Diversity issues: Don’t focus so much on the work

media diversity
A lot of truth is said in jest.

I stumbled upon a thought provoking article from Buzzfeed editor Shani O. Hilton about building newsroom diversity. Even if you’re not in media — or a media-related profession — it’s worth a read. There’s something for everyone.

Admittedly, some of my earlier diversity posts were written from a place of frustration — and while I’m doing the best I can to mitigate those frustrations. We all have our days. I just happen to share some of mine publicly in hopes that it’ll spark something in one person and be cathartic for another.

But I digress.

As I plot my career path well before making my next moves, two snippets from Hilton’s piece jumped out at me. The first, which I’ve been (and am) guilty of, is focusing almost laser-like on my work, to the detriment of growing my network:

The network — on both ends of the equation — is the problem. The journos of color and women aren’t networking with white dudes doing the hiring because it isn’t in their DNA. Call it the Twice as Hard Half as Good Paradox: Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement.

 

It’s fairly common knowledge at this point that single job openings can get hundreds of applications. Expecting your resume (and writing samples for writers) to stand out in a sea of 0’s and 1’s that translate to images on computer screens is as noble and idealistic as it is wrong and a waste of resources. As I pointed out here, people love familiarity. The more familiar you are to people in your network, the more familiar your network can make potential hiring managers to your presence. A well placed co-sign goes a long way. And that well placed co-sign with that laser-like work focus will open some doors.

The final piece of advice Hilton offers “as a black job seeker in a largely white career field” was the most obvious — and probably the most obviously overlooked. Sometimes you have to make it plain:

Sometimes you have to put your pride aside. There’s a certain vulnerability required when engaging with people who are in power. At least it can feel vulnerable. But the only way people will know you’re looking for a job is if you say you’re looking for a job. So say it.

 

There’s no shame in asking for what you want.

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