"Put It in the Statement" - 5 Ways to Communicate Your DEI Practice
In early 2021, I was on a job application and interview spree. Anyone in my circle knows that, while I was thankful to be gainfully employed, I didn't find my work at the U.S. Department of Education satisfying. It didn't allow me to live within my passion: regularly contributing to the development of young minds and their ability to see the world and how they exist in it from multiple vantage points. Offering them the appropriate levels of challenge and support to ensure a balance of academic success, professional preparation, personal growth, and overall wellbeing.
As a stopgap, I was (and still am) an adjunct, undergraduate college professor, but it was just that — a temporary solution. So, occasionally, I found myself rigorously applying for jobs within college student affairs — the field that jumpstarted my career.
During my time in higher education, I was immersed in college admissions (including new student orientation and open house event planning) academic and student organization advising, residence life, and executing summer bridge programs. The lens and approach I brought to assignments often resulted in initiating diversity-driven efforts, e.g., recruiting Black students, retaining students of color, and supporting Black men and women at the PWI I call both my alma mater and former place of employment. A blend of this professional experience with personal perspective aided in formulating a sound diversity statement, now something required and expected by most postsecondary institutions and emphasized by an increasing number of private-sector jobs.
During that 2021 search, two academic positions I'd applied and interviewed for did not come to fruition — one by choice, one by the grace of God. One my “dream job,” with the loss being a slight blow to the ego, the other a sigh of relief from avoiding what was sure to be a toxic work environment. I’ve since moved on to greater and greener pastures, but won't let that carefully crafted statement go to waste. Those words got my foot in the door, and sometimes that’s all you need to secure the bag.
Below are five ways you can communicate your DEI practice.
1. Don’t be afraid to incorporate experience you’ve gained outside professional employment. In your volunteerism or other societal engagement and contributions, do you interact with and meet the needs of individuals from varied backgrounds and unique circumstances? Work that requires flexible, open-minded, forward-thinking and approaches toward resolution? Do you pursue with intentionality ways to understand and meet those needs? If so, put it in the statement. #PITS
2. Consider everything you do and have done. How does your lived experience color the way you see the world, inform your biases, and dictate where you have room for growth? Be honest about this and leverage it to present areas for personal development and purposeful application. Give yourself a genuine call to action for self-reflection and deliberate change. Then, #PITS.
3. Ask yourself who has impacted you most in this space? What about their actions and values influence you and why? How have you modeled your behavior to reflect their best DEI practices? #PITS
4. Identify ways you can demonstrate core knowledge of the concepts in question (e.g., diversity, equity, inclusion, cultural competence). For example, in my statement, I acknowledge that, while I have a background similar to many of the students impacted by the presence or absence of DEI efforts — students of color, Black students, are not a monolith. Therefore, establishing new policies and procedures and ensuring practical, empathetic implementation will require unique care and individualized support that ideally yields inclusivity and equity. Once you’ve established what you know, #PITS.
5. Be real with yourself. These suggestions may require radical disruption of your standard operating procedures, questioning the norm, disrupting the status quo, and ultimately relinquishing the stronghold of how things have always been done and the way you’re used to thinking about issues. Do it, and #PITS.
While I didn't end up in either position, I was selected for one but rejected the offer, and made it to the final round as one of the top three candidates for the other. Acknowledging and sharing my authentic DEI practice - and situations I navigated where it was lacking - had the intended impact of gaining additional consideration by the search committee. I also departed with something new to write and share that will hopefully aid in crafting your own diversity statement, serve as a guide when contemplating how you will consistently apply the concepts of DEI in your personal and professional life, and lead to not only landing the interview but closing the deal.
Check out the full statement here. ---
A previous version of this post originally appeared on Medium for Writer's Blokke.