Diversity In The Workplace: Use Your Unique Experiences To Your Advantage

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As a young professional, you might be worried about fitting in, making the right choices, and connecting with your co-workers.

Many people, especially young individuals like students and grads, don’t feel comfortable distinguishing themselves as different. They want to fit in and be “normal” – whatever that means. But that doesn’t mean you should hide who you are just to avoid being the odd one out. In fact, your unique experiences can be a huge asset to your professional career.

Whether you grew up overseas, know multiple languages, or have connections in the LGBTQ community, it’s important to embrace your individuality and show employers how your qualities can make you an asset in the workplace. Everyone has something special that only they can bring to the table, so use it to your advantage.

You might be surprised by the ways in which your unique perspective can help you get ahead in your career!

Identify with Different Communities

If you’re a part of a certain demographic or minority group, you already have an inside connection to that particular community. One can certainly study a group and try to find commonalities amongst its members, but it’s just not the same as having having those first-hand experiences.

A connection to minority markets can come in handy in your early career, especially if you’re working a lot with clients – jobs in industries like Customer Service or Sales are common entry-level positions. Sharing a common trait with the customers, such as their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and/or disability will give you insights on their needs. For instance, as a Sales Assistant, you’ll be able to better help a customer whose religion follows a strict dress code if you’ve also grown up complying to one.

Tip: Take the time to teach your colleagues about the culture and values you’re familiar with – it’ll ensure everyone can assist the client appropriately. In turn, they can inform you about target markets or ideal client bases that they’re knowledgeable about.

Diversity is especially important if you’re pursuing a career in Marketing or Communications. Canada is a country made up of all kinds of citizens, who reflect different religions, sexual orientations and ethnicities, and a marketing team should mirror this. A diverse team can create campaigns that speak to and are inclusive of various groups. That’s because they understand the importance of diversity and representation and can ensure these values are reflected in their work.

Solve Problems and Spark Innovation

Some of the most mind-blowing inventions come from the most un-eggs-pected places! Consider this recent example: since materials usually contract in one direction when you pull in another, a group of Canadian Engineers set out to create a new spacecraft material that expands in all directions when stretched. This idea was sparked by the repeating patterns in Islamic art, which can be expanded and contracted in all directions. (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35818924) Art and rocket science may seem like a peculiar combination, but it proves how having different perspectives within a team can result in some pretty amazing ideas.

When many different thought processes and approaches come together, a new solution may emerge – one the company might not have reached if everyone thought along the same lines. For instance, an employee who uses a wheelchair is more likely to strive towards making company products and services more accessible to individuals with the same disability. It can be as simple as having a cashier counter built shorter to accommodate differently abled customers.

Foster Cross-Cultural Connections

In today’s global economy, companies often form relationships with foreign businesses, therefore it can help to have people on your team from different cultural backgrounds. For instance, if you’re bilingual, you can communicate with clients in their first language, or offer to take on the role of translator for your team. While it may not be in your job description, your employer will appreciate your initiative and willingness to use your unique skillset to help the company grow.

In a country as linguistically diverse as Canada, being bilingual or multilingual is a huge advantage. Seek out opportunities to use those skills – you’ll find that there are plenty of employers who would love to have a candidate like you!

Did you know? “Signs” is a restaurant in Toronto, ON that aims to connect the deaf and hearing community by encouraging both staff and customers to use American Sign Language – or ASL.

How to Incorporate Diversity Into Your Application

Cover Letter

Before you write your cover letter, do some research to see what community initiatives and projects the company has been apart of to support minority groups. Have you been involved in any clubs or organizations that do similar work? Emphasizing that experience in your cover letter can help show that you share the company’s values. Additionally, you can use these examples to illustrate how your unique perspectives and skills can further their success.

Tip: You should research the employer’s diversity initiatives and try to link you personal experiences with the company’s values. This can go a long way in showing that you’ve taken the time to find out more about their company and that you’ll fit in perfectly!

Resume

The extracurricular and volunteer sections are great places to include work experiences that reflect your diverse background. For example, including your involvement in an LGBT organization at school can show employers that you would be a good ally in the workplace, while also illustrating your willingness to take initiative and make a positive impact on your community.

Portfolio

While it’s not a necessary component of your application, a portfolio is an easy way to provide a potential employer with concrete examples of your skills, accomplishments, experiences, and attributes.

Have you incorporated a diversity initiative into a school business project? Did you write a report on a particular demographic in Canada, such as women, people with disabilities, or a specific cultural subgroup? Or maybe you produced a PowerPoint presentation on a similar topic? All of these types of projects would make excellent additions to a professional portfolio.

It’s up to you to take these advantages and make them work in your favour. There’s no need to shy away from your unique experiences – they can help you stand out from other candidates and succeed in your career!

Curious to learn more about diversity in the workplace? Read our Diversity Career Guide!

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