It is important to the career success of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students to graduate with at least one internship or other career-related job. Although some employers hire primarily based on the school and major of the student, the vast majority of employers place even greater value on work experience. It makes sense, of course, because employers hire candidates to get work done, not to sit in classes, write essays, or take exams.
We sought advice from six industry leaders, including CEOs and HR professionals, about issues specifically related to how BIPOC students should navigate the challenging landscape of internships and early career opportunities. Their tips range from utilizing specialized job search platforms to cultivating a network and embracing individuality.
Utilize Specialized Job Search Platforms
One of the most valuable resources can be specialized websites tailored to your community. Platforms like HBCU Connect, Diversity.com, or BIPOC Jobs Canada are tailored for BIPOC candidates. These sites become a primary hub, offering exclusive job postings not available elsewhere.
Companies listed on these platforms have already expressed an interest in promoting diversity, meaning there’s a lower risk of landing in an unsupportive environment. From personal experience, I’ve seen peers navigate to fulfilling roles thanks to these platforms. They filter out companies that might not value diversity as much.
Fred Winchar, Founder and Certified HR Professional, MaxCash
Leverage Available Resources and Take Chances
Take advantage of resources: There are a lot of great opportunities for BIPOC college/university students provided by their schools, organizations, and other groups. Utilize those resources to your advantage!
Consider joining groups that offer mentoring programs or attending career fairs hosted by student organizations. Many colleges also have career services offices, which can provide invaluable advice and guidance about how to navigate the job market.
Last, don’t be afraid to take chances and apply for positions even if you don’t perfectly meet all the requirements—you never know what could happen.
Ryan Hetrick, CEO, Epiphany Wellness
Develop a Helpful Professional Network
When searching for an internship, a first job after graduation, or another early-career employment opportunity, it’s important to develop a strong network of contacts.
Building meaningful relationships with people in the industry can provide valuable insight into potential opportunities and help create entry points into organizations. It’s also beneficial to join professional associations and attend networking events in order to meet like-minded individuals, build relationships, and increase your visibility.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for informational interviews with potential employers or mentors. This can help open doors to internship and job opportunities that may not have been advertised otherwise.
Keith Sant, Head of Property Acquisitions, Texas Cash House Buyer
Establish a Strong Online Presence
If you want to be taken seriously in your field, you need to establish yourself on LinkedIn and other similar sites. Put forth your best efforts and highlight your passions and interests.
Present yourself as an involved and knowledgeable professional by sharing relevant articles and insights. Increase your profile by networking with decision-makers and prospective employers.
Claire Jill Parker, Director of Business Management, GoVisaFree
Prioritize Your Mental Health During Challenges
One piece of advice for a BIPOC college student is to prioritize mental health work. While pursuing career opportunities is a top priority, mental health is just as important and can be overlooked.
As a BIPOC person, you may deal with racial and identity stressors that can add to the mental health challenges. Set up reminders for yourself to take breaks, drink water, and create a space that is healthy for your mind and body.
Matthew Ramirez, Co-Founder, USMLE Test Prep
Embrace Individuality and Cultivate a Community
For BIPOC college/university students seeking early-career opportunities, cultivating a robust professional community is paramount. Attend industry events, join relevant online groups, and engage with professionals on platforms like LinkedIn. Establishing meaningful connections can provide insights, mentorship, and potential job leads.
Leverage your unique background as a strength and emphasize the diverse perspectives you bring to the table. Crafting a standout resume and cover letter that reflects your skills and experiences is equally crucial. Embrace your individuality and actively seek companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion, aligning with your values and aspirations.
Aviad Faruz, CEO, Know Mastery