Written by Susan Lamphiear
“Be excellent” advises keynote speaker Brenda Cunningham, speaking to a room full of job seekers looking to regain their spot in the workplace due to either layoffs or career change. Being excellent – it’s the best all-around antidote to any possibility of discrimination whether motivated by race, gender and sexual orientation, age, or educational background.
Sure, discrimination exists in 2019, Brenda admits, adding, “And it’s illegal.” Bottom line is this: “Why would you want to work for someone who’s going to discriminate against you?” As a young child she was no stranger to discrimination and was actively called the “N word” in fourth grade.
Fast forward to Brenda and her children having fun at the pool. The towel manager came to her twice (she was reading a book while her kids were playing) saying they were getting complaints from members and asked them to keep it down. “We’re members, too,” Brenda said. She noticed other people were loud but no one called them out. After all, it was a swimming pool. “Aren’t people supposed to have fun?” Of course, she said, sometimes the right thing to do is to speak up in the face of discrimination.
Brenda is Black and she is a woman. She also holds a degree in electrical engineering with nine years of experience. As an engineer she was the only person of color at her company. Brenda lists all the things that help define her, explaining she’s married to a 400+ pound man with dreadlocks, has natural hair, is a Christian, is over 40, and has no degree in career management, though she has certifications in the field.
So what? All of these things that describe her, or any of us, can become our obstacles. STOP! Don’t let any of these descriptors hold you back. Instead, let your abilities and excellence, your “awesomeness,” define you.
If something is holding you back in your career search, maybe it’s not about your race, gender/sexual orientation, education or age? Instead, could it be about a lack of connecting with your audience?
To better navigate today’s job search, update your resume, get relevant experience if you don’t have it, and be creative in the search through active and consistent networking with real live people, not just job boards.
Words of Wisdom from Brenda
- Today’s job search is different and harder than it used to be or has to be.
- Application tracking systems are a fact of life. Learn to live with it by understanding how it works. For example, if you’ve completed at least a semester of coursework in your chosen field, add it to your resume, because the tracking system will pick it up.
- If you don’t have relevant experience, obtain it through free training, certifications, or invest in yourself and get the education you need. Volunteer somewhere to keep current in your chosen field, whether it’s your same field or a new one. VOLUNTEERING creates relevant experience and IT COUNTS! Stay relevant!
- Brenda’s philosophy: Experience trumps formal education.
- When you add a college course or certification to your resume, it demonstrates your ability to learn at that level.
- Focus on how awesome you are, not what you lack. If your resume does not reflect how awesome you are, fix it by going out and obtaining the necessary credentials, and then adding these certifications, courses, or volunteer experience to your resume.
Tips for Handling AGE on Your Resume (or In Person)
- Leave off college graduation date. It’s not necessary.
- LinkedIn recruiting does not see age–it’s blacked out. So assume the employer can’t see it and don’t give away information that’s not requested.
- Avoid the words or phrases that might hint or give away your age such as “retired” or “seasoned” or “35 years of experience.”
- Participate in social media (which employers often check) but Brenda threatens, “I’d better not see you talking about the good old days on social media!”
- Use energetic language on your resume and in your interview. Do not speak disparagingly about technology, for example!
- Help show potential employers your willingness to learn and grow–that you still have “fuel in the tank.”
- Learn how to explain the impact you’ve had in the workplace. Be specific. On your resume and in person.
Remember we are each complex individuals, making the workforce stronger because of the diversity we bring. Brenda gives the example of the much criticized error the Red Cross made in design of their swimming safety poster in 2016. “Somebody should have caught that,” Brenda said. “But it’s funny, so look it up.” She cites it as a cautionary tale of the importance of diversity, which can shine light on an issue or a project from multiple points of view and could have probably avoided the embarrassing pool safety poster error.
Michelle Grinberg, Regional Solutions Consultant
Modis is an IT and engineering staffing company – part of Adecco Staffing, who partners with Career Connectors. Started in 1986, the company has maintained a presence throughout the United States with offices in Canada, Europe and South America.
The company places candidates in a range of positions from information technology to director positions, including the aerospace industry. Info tech is their primary focus, though. Big in the industry right now are JAVA, data analysis, and artificial intelligence.
Candidates registering with Modis are assigned a recruiter who follows them throughout their career path. Part of the process includes tech and accounting evaluations and professional reference checks.
Once you’ve registered with Modis as an employee, you’re eligible for their 300 free courses in their learning enter, ranging from leadership to software development. You’re also eligible for benefits, payroll deductions, vacation holiday pay, and retention and referral bonuses.
No employee ever pays a fee for these services. Open positions include System Administrator, JAVA Developer Sr, Entry-level Tech Support, and Network Engineer.
To learn more about Modis, visit their website.
Robin Ersland, Recruitment Partnership Manager
Honor Health is a hospital system with three hospitals in Scottsdale, two in Phoenix, and medical offices throughout the Valley, known for community service and outstanding medical quality. The system employs 11,000, staffs 4,500 volunteers , and includes over 70 primary and specialty care practices and more.
The hospital system offers generous perks, including a variety of healthcare benefits to both FT and PT employees; plus a robust PTO program, fitness facility, tuition assistance, 403(b) retirement plan and 529 college savings plan. They also offer continuing education assistance, child care centers and in-home sick child care, paid time off for vacation, personal, sick and holidays; short term and long-term disability; discounted bus passes, fitness facilities, pet insurance, legal plans; and much more. For more information visit their benefits section of their website.
Positions available include an ongoing need for nurses plus registration and scheduling. Featured careers this week include Patient Care Technicians, RNs and Therapists, Food services, Social Workers and Care Managers, Customer Navigation Coordinators, Financial Services, Security Services, and Logistics/Supply Chain Services. Visit their website for more information.
Courtney Fuller, Director, Bank Underwriting
Everything at USAA starts with their mission. Their mission is to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services. In doing so, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community.
USAA prides itself on its diversity and inclusion. Also, because military members are their primary focus, at least 30% of new hires are veterans or military spouses.
USAA offers comprehensive financial services, including banking, investments, property and life insurance, and financial advice. In Phoenix, USAA is located at Happy Valley Rd. and I-17. Jobs include customer service, insurance, banking, and IT software developers.
Perks and benefits include PTO (accrued by years of service); maternity and paternity leave; two volunteer days per year; wellness program including a fitness center, energy/relax zones, healthy points program; 401K match (up to 8%); bonus potential; and education assistance – all available on day one.
Apply online at their website.
Resources and Closing
Thank You to Highlands Church for hosting today’s event!
Check out these relevant TED talks on diversity, unconscious bias, and excellence.
3 design principles to help us overcome everyday bias-Thaniya Keereepart
We all have implicit biases. So what do we do about it?-Dushaw Hockett
It’s About Time We Challenge Our Unconscious Biases-Juliette Powell
Unconscious bias: Stereotypical hiring practices-Gail Tolstoi-Miller
Dare to Be Extraordinary-Dr. Christine Riordan