For students of color, job hunt proves to be more challenging

By Zila Renfro

The job hunt for college graduates is often a difficult process, but studies show that it’s even more difficult for minorities.

According to a 2015 study by the Economic Policy Institute, despite the nation’s recent drop in unemployment rates, young black and Hispanic graduates still tend to have higher rates of unemployment compared to their white

Wallace Southerland, director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs, said that factors such as discrimination in the interview process might explain the

“A really big issue is the unconscious biases that (minorities) have to deal with when they interview,” Southerland said. “For people of color, we don’t know whether or not we didn’t get the job because we were really not qualified or if we looked a certain way, or if we were too ethnic for a particular search committee. There are all of these unknown issues that could really cause a lot of anxieties when minorities, as well as females, go out to interview.”

Marquis Hayes, senior in LAS, said one of the challenges of being an African-American in a white-dominated space is feeling the need to adhere to the “politics of respectability,” or changing mannerisms to be considered “respectable” by mainstream

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“I would be more conscious of my race if I had a white interviewer,” Hayes said. “Personally, I do speak with more Ebonics because that’s just the background that I grew up with, but I’ve been told by family members that in order to get jobs . . . I have to speak ‘properly’ rather than the way I was raised to speak.”

Asha Woods is an African-American in Business, a college of over 4,000 students where blacks barely make up four percent. She said many of the white students she knows in her major already had job connections through family when they came to the University.

“Because my family didn’t have as many connections, sometimes I’d have to reach out a little bit more than my counterparts just to meet the right people to get in line for the right jobs,” Woods said.

Resources on campus such as the Office of Minority Student Affairs seek to help students of color overcome difficulties on the career path.

“This is our 50th year of providing services to the campus,” Southerland said.

According to Southerland, the Office of Minority Student Affairs administers career development opportunities such as preparations for career fairs, resume critique sessions and networking events.

It also partners with external corporations who are interested in diversifying their career force. OMSA programs, such as the TRIO McNair Scholars, aid underrepresented students who wish to do research, go to graduate school or become faculty.

Throughout the year, the Career Center also aims to help students of color find careers.

“I think, first, it’s important for our students of color to understand that we value and we have a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment,” said Jennifer Neef, associate director of the Career Centerss. “We want all students to be able to come in and share challenges they may be having and understand that this is a safe place and we are here to be a resource to help students through those obstacles.”

Neef said the Career Center often provides these resources by partnering with organizations such as the cultural houses. It holds general diversity events including forums and networking exchanges as well as events for specific populations. The annual “Conexiones” event at La Casa Cultural Latina, for example, brings in alumni to help teach career readiness skills.

Despite preparations, discrimination can be an intimidating barrier for graduates of color.

“We have to bend over backwards to try and impress (employers), but we still don’t meet their standards,” Hayes said.

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