Freelancers – 15 million Americans are self employed doing remote work and using online job platforms.

3D Printing – Widespread adoption of 3D printing will change the need for on-demand production.

Globalization – Technology is making geographical borders disappear.

Urbanization – 1.5 million people moving to metros each week, putting pressures on infrastructure and labor markets.

Read the full article from Vicky Valet – 7 Workforce Threat that Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

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3 Tips for Successful Phone Interviews

phone interviewUpdate: Originally published 12/3/2010

How important are phone interviews?

Very. When I owned BullsEyeResumes, I wrote a lot about doing phone interviews especially during the technology boom.  In fact, I updated one of my articles last year – 10 Ways to ACE the phone interview (originally posted 10/1/2008) because I find many job seekers are still struggling with phone interviews.

Why are phone interviews used?

First, you have to understand why these phone meetings with recruiters are used. Like SKYPE interviews, the phone interview lowers the costs of recruiting. They help recruiters figure out if the person they see on paper (resume) is the person they will hear on the phone.  As a HR Manager, I can guarantee you that I don’t want to waste time with a candidate in a face-to-face meeting, if I don’t get a positive response from the phone interview. A successful phone interview will get you to the next step in the hiring process.   Bottom line is that they save recruiters time and money and they are not going away!

During the phone interview

During the telephone interview, where you cannot see the interviewer, you have to be aware of three things —tone, clarity and energy. Understanding the following three things, can really improve your chances of doing a successful phone interview.

1. Energy – Stay high energy from beginning to end of the telephone interview. If you are not a morning person schedule your interview in the afternoon if you can. If you sound tired and low energy, the recruiter might think that is how you really are.

2. Tone – Try and limit sarcasm or negativity since you cannot “read” the interviewer. Maintain a positive perspective and speak in a professional manner.  Make sure you are in a quiet location so you can focus on leaving a professional impression with the recruiter.

3. Clarity – Listen carefully to the questions. It is really easy for job seekers to go off on a tangent answering the wrong question. If the interview were face to face, a quick gesture could abort the wrong answer, but because you are on the phone, you can’t look for any of these visual cues. You don’t want to waste time going down the wrong road so make sure you have a clear understanding of what is being asked.

Job seekers who are looking for internships or trying to land that first big job after graduation should know that completing a successful phone interview is an important step in the job search process.

More tips for doing successful phone interviews:

Why phone interviews are so hard and how to ace them anyway.

4 Ways to Rock the Intro Call with the Recruiter.

For more tips on how to ace the phone interview, read 10 Ways to Ace the Phone Interview

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