The Minority Millennial’s Guide to Networking

Networking is hard, especially for the millennial generation. Unless you’re in a STEM field, you have to stretch through a lot of loops to get employers to notice you (and thousands of articles/friends/family telling you that you picked a useless major), and even those in STEM fields deal with other troubles, such as the rapid evolution of technology and outsourcing. But this is for a sub-sect of the Gen Yers, the minority millennials.

While it’s often ignored, many minorities of different racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and social groups are given less pay and less recognition. (Article of interest: http://www.thedailymuse.com/career/the-other-pay-gap-why-minorities-are-still-behind/). And while some may not find that specifically interesting, it paints a grim picture within the American economy. But still, as a Gen Y minority, we’re known for being persistent. So if you’re looking into building connections, here are a few tips.

To start off, I want you to face 3 points of reality:

  • You’re going to have to work 3 times as hard, for 1/2 the credit, and probably 1/3 the pay.
  • You may be a target of scapegoating, uncomfortable office chatter, and many other types of backlash against your very presence.
  • You may feel lonely as the only one in your speciality, or even may feel as though you have to compete against other minorities to fill a “quota.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about networking. Here’s a few posts by the great website the Intern Queen to get you started on the basics of networking: http://internqueen.com/blog/tag/networking, and now we can discuss how it relates to the minority experience.

1. Brave the shock, stand out, and push forward.

I’m an African American female Economics major who is also trying to learn chinese and coding in her free time. None of these things are noteworthy on their own – at least in my opinion – but attach these things to my face a *bam*, there you are. Most people as me why, or give me a look of disbelief. If I’m really lucky, I may get a few comments about how ‘intellectual’ I must be.

YouthDialogue1

YouthDialogue1 (Photo credit: International Monetary Fund)

Regardless, after they get over their shock,  most are very curious. No matter what, be sure to smile, nod, and comfortably answer their question. It may get tiring after a while, but use it as a chance to update and evolve your elevator pitch for different situations. “Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been used to managing my family’s tax returns for a while, and my love of economics and finance began in college when I participated in an accounting program…” 

If you’ve caught their interested, take it and run with it. Networking is about creating a memorable connection in a short amount of time, so don’t hesitate to be proactive about what a person finds unique about you.

2. It’s OK to bring up your minority related affiliations

Are you a member of the American Association of Black Accountants? The LGBTQ association? President of your International Student Association? I say leave it on the resume. It’s a tough call, and could make or break a potential application, but if you have job relevant skills as either a treasurer or PR person, I don’t see a reason to leave it off.

Think of it like this: if a company cares that much about your affiliation, would you really be comfortable working there? I have no desire to be praised or scorned for my involvement in multicultural organizations, it just reflects a part of my personality that I’m truly interested in: social justice awareness. If you’re passionate about that as well, it could be a great talking point in your interview as well. I’ve had plenty of recruiters who tend to look at my resume and like to use that as a talking point.

3. Cut bridges if you begin to feel uncomfortable

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sad to say that I’ve had a variety of things said to me by faculty, students, and coworkers regarding my race, gender, and profession. Some were mild, some we’re more colorful in nature. As much as I hate leaving any networking opportunity, it is fine to cut bridges when you feel as though a line has been crossed. It’s not your job to stay in a negative or uncomfortable environment, and I most certainly would not advise it. Take considerable time to consider your final decision, and be polite if a networker or recruiter just isn’t a good fit.

Ultimately, networking is about finding your brand. You want to be able to have a steady image that you can put forth to the public. I’m not saying that you need to make everything about your minority status, but be realistic and understand that it will come up, whether you like it or not. Accept the facts, be brave, and know your boundaries. You’ll succeed no matter what.

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