This article on authenticity is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.
Before working in the tech sector, I spent over a decade helping high school students who were not interested in and/or able to attend college to enter the workforce.
These job seekers often had the following in common:
1) They were between 18 and 25 years old
2) They did not have a college degree or a postsecondary/professional credential
3) Their work experience often came from low-skilled, low-paying jobs
4) They were predominantly men and women of color
For many of these students, job searching was an uphill battle. Authenticity played a big role, in the struggle to craft resumes and cover letters that truly articulated their experiences and preparedness for jobs they applied for, along with a lack of confidence throughout the interview process.
Now, as a Career Coach at Flatiron School, I guide recent graduates through the job search process. Though the struggle for authenticity is less critical for my current students – race still plays an important role when breaking into the tech industry, an industry that employs notably fewer people of color.
For this reason, I find it necessary to highlight race in this blog to help job seekers forge strong authentic relationships that set them up for success during and after the job search.
Why Authenticity Can Be A Struggle
Job seekers of color struggle with being authentic through the job search, more so than their white peers.
This is different from imposter syndrome, which many tech bootcamps grads struggle with, regardless of race, gender, or professional experience. This is about job seekers feeling they don’t belong because of a lack of representation, resulting in them altering their behavior to fit the white male dominant culture of the field.
Being authentic is not only important in preparing cover letters and resumes but throughout the interview process when employers are assessing for “fit”, which is more about the person’s soft skills, including their ability to develop strong relationships while on the job, according to Harver, a hiring solution for tech talent.
This results in prolonged job searchers, full of anxiety and lack of self-confidence. Hence, the importance of helping job seekers of color bring their whole selves to the job search, and below are some tips for job seekers to bring their authentic selves to the process.
Tips for Bringing Your Authentic Self To The Job Search
Bring ALL of yourself to the interview.
Do not be afraid to speak about the experiences, personal and professional, that make you who you are, if they’re relevant to the job search.
This is especially important when they ask you “tell me about yourself” in the job interview.
For instance, perhaps you’re interviewing during the Holidays, and to try to build rapport, the employer asks for your Holiday plans. You may want to talk about foods that are unique to your family and/or culture; or perhaps you may want to share the tradition of celebrating the Three Kings Day in your family, using this as an opportunity to show off your story-telling skills.
Being authentic in the interview will help you relax, giving you a platform to highlight your unique talents and experiences, and set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates.
Practice and develop self-awareness.
Being authentic as a person of color does not mean you have to overshare or serve as a token of your ethnic or cultural background. You alone know best what to share or not, and how to best carry yourself, as there is not a “right” way to be authentic.
However, it’s to your benefit to be approachable, demonstrate vulnerability, and be able to connect with others at a very basic human level. And, a great way to find that balance is by practicing self-awareness, which is described as the habit of paying close attention to the way you think, feel and behave in certain situations.
Increasing your self-awareness will make you less self-conscious about how others perceive you, and help you carry yourself more authentically.
Do not code-switch.
I know! You may have learned that you need to speak or behave “white” in certain situations, which is different from speaking or behaving professionally.
Adaptability and professionalism are important soft skills, and you can lean on these, and your emotional intelligence when you’re not sure how to behave or speak in certain situations. But, do take and display pride in the things that are unique and important to you, i.e., the way you do your hair, the things you do with your family and friends, where you were born or grew up, etc.
Those are things that make you special. After all, you are a multi-dimensional individual with many interests and experiences.
Build your brand around your authentic inner voice.
Consistency yields results, and it’s really difficult to be consistent across the job search – in your cover letters and resumes, in your elevator pitch when networking, during interviews – if you’re not being authentic.
Recognize that the job search is time for rediscovery and transformation.
You must rely on what you know well about yourself – your values, your personal story, your background – to help you craft a strong brand identity that highlights what’s unique about you and helps you get the job you want.
Ask your coach for help
While a good coach will develop a safe space for you to be yourself, feel free to ask your coach for guidance if you’re not sure how to behave in certain situations.
For instance, perhaps you’d like to mention your passion for Black Lives Matter in your elevator pitch because it’s relevant to the role you’re applying to but you think it’s a sensitive topic. Not only should you ask your coach, but also take and practice using their feedback during your coaching sessions.
Your coaching sessions are the ideal place to bring your whole self and practice authenticity and ask for help when you need it.
Remember – Bring Your True Self With You
Authenticity helps job seekers find purpose and clarity in their job search, keeping them motivated and present, and helping them accomplish their short and long-term goals.
For people of color, however, this is not an easy task given the lack of representation of people of color and the white dominant culture in the tech industry.
In addition to serving as a resource for job seekers, I hope this blog sparks conversations about creating safe coaching spaces and relationships for job seekers of color to bring their whole selves into the job search, shortening the time they spend in this process, overall, helping them land higher-paying, more satisfying jobs.
About Junior Manon
Junior Manon is a College Access and Success and Career Development professional with over fifteen years of experience. He currently works as an independent consultant and career coach, helping organizations develop opportunities and support for people of color to break into, and succeed, in tech industries.