Getting back on the Ladder
By: Oyelola Oyetunji
Instagram - @oyelove
This year has brought with it a level of unparalleled change.
As the world changes around us, we’re forced to adapt to a unique set of circumstances.
We reach out to grasp a hold of something we believe we can control – our work, our weight, our habits – only for it to slip through our fingers as though greased with butter. What now?
A question I’m sure you’ve asked yourself at least once in the past year. Especially for those of us who have experienced job loss or the inability to work in the current climate. What now? Where to from here?
Around one fifth of employed people either lost their job or experienced reduced hours because of the coronavirus pandemic.
To lose your job to an unknown future is a scary scenario. And yet, it’s a reality many of us have lived or are living right now.
Unemployment stares you in the face, daring you to remain there or do something about it. If not you, chances are someone in your world is currently walking the journey to get back on the ladder.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what this journey looks like for a BIPOC living in Australia? How it might differ from others?
The competition is currently fierce as an abundance of highly employable people spend their days on the hunt for work to see a regular flow of income hit their bank accounts yet again. Drowning in job applications, cover letters, phone and video interviews, it’s easy to lose heart.
Yet I can’t help but feel the struggle is even more real for ethnic minorities. But why?
We look different
Not only physically, but also on paper.
From the moment the recruitment manager’s eyes rest on our resume, it’s a dead giveaway. For those of us who have names from our motherland, it’s already a cause for differentiation. An inconvenience in pronouncing or spelling plants the seed for an unconscious bias in favour of other candidates.
How can you overcome this except to change or shorten your name to something more familiar? I’m no advocate for altering the name you’ve had since birth, but something’s got to give. And it’s not your name.
It’s about time our diverse cultures, including our names, are accepted as the norm in the “multicultural society” this nation prides itself as being. So, my friend, stand your ground and refuse to compromise on the things that matter to you most.
We sound different
Now, if you haven’t lived in Australia for most of your life, you probably have an accent. An accent normal in your home country but seen as different in the land down under.
You’re no stranger to being asked to repeat yourself or to someone immediately becoming suspicious of you as soon as you open your mouth. You’ve learned to take it in your stride in daily life, but for a job interview, it’s a different story.
Having to say the same thing many times, slowing your pace or adjusting your accent are the common sacrifices you make that your Australian counterpart doesn’t need to think twice about. Is that fair?
We think differently
Our experiences influence our perspectives.
Picture a meeting room full of Anglo-Saxon males, all born and raised in Australia with a private school education. The disagreements are likely to be few yet the outcomes as dry as a bone and as unoriginal as a cheesy Hallmark movie.
That’s why they need you and me. Though our differences are seen as a threat, our varied experiences produce diverse perspectives needed to help businesses deliver better outcomes.
So, where does this leave you? It may seem like a worthless pursuit with multiple factors working against you. Don’t give up! If there’s anything people of colour are admired for, it’s our resilience and resourcefulness. Though it’s wise to be aware of the discrimination working against you, to know the things working FOR you is far greater.
This isn’t an opportunity for you to throw in the towel. This is an invitation to think bigger. Don’t allow the unfavourable odds push you to forfeit the race.
If your future employer truly values diversity, you do stand a chance.
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with the financial services, consulting and education industries, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.