In A Crowded Market, Here’s Why Your Diversity Is Your Differentiator
Your cultural lens is an important part of how you do your job.
May 12, 2020 at 10:10 pm
The coronavirus-induced downturn is forcing many tech firms to shrink the size of their workforce. Minorities, who are underrepresented in the industry to begin with, stand to be disproportionately affected by the cuts. If you’ve been laid off, it’s OK to feel fear or anxiety. You are not alone. These are intense times for everybody. But have hope. Companies (including LTSE) are hiring. And your diversity is your differentiator.
Your cultural experiences could be that something special that sets you apart from the field in a crowded job market. As for how you might capitalize on your background, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ways I’ve advised candidates to lean in to their diversity.
By diversity, I’m referring to your unique perspective, traditions, experiences — the things that make you, you. It includes the way each of us identifies patterns and approaches problems. Ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status or physical ability factor into who we are.
Personal stories matter
Think of interviews as conversations that give companies and you an opportunity to get to know each other. So beside preparing to discuss how you developed the skills required for this role in a past job, reflect on and be prepared to discuss which of the company’s principles or values resonate with you. Think, too, about how your background and experiences have readied you for this role?
During a job interview early in my career, the interviewer asked me about my why; the purpose or belief that drives me. My first instinct was to point to some part of the company’s mission that aligned with my principles. But instead, in the moment, I relayed an anecdote from a trip with my mother years earlier to Togo, my country of birth, that changed my life.
I walked through my mother's rural village with the man I call my grandfather, with whom I could not wait to relay my experiences in the U.S., especially how I wanted to make my mark on society, to change the world. Instead, my grandfather, who spoke little, shared a parable with me. He told me of a season when the rain didn’t fall, forcing my grandfather, his family and neighbors in their village to walk for miles to retrieve water for their small farms. When the harvest arrived, some of the plants yielded fruit and some did not. Those that didn’t, my grandfather said, were not worth the water poured on them. “Be worth your water,” he told me. “Be worth all that has been poured into you.”
In that instant, I abandoned whatever thought I had of trying to change the world. Instead, I resolved to do my part to make the lives of those around me — my family, friends, colleagues and community — easier, in whatever way I might be able to. Each of us has a story. Take some time to reflect on some moment or relationship that shaped you. Your personal story is less about the subject than how it influenced you and helped to make you the person you became.
Draw on your experience in employee resource groups
If you have participated in an employee resource group (ERG), you know that such groups traditionally offer safe spaces for members to gather and bond. But ERGs also can have an outsized impact on business and provide tremendous growth opportunities for members, including experiences outside of their day-to-day roles. Here are some ways you can utilize your ERG experience in the hiring process:
Leadership: Did you lead a group of colleagues companywide? Did you chair a committee or serve as a lead? If so, you may have gained leadership experience that augmented the experience you developed in your day job.
Programming: ERGs often put on programming that ties directly to company performance. For example, if your company focuses on supporting small businesses, your ERG might have thrown an event that targeted minority-led startups. When sharing this experience, focus on metrics such as the number of people who attended the event who later became customers.
Counsel: Companies frequently turn to ERGs for counsel on culturally sensitive issues. Maybe your ERG halted a discriminatory business practice, spurred a shift in business strategy, or helped management get a better handle on an issue to prevent it from happening again.
The experience and learnings you gain from participating in ERGs can matter as much to your career as the insights you gain in your job. Don’t hesitate to draw on them.
Diversity as a lens into your experience
Did you build or improve a product to ensure that it served diverse communities (and grow market share in the process)? Did you design or shape a marketing campaign to feature diverse faces and voices? Did you promote diversity in hiring by developing a diverse pipeline of candidates for your team? Did you recruit experts from underrepresented backgrounds to counsel your company on issues such as discrimination?
Your cultural lens is an important part of how you do your job and it’s special to you — leverage it.
Your diversity is an asset. It matters more than ever to companies that aim to build sustainable businesses. Drawing on it can help you to distinguish your experience and to bring something uniquely valuable to prospective employers.