Welcome to About My Business, Unbothered's brand new career column. For years, I was getting tons of DMs like “How can I negotiate my salary?,” “I don’t know how to discuss mental health with my boss,” and “Why does this white woman insist on asking me everything just because I’m Black?” This is a space to answer your questions while spilling my guts, tips and tea.
For this instalment of About My Business, we’re discussing a topic that really just can’t wait: How to get a job during this pandemic. More specifically, how to get hired as a postgraduate.
If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know my career started when I was a wee baby intern. I was one of those intern freaks. You know, the girl who never took her summers off because she wanted experience? The girl who, at one point, had three internships in one semester. Now, before you run for the hills, I’m not going to turn you into a serial intern! In this segment, I want to give other Black girls advice on how to secure a job at the place they’re interning if they’re hiring right now. I want Black girls to feel confident and ready for this cut-throat and complicated market, I called in some reinforcements.
My girl Nana Agyemang was just as much of an intern hoe as I was. In fact, we were both ELLE.com interns when we were in college. We worked together at R29 — she was actually one of the early voices in the room when we started planning what Unbothered could be. Since then, she’s grown @thecut’s Instagram to one million followers and founded her own media company for women of colour called EveryStylishGirl. They provide resources, advice, and host Sip N’ Slay, a career conference for badass women of colour who want to break into fashion and media. After speaking at one last year, I was so moved by all the younger versions of myself I saw in the audience. That’s one of the reasons why I want to write this. I want to see more Black women in media, period. So grab your notebooks. Nana and I are about to drop the gems on how to get there.
How can you organize your resume if you don’t have much experience?
Nana Agyemang: “I would suggest thinking back to your glory days for your resume. When were you putting in the most work? Was it at a volunteer centre? Were you assisting for some time? Or are you working on your own company now? Don’t just think because you aren’t getting paid for it you shouldn’t be included. I highly suggest highlighting extracurricular activities. For example, I was an editor-in-chief at George Washington University’s campus magazine and with that title and responsibility I managed to get a job at BBC News. Remember it’s not merely about the title, it’s oftentimes about the skills you built while working that role. So don’t sleep on your past volunteer work; instead, amplify it and make sure to include data in all your resume points.”
Laurise McMillian: "Use the job description to highlight transferable skills! You’d be surprised at the crossover skills between a role like a sales clerk at Target and a community manager at Gucci."
What are your resume Dos and Hell Nos?
NA: "A major resume 'Do' that I tell all my interns and mentees about is to include quantitative data. This means every line in your resume under your role should include numeral and measurable points. For example, if you were a social media assistant, list how many followers the account had that you managed, talk about the percentage of growth you had on that page, and include your reach and insights. It is vital for companies to see that you had a direct impact at your previous company. Numbers carry weight. Remember that.
In terms of a 'Don’t,' I suggest not having a CV longer than one page. If it’s longer, that means you aren’t organized. It takes critical reviewing to fit everything on one page and I respect applicants who can do that. Also, it is okay to have more than one CV. I highly recommend you make different resumes based on your application to different industries. If you are applying to be a writer versus a painter you might want to show various experiences and that might call for another slightly updated CV."
LM: "I think photos on resumes are unnecessary, but as a designer, I don’t mind an illustration. I think as a POC, an illustration could be beneficial. We know all these companies are trying to be 'diverse' now. Use that."
How do you network at a conference like Sip N’ Slay? How do I get a stranger's email?
NA: "Always shoot your shot. I recommend that you ask them there and then in our live event chat! Be direct and be quick. The worst that could happen is that they say no, but the chances are not that likely because they are attending a networking event, therefore, they know there will be some networking."
LM: "If you can’t get them during the event, respectfully slide in their DMs afterward to let them know how much you enjoyed their talk. LinkedIn is always a safe platform."
What’s the secret to a meaningful cover letter?
NA: "Always include the company’s mission statement at the end of your cover letter. This shows you’ve done your research and you’re passionate about their goals and business plan. Every time I’ve included a company’s mission statement I’ve booked an interview with them. It’s a simple act with a huge influence."
LM: "Going back to the first question. If you don’t have a ton of direct experience, use the cover letter to explain why hiring you still makes sense. Are you passionate? Were there parts of the job that were too wordy for the resume? Use the cover letter to plead your case and gas yourself up one last time."
When you were an intern, how did you create relationships with your editors? How did you maintain those relationships after you left?
NA: "Building relationships with editors doesn’t happen overnight. Because quite frankly they’re just very busy. Personally, I found that editors gravitated towards me the most when I did great work. I stayed on top of my work, I pitched ideas regularly and I volunteered to do the grunt work when other interns didn’t. Deadlines are important to editors. If you promise to get a piece out on time, try your best to stick to that time. It shows that you’re reliable and they can depend on you. Once they start depending on you, that’s a sign they are growing closer to you and an organic relationship can build from there. At the end of my internships I left all my editors with a gift and emailed them a very sweet thank you note. I followed them all on Instagram at the same time and most of them followed back, a majority being the ones that I went over-the-top to impress."
LM: "I’m with Nana. Every editor needs a go-to girl. Be that! Also, ask for one-on-one meetings during and after your internship. Ask people who weren’t even in your department. Move around. Also check in with past editors. If they wrote something bomb or got an award, email them and tell them that s&*! spoke to you. Your bosses are human — flattery helps!"
Every Stylish Girl Business is a new arm of ESG that’s designed to get WOC jobs and fair pay. What kind of jobs can students find listed here?
NA: "ESGB’s career advancement directory is for all things digital and creative. If you are looking for a job in media, fashion or beauty, you want to apply to be a part of this career directory. You might also want to follow our Instagram, EveryStylishGirlBiz, where we post job opportunities weekly from top-tier media companies."
LM: "Truthfully, it’s my favourite Instagram account right now. And I ain’t even looking for a job."
What’s the best way to follow up on a job application without looking dumb?
NA: "I am going to share a secret that might surprise you all, but my mentor passed it onto me and I am going to pass it to you. The secret is you should pick up the phone and call for your follow up or send a letter. You have to think differently when you are following up for a job. Everyone does an email follow up but who actually thinks outside of the box to send a letter or call?"
LM: "I think a lot of people think 'the industry' is all about this too cool for school attitude. Be humble. Be enthusiastic. Show them how much you want it. Don’t be begging, now, but tell them just how much you see yourself there and how much you know that you can do for the company. BDE, baby! Good luck. I know y’all got this."