Diversity in the Workplace Series: Expert Career Advice From Professionals of Color

By Megan Randall, CPDC Undergraduate Career Coach

Diversity in the Workplace is a CPDC career series for People of Color (POC) in which students and a panel of Professionals of Color come together over lunch. Students listen to panelists’ expert career advice and learn how they’ve navigated the workforce as POC, how to build a network, and much more. This space for POC to connect with and learn from one another is critical because POC experience additional hurdles in the workforce due to systemic racism and oppression. This series was created after our team had conversations over time about the ways we can support and lift up the voices of POC.

After attending a couple of our panels as a White ally in this work, I know I do not experience life in the same ways as POC, nor can I ever fully understand what it is like to navigate the workforce as a Professional of Color. During this crucial moment, I wanted to take the time now to amplify the wonderful advice I heard as an ally and highlight the key quotes and paraphrased takeaways that emerged directly from our panelists’ expert advice during our November 2019 and January 2020 panels:

Theme #1: Identify Companies That Are Inclusive in Your Interviews
Remember, “You’re also interviewing each company”. Do your research to see if a company is a good cultural fit, then ask more questions during your interview, including:

  • Ask what employers mean when they say, “We’re looking for the right cultural fit”.
  • Ask, “Are there POC here (company and city/state)?”
  • Ask, “Who is on your board of directors and in leadership positions?” to see if the company has diverse leadership.
  • Ask, “Is there room for me to join the table at the top?” to see if there will be opportunities for you to rise.

Theme #2: Be Your Full, Authentic Self with Employers
“The most important advocate for yourself needs to be yourself.”

  • “Cultivating a sense of belonging means empowering POC to show up as their true, authentic selves and be recognized for who they are.”
  • “Belonging is about being able to show up as your full self all the time.”
  • “Strive to be your whole, authentic self from the beginning. If not, you’re doing a disservice to yourself.”
  • Don’t shy away from talking about your identities and why they’re important to you. “Help people get to know the real you and ask them to respect you for who you are.”

Theme #3: Find a Mentor, Fast!
“Find mentors who will advocate for you.”

  • “Find a mentor and find them fast. Don’t wait until you’re ready for a career, do it right away. If you find someone who’s willing to be your champion, go with it”
  • “Interview people to be on your mentor board – not just anybody should be on your board.” Find mentors who are willing to bring up conversations for you when you’re not in the room.
  • “You can find mentors in a lot of different people. A mentor could be someone you report to, a colleague, or even a friend who’s moved up in the ranks.”
  • “Mentors also don’t always have to look or sound like you. You can learn a lot from mentors who aren’t exactly like you, and provide them with a return on investment because they can learn from you too.”
  • “Don’t use the term “mentor” when asking people because it can be off-putting. Instead, set up informal 1:1 coffee meetings or lunches. Start small and informal to test the waters.”

All of us in the CPDC acknowledge that this is an ever-growing list of advice, and we remain committed to continuing to create intentional spaces like our Diversity in the Workplace series for POC to learn and grow together. Updates about our 2020-2021 Diversity in the Workplace panels will be published soon in our Handshake Events. We invite you to join us at our future panels!

Special Thanks

I would like to thank the many incredible people who have made our Diversity in the Workplace Series and this post possible. Thank you ALL especially for engaging with me during my writing process for this post, sharing your feedback and suggesting changes I incorporated, and giving me your approval to publish this post.

  • Thank you to my colleague, Carmen Gold-Johnson, our CPDC Assistant Director of Employer Engagement and Internship Development, and James Jackson III, Founder of the Utah Black Chamber (UBC), for creating and continuing to offer this incredible series for our students!
  • Thank you to our November 2019 panelists: Karen Rodriguez (Code in Color), Laura Stireman (WCF), Nikki Walker (Domo), and Risshan Leak (eBay).
  • Thank you to our January 2020 panelists: Deneiva Knight (Comcast), Isaac Ewaleifoh (Goldman Sachs), Krystal Guerra (Instructure), and Robyn Cohen (W Collective).
  • Thank you to my colleagues, Carmen Gold-Johnson; Crystal Cory, Career Coach; Devon Darland, Assistant Director of Programming; and Mary Arola, Career Coach, for working with me to edit and finalize this post for publishing.

4 Outside-of-the-Box Job Hunting Strategies

By Olga Kingsbury, CPDC Undergraduate Career Coach 

During turbulent times, when economic and labor market conditions are as ambiguous and uncertain as they are now, one of the best job search strategies is to think outside of the box and use non-traditional ways of getting hired. Here are a couple of suggestions:  

  1. Reach out to the person you want to work for/with directly and offer your services. We are living in an increasingly transparent and interconnected world, which means you can easily access professionals via LinkedIn, email, and social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Use this opportunity to get in front of them and offer paid and non-paid work. Remember: an opportunity may come when you least expect it.  
  2. Join online meetups that align with your interests. One of the goals of meetups is to connect people with opportunities. It is not uncommon for employers to attend these events to search for talent. For example, if you are looking for a job in programming in the Salt Lake area, join the Python Meetup. The first 15 minutes of every meetup, employers advertise their openings and job seekers share what positions they are seeking.  
  3. Ask to shadow a working professional. Shadowing is a great way to figure out if a field is right for you by observing what the day-to-day of a certain role is like. This is a great activity to do while shifting careers because it can give you a very clear understanding of what skills, qualifications, and experiences are valued in a certain field. Shadowing someone for a couple of days also means you can get to know their colleagues and become a part of their professional network, which means they may keep you on their radar if a job opportunity arises.  
  4. Reach out to a person working in your dream career/organization for an informational interview. Similar to shadowing, an informational interview is a great way to create a connection in the industry, learn valuable insights, and put yourself out there so an opportunity may find you. While shadowing is a bigger time commitment on both sides and may require more coordination, having a 30-minute Zoom call with a professional is a much easier thing to do. Especially now, when much of the workforce is working from home, may have more time on their hands, and may also be craving more social interaction.  

Does submitting a traditional resume for an on-line application on a company website not work anymore? Yes and No. With increasing competition for jobs, recruiters are getting about 250 resumes on average for any given job opening. Adobe’s careers webpage is known as a “black hole” for a reason. Rumor has it that it is nearly impossible to get a job in the company by simply submitting a resume because recruiters get thousands of applications per position. In a situation like this, simultaneously employing the strategies discussed above will maximize your chance for success. For additional support, see a Career Coach or visit our Virtual Career Studio 

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting My First Internship

By Merry Joseph, 2020 CPDC Internship of the Year Award Winner | Biomedical Engineering & Psychology Student | Presidential Intern

The months, weeks, and even days leading up to an internship are an exciting time—filled with anticipation and nervousness. Although you can’t predict what will happen, you can prepare to get the most out of your internship.

Here are 5 things I wish I had known before starting my first internship, which might help you be more successful!

    1. Give yourself time, do not rush the process
      Participating in an internship can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first one. It’s easy to become anxious and burnt out when you’re trying to gel with new colleagues, understand your job, and execute projects successfully, all during the first few weeks of your internship. This is a mistake I made during my first internship. As time progressed, I realized how all of these things fell into place over time. Since your learning curve will likely be steep, take mindful breaks during the day or weekends to refuel yourself. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.


    1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
      There’s no such thing as asking too many questions; you’re doing your internship to learn! Employers don’t select you for an internship because you are already an expert in an area. Rather, they believe you have the most potential to learn and become one.


    1. Learn how to ask great questions
      With that said, HOW you ask your questions matters greatly. Take a look at the following examples:
      “How do I find a genomic dataset for XYZ disease?”
      “I’ve looked through Google Scholar and PubMed for genomic datasets for XYZ disease, but none of them have sufficient samples. What are other ways I can find datasets?”
      Do you notice the difference? The first question lacks thoughtfulness and initiative, whereas the latter is specific and show’s you’ve done prior research to find an answer. Asking questions like the latter will help you make a positive impression on employers.


    1. Be proactive & take initiative
      Don’t let yourself become bored during your internship. Once you finish a task/project, it can be tempting to spend the rest of the day on your phone, browsing the internet, or doing homework. Fight the urge to do so! Rather, ask your coworkers or supervisor if there’s anything else you can do, or propose your own ideas for new tasks/projects. If you feel capable, don’t shy away from shouldering more responsibilities!


  1. Reflect on & log your experiences
    Before you know it, your internship will be over. In the rush to finish up tasks and get ready for your next endeavor, it’s common to forget to take time to reflect on and record all you’ve accomplished. Keeping a weekly/monthly log of the skills you’ve gained, tasks you’ve completed, and experiences you’ve had will help you immensely when the time comes for you to articulate your accomplishments in a future resume, personal statement, interview, or portfolio.

For additional support prior to starting an internship, you can schedule an appointment with a Career Coach or Internship Coordinator.

Lessons from My Career Journey as an International Student in the U.S.

By Olga Kingsbury, Undergraduate Career Coach

July 2014. I had just gotten off my 11-hour Moscow-Washington DC flight, took a breath of fresh air, and could hardly believe I was standing on American soil. It suddenly struck me that I did not know anyone on this continent – it was both liberating and frightening at the same time. Because it was a lifelong dream of mine to study at an American university, I felt a huge sense of responsibility, mixed with ambitious plans and hopes for a better future, while walking down the airplane ramp that day.

6 years later, I am now a Career Coach pursuing my dream career at the University of Utah. The transition from being an international student to becoming a working professional in the U.S. was not an easy one. So today, I want to support fellow international students by sharing some of the lessons I learned along my challenging, yet transformational, career journey.

    1. Campus resources will help you succeed
      When I arrived at West Virginia University, I was overwhelmed by the number of resources available to me. I decided to make it a part of my routine to explore each department. I attended International Student Services OPT/CPT workshops and connected with an advisor to educate myself on the legal implications of my F1 status. I consistently met with a Career Coach from the Career Center to prepare for my job search process. These resources helped me navigate a new academic and professional environment.


    1. Find support in the community
      There are people out there who walked your path. They are your biggest resource of emotional support and information. Grow your personal and professional networks by joining on- and off-campus organizations that bring together international professionals. Seek out mentors who can relate to your experience.


    1. Be patient with yourself
      Even after 6 years of studying and working in the US, I don’t always understand jokes or cultural references to famous movie or book characters. English is still my second language, and I am not always as funny or eloquent in English as I can be in my native language. And that’s okay. While trying to assimilate into a new professional culture, it is important to honor your identity and focus on the unique perspective and strengths you bring with your international background.


  1. Find an employer that truly values diversity
    Working on a team, like the Career & Professional Development Center (CPDC), where diversity and inclusion are the core values is going to set you up for success. Surround yourself with professionals who genuinely value your unique background and give you an opportunity to shine your strengths. While it took me years to find a team where I never feel isolated, “alien”, or out of place, it was worth it.

Please know that the CPDC is always here for you, no matter what your immigration status is. If you are an international student and would like to discuss your career, make an appointment with Olga or any other Career Coach.

The Ins and Outs of Feeling Prepared for a Virtual Internship 

By Carmen Gold-Johnson, AD for Employer Engagement & Internship Development 

COVID-19 has forced many in-person internships to go virtual. To help you feel prepared for a virtual internship, we’ve outlined their benefits and drawbacks, below.  

Benefits of Virtual Internships 

  • Greater Access: Since you can complete virtual internships right from the comfort of your own home, it’s now easier than ever to do an internship before you graduate.  
  • Work Flexible Hours: In general, virtual work doesn’t have to happen between 8:00-5:00. Work with your supervisor to figure out a schedule that will work best for both of you and still allow you to fulfill the needs of your internship.  
  • Save Money & Time: Since you won’t need to commute to your internship site, you will save money on travel and can use the time you would be commuting to get your work done instead.  
  • Enhance Self-Management Skills: Working from home will help you gain skills in self-management and self-discipline. These skills will be great additions to your resume and be extremely useful to you throughout your career.  
  • Improve Technology Skills: Since you will be utilizing more technology platforms for your internship, you will become more tech savvy. This is a great skill you’ll be able to offer future employers.  
  • Build Community: Because you won’t be able to get to know your colleagues in the lunch room, you will need to intentionally reach out to them to set up video chats or coffee phone calls to stay connected. In doing you, you will develop great community-building and networking skills that you can use with any future employers.  

Drawbacks to Virtual Internships  

  • Lack of Motivation: Working from home can feel lonely, which can make it hard to muster up the motivation to keep working, day after day. To stay motivated, lean on your team, supervisor, and network to figure out a routine that will work best for you, and be prepared to adapt it as needed.   
  • Having no “office” experience: Understandably, you may be disappointed that you won’t be able to interact with your team at your physical office. However, it’s still important to collaborate and build relationships remotely. Be intentional about attending virtual team meetings and set up networking calls to help you feel like you’re an important part of the team, as you would be at the office. 
  • Different Communication: Since you won’t be in the office, you can’t just stop by your supervisor’s office to check-in or ask for feedback like you normally might. So, at the very beginning of your virtual internship, be sure to establish clear learning objectives and at least a weekly check-in meeting with your supervisor to help you stay engaged, track your progress, and complete your work.   

By now, we hope you have more clarity on the ins and outs of virtual internships so you feel more prepared to participate in one. Despite their drawbacks, they are great opportunities! For more support, reach out to a Career Coach in the CPDC or a member of the Internship Council. Good luck!  

Your Dream Job Could Be Just a DM Away 

By Olga Kingsbury, CPDC Career Coach 

Summer 2016: I had just graduated from my master’s program in TESOL from West Virginia University. For years, it had been my dream to become an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor and help international professionals develop their communication skills in English. Due to family circumstances, I had to stay in Morgantown, town of 30,000 people, after I graduated, so mjob search options were rather limited. After having no luck getting a couple of ESL positions, I had become frustratedThe right job just wouldn’t come. By that time, I had expanded my job search by applying for university positions outside of ESL, but it did not help. I COULD NOT GET A JOB.

I was lying on my couch one night, mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, when a post by Lena Yasenkova, a worldfamous make-up artist, caught my attention. She and her team were at New York fashion week getting models ready for the runway. “What a blessing...” – I thought – “…to have a job doing what you love the most AND get world recognition for it”.  

I don’t know where my next impulse came from, but I decided to direct message (DM) her: 

  • Hey Lena! I really admire your work. I am an English Language Instructor and I would love to teach you and your team online. Your team travels all over the world and I was hoping I could help you develop your professional communication skills in English.  

When I sent the message, I did not have much hope of hearing backLena had 70,000 followers and I doubted she even read all the DMs people sent her. So, I went straight to bed.  

The next morning, I opened my Instagram and guess what I saw in my inbox?! A DM from Lena! My heart started pounding. It said: 

  • Hey Olga! Thanks for texting me. I would love to collaborate! Here is my phone number, let’s chat today.  

I could not believe what had happened – I had just gotten myself a job by sending a DM! Later that day, I talked to Lena about what platform and materials we would use for instruction and how her team would pay me.  

For the next couple of months, I taught English to a group of 10 worldclass professionals on Lena’s team from the comfort of my own home, and made a decent income. 

What I got out of this experience, however, was much more than an impressive line on my resume. I learned that sometimes your dream job is just a DM away.  

Top Tips for Job Searching During COVID-19 

By Megan Randall, CPDC Career Coach  

If you’re wondering how to job search during COVID-19, you’re not alone. Many people are asking themselves this very question. For this reason, we’ve put together these tips to help you keep your job search active during the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Have an Optimistic Mindset 

Try to think positively about your job search. While some employers have slowed or stopped hiring, Glassdoor found that U.S. job postings in industries such as the government, biotech, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and nonprofits have tripled in response to the Coronavirus. Many companies are also now recruiting for remote positions and timely in-person opportunities locally. You can view several  opportunities here and login to Handshake to see more.  

Keep Up Your Job Search – Don’t Give Up! 

If you haven’t started your job search, start right away. Apply regularly and consistently. If you continue searching, you’ll have an advantage over those who have decided to stop.  

Tap Into & Grow Your (Virtual) Network 

Most people find jobs through networking, so spend time making new connections and reviving old ones. Ask individuals to meet over the phone or video. Be active on professional networking websites like LinkedIn and the University’s free AlumniFire platform. Update your professional profiles, make connections, share and comment on articles, and join discussion groups to strengthen your presence.  

Reflect on How You Stand Out 

Reflect on your unique skills and experiences and plan how to articulate them to employers. In the wake of the Coronavirus, think about highlighting your remote work/project experience, program management and problem-solving skills, and how you would function well independently and on a team as a remote employee. Seek out professional development like online courses, trainings, and certifications to enhance your skillset.  

Prioritize Quality over Quantity 

Since fewer jobs may be available, it’s more important than ever to make each of your job applications count. Research each organization, then use your research to tailor your resume and cover letter for each application. Show employers how you match what they are looking for to increase your likelihood of getting an interview.  

Anticipate Delays in the Hiring Process 

Now that many employers are working remotely, in-person interviews may be on-hold or now be held virtually. Ask employers about alternatives to face-to-face interviews. Practice interviewing by phone and video to prepare, such as by using StandOut’s free video mock-interviewing platform 

Be Patient and Follow-Up 

Continually express to employers that you’re excited to move forward in their hiring process. Follow-up consistently and politely and ask about updates and next steps. While your job search may feel like it is out of your control, remember that you DO have control in the follow-up process.  

Take Care of Yourself! 

It can be hard to take care of yourself during your job search, especially when you can’t leave your house easily. Schedule time to unwind and recharge so you can keep your energy up and stay optimistic. Find time for things that bring you joy and comfort.