Updated: Aug 10, 2021
If you're reading this, chances are you're a young, awesomely authentic LGBT+ or a POC starting your career as a student or an intern. Lucky for you, the Awesomely Authentic summer interns, Asher, Patrick, and Nora, have some tricks up our sleeves we'd like to share!
1. Utilize your university's resources:
Fact: College is expensive for most students. We suggest getting the biggest bang for your buck by exploring all your institution has to offer. Many students graduate without ever utilizing offices such as career development services, the office of student affairs, or student counseling to name a few. These offices may go by different names at your institution, but your university should have a variety of resources. You’re paying for them, so use them! For example, career services may be able to review your resume, conduct mock interviews, or supply you with gently used professional attire for your interview. Other resources to be on the lookout for that can enhance your experience as a student are student food banks, study abroad, alumni association, LGBT services (e.a. LGBT scholarships, LGBT housing, Safe Space, Trans/Queer student alliances, etc), and programs such as safe-ride or safe-walk.
Patrick is in his fourth year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This past week, he just learned that his university’s career center does professional headshots for students. There are so many different services that are supplied at colleges that usually get lost in pamphlets and flyers. Don’t be afraid to visit the offices and talk to the front desk, you’d be surprised what you might learn!
2. Know your rights
Sadly, workplace discrimination is a real thing. Knowing your rights as a member of a marginalized group early on in your professional life as an intern or student may be useful to know. Check out this article on Title VII to learn more: 7 Things to Know About Title XII (awesomelyauthentic.com)
3. Get a student job/join a student org
Getting a student job on campus or joining a student org is a great way to meet people! Your first student job or first internship could connect you to lifelong friends, as it has for some of us. In addition, your campus job could or student org could get you the experience to land your first internship.
For example, Asher began working as a group fitness instructor on his campus early in the fall of his freshman year. This was all because he took a class at the rec center and the instructor at the time recommended he do so. During the pandemic, Asher took the opportunity to create fitness and wellness Instagram content for the rec center’s Instagram page. This experience ultimately helped him earn a social media event promotion gig with a nonprofit, as well as helped him obtain the position of social media manager to one of the VPs on his campus. While this was a very round-about way of getting to where he wanted to be, it would not have been possible if he had not gotten his first student job. Moral of the story: getting a job or joining a student org is a great place to start. Take advantage of the friendly faces and safe spaces your university provides, and go from there!
Nora joined several student organizations during college including Psychology Club, Student Government Association, and a community service organization. Nora was able to receive leadership roles and also gained more knowledge on what is behind the scenes in campus (in SGA) since the meetings discussed any new changes that were made. People were more than welcomed to attend the meetings as well. This was one way she was able to feel connected to other people being the only person from her high school at her new school. It can feel scary, but this was one way of making friends and getting close with the campus community.
4. Networking/LinkedIn, don't limit you circle
Related to getting a job or joining a student org in order to meet people is networking! Your bubble is wonderful. It's where you feel comfortable and can be very productive. However, this can also be detrimental to a new career. As the saying goes, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” Take advantage of your favorite professor’s office hours. If you build a professional relationship with them, they may write you a great letter of recommendation later on, or they may even send potential job or internship opportunities your way.
In addition, you can (and should) look to network outside of your campus. Use that elevator pitch that you wrote in your Public Speaking 101 course and don't be afraid to network and just introduce yourself to someone at a job fair or even someone at a place you’d like to work (you never know the impression you might make on someone). Be on the lookout for interesting companies or nonprofits in your campus’s community. More people will be willing to help you if they know you!
5. Take a chance
Patrick was terrified to leap out of his comfort zone as a fat person. Yet, he committed to a 21 day hiking trip in the Wyoming mountains as part of a scholarship. Those 15 days were traumatizing, but he learned a lot about jumping, even when you can't see the ground. Turns out that he left 6 days early with a broken elbow, but still considers that leap a success. Leaping does not always mean that you won’t break bones, but it does ensure that your independence and confidence will grow for the next jump. The point is that taking a chance does not always end perfectly, but that sometimes what you learn while you are out of your comfort zone can be just as valuable.
For you as a BIPOC/LGBT+ student or intern, that leap may be applying for a job or scholarship that you don’t believe you are qualified for. Lucky for you, you won’t break your elbow if you apply for that scholarship! The worst that can happen is that they say “no.”
Speaking of the word “no”, rejection is something you will inevitably encounter on your path as a student or intern. “No” is not always a bad thing. Yes, you’re absolutely allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But, once you’re ready, start looking for the next thing. If you invalidate feelings of rejection, then they begin to fester and destroy your self-esteem and self-image.
All of the “no’s” Asher received applying to internships for 5 months lead to the “yes” that was his internship at Awesomely Authentic. Every “no” is one “no” closer to the “yes” you are working towards!
Rejection is not estranged to Patrick, he applied to 39 scholarships during his senior year of high school. Sadly, 38 of the scholarships did not choose him, but 1 saw potential. He is now looking at his Senior year in college, because someone saw me and my potential. To quote Lady Gaga, “There could be a hundred people in the room…”
7. Don’t be intimidated
In addition the fear of rejection, intimidation sometimes deters students and interns from excelling in their positions or even applying in the first place. As a BIPOC and/or LGBT+ person, you may feel insecure or intimidated for many valid reasons. Getting comfortable with your authentic self could help you feel less intimidated. Facing intimidation with confidence is the way to go!
Nora has been the only person of color in the room and at first it was a new feeling she had not encountered until she went to college. It felt different but it made them more aware about her identities and how important it was for her to feel comfortable around everyone.
Most of the time when Patrick was part of a mentorship program, they would pair him with one individual and that was his mentor. Going through college and internships, they have learned that having a mentor does not mean that you are only allowed to reach out to that one person. You can have multiple mentors at once for multiple different areas in life. The point of mentors is to help you grow, no one will be upset that you got advice from another source. Mentors are just like us, they all have different experiences and some have more insight for certain situations. Also recognize that you have important experiences too! Feedback and insight is important and if it's not a mutual relationship, then it's not true mentorship. If you're having trouble with mutual respect, it might be due to ageism within the relationship!
Nora states the mentorship she had with her psychology professor and supervisor is what led her to further her education. As a first generation college student, she was not thinking about what she would do next after undergrad. Graduate school did not spark her interest until her psychology professor told her about graduate programs. This was a critical step in learning about how to further her education. Not too long after, her supervisor forwarded her an email about thinking about pursuing a career in student affairs. The mentors she had in undergrad had made me seek opportunities and believe in herself more.
9. Portfolio building
Your resume proves to your possible future employer that you can talk the talk. Your portfolio on the other hand proves that you can walk the walk. But, how are you supposed to prove you can walk the walk if you’ve never had to before? We suggest keeping everything (from a flyer that you created for an event, to an article you’ve written) to begin with. If you use your best coursework in your portfolio, it will help you get your first internship, where you will get real experience.
Portfolio building is not usually a skill that you are taught before starting out on your professional path. Patrick suggests keeping everything in an online storage account like Google Drive or OneDrive. That way, it is always accessible and can be used to showcase yourself!
10. Make your voice heard
Your voice as a bipoc or lgbt+ student and/or intern is so important! As a student, you can make your voice heard in student government or by participating in student surveys. Being your authentic self at work can be scary, but as our friend Hannah Sieber puts it in this article, "Be the first. Someone has to take the step to be the first queer person in a company, the first woman on a software team, etc. It's an unfair burden, but remember you're paving the way for others and you're making it so that someone else can be the SECOND, and another the THIRD."
Patrick was chosen to be a summer intern at a local LGBTQ+ youth center his sophomore year and was ecstatic to start. While there, he noticed that many of the youth felt that they were not heard in a genuine way. Following the end of his internship, he was now a youth and became a member of the first Youth Senate in order to bring change and actual representation on the Board of Directors. Though COVID cut their Senate experience short, the cementation of the Youth Senate allows for there to be more of a conversation about the challenges within the center.
These 10 wildcard tips are sure to come in handy as a student or intern, as well as help you to be your awesomely authentic self.
Best wishes ,
Asher, Patrick, Nora