Helping intersectionally marginalised people as an individual

Introduction

In my presentations on improving diversity and inclusion in organisations, I always talk about how you can make a difference as an individual.

I talk about providing opportunities to make up for the ones that they have lost, or will lose in the future, due to discrimination.

Marilyn Monroe with Ella Fitzgerald explaining that Marilyn Monroe used her privilege to give Ella Fitzgerald an opportunity so she never had to play a small jazz club again. Ella didn't need mentoring, nor did she need to improve her skillset, she simply needed an opportunity. This is why the key is to give people from marginalised groups more opportunities to make up for the ones they have lost.

In this post, I would like to share how¬† I’ve been able to help three women of color who are migrants find jobs by identifying opportunities, bring proactive, and providing personalised support. This is to help people understand how they can create opportunities for those who are from one or more marginalised groups.

In essence, I am trying to be act like a sponsor for people I meet that could benefit from the privilege I have.

How I approach being a sponsor

Firstly, I understand their skillset and what they want to do. This might be through email, chatting on Zoom, or some other communication style. Some of the time I never meet them in person. Then I think about any jobs I know that match their requirements. If there aren’t any available, I might keep an eye out for them. I also try to gauge their skillset and enthusiasm. I need to be able to be confident that when I talk to someone about them, so I know what I am saying is accurate, including a realistic appraisal of their skillset. This is what I would call the first stage of advocacy.

If I locate a job in my sphere of influence, I might reach out to the hiring manager on their behalf and speak with them. I might ask the hiring manager to clarify the role and understand their nuances of the role, as well as highlighting the skills of the person I am helping. I usually let the hiring manager know I will ask the person to call them before applying. This is useful to get the person to practice their interviewing skills and get a feel for the hiring manager.

The key here is to educate them and give them confidence so that they can be more independent the next time they apply to a role.

I will then, if I have the time, help them improve their resume and cover letter and wish them luck. Again with an emphasis on education, I will share with them how I recommend they approach applying for a role, based on my 20 years experience as a hiring manager.

This specific process doesn’t happen everytime, but it gives you an idea of the approach I do take.

Example 1 – Identifying a student internship project with an honorarium

In February 2023, I helped one lady who was looking for a student internship as a User Interface designer. I realised there was a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) researcher that was in my network who could really benefit from working with this lady. I reached out to the researcher and was able to negotiate an honorarium for the lady to do some work as an intern for a project. As part of the negotiation I said that I would supervise her. She’s doing some really good work now and I look forward to sharing it with the DEI community.

Example 2 – Helping out a friend

In March 2023, I reached out to a hiring manager on behalf of a friend, who is someone I had worked with previously. I had ties to the hiring manager so I set up a time to chat with them and highlighted how this person might be able to work with them. I also got a better understanding of what was needed from the hiring manager. All I said to the hiring manager was that I would encourage this person to apply.

I then briefed my friend about what was being looked for. Even though she initially refused, she finally decided to apply and I helped them cater their resume and cover letter to suit the job. I also helped her to prepare for her interview. As a result of a lot of hard work they got an interview, and eventually, they got the job that was better pay and better hours!

Example 3 – Helping out a friend of a friend

In April 2023, I also helped someone who had been out of work for five years. Their resume was outdated and they sounded like they needed some help in their ability to find a job. I took the time to sit down with them and understand their work history and skill set. Together, we updated their resume and crafted a compelling cover letter.

I was recently sent a job that matched her skill set and interests. Because she didn’t have all the skills asked for in the job advertisement, I encouraged her to improve her skillset by learning those skills and proving that she could setup a website using those new skills and to document how she did it. Even though it was difficult, she proved that she was amazing by being able to get a working demo even though she had never used the software ecosystem before and she ran into problems along the way. That is what I call having continuous improvement skills! And guess what – she got an interview for that role!!!!

Through demonstrating her continuous improvement skills and enhancing her resume and cover letter, she has significantly enhanced her competitiveness in the job market.

Because I had networks to this organisation, I asked my connections to give me the contact details to the hiring manager and I am in the process of organising a time to chat with them, understand their nuances of the job, and help this lady polish the details of her resume and cover letter before applying.

Conclusion

The point I want to make is that you too can use your privilege to provide more opportunities to those who have less privilege than yourself. It means you can make a positive contribution to the career success of others by opening doors that they cannot.

I hope that this will inspire others to use their networks and experience to help others.

RM