From MIT to Industry: How BIPOC individuals can navigate the workplace

When entering into a new work environment, those who identify as BIPOC might think about their racial/ethnic identity(ies) in ways they haven’t had to before. Below, CAPD staff Tamara, Tavi, and Tianna share some tips on how to navigate and thrive in your next industry environment.  

Find/Build Your Community 

Your new workplace might be less diverse than you are used to. More specifically, there might be fewer people who share your racial, ethnic, and cultural identities. As some of you may have already experienced, being the only one or one of a handful can feel isolating. Counter these feelings by seeking out and connecting with employees who share your identity(ies).  

  1. Ask your HR representative or explore the company’s HR website to learn about the identity-based Employee Resource Groups, if any. Ask about any group gathering this summer that are open to interns or ways to connect with group members online. 

  1. Join LinkedIn Groups or find a professional association through JobStars’ list of identity-based professional associations and organizations. If you’re currently working, explore whether you can join local chapters of professional associations relevant to you. For example, the NAAAP Boston is a community of Asian American professionals who “aspire to raise the bar of what it means to lead. 

  1. Connect one-on-one with BIPOC alumni in your field by using the “Affinity Group” filter on Alumni Advisor’s Hub.  

    

 

  1. Attend professional and other identity-based conferences (for example NSBELOCS or SHPEto learn about your industry and/or build connections. There are often opportunities for scholarships or funding. This includes MIT’s Women & Gender Studies department’s Women of Color Professional Fund and LGBTQ+ Professional Fund, which covers the cost of registration and travel to professional conferences for currently enrolled undergraduates of certain identities.  

  1. Cultivate your advisory board of peers, MIT mentors, previous internship or UROP supervisors, and those in positions of leadership you hope to hold some day. These networks can be a resource for career advice as well as a sounding board as you get a sense of the organization and think about advancing your career. 

Manage up and advocate for yourself 

If you have regularly scheduled meetings with your supervisor, go to these meetings prepared with updates, questions, and successes you’ve had since your last meeting. These don’t have to be big successes! Even small things, like lessons learned from failed experiments or meetings you’ve scheduled with project stakeholders, are worth telling your manager. Sharing your progress and success might feel like bragging for some of us, however, you can share your success while still maintaining your values and humility. If you’re able to, ask for more challenging projects so you can demonstrate your skills and value. 

Getting a mentor and sponsor are also great ways to self-advocate. Mentors can help you talk through situations and provide guidance for navigating different scenarios while sponsors use their position and power to amplify your successes so that others in the company are aware of your value and potential. 

Prioritize your self-care 

You might experience micro-aggressions, and navigating structural racism in the workplace can take a toll on you. Here are some tips to prioritize your self-care: 

  • Schedule time for yourself. Take a break, have fun, and don’t think about work for a little while. 

  • Talk to a mental health professional. This can help you cope with stress, trauma, and grief within and outside of work. If you’re still a student, go through MIT Medical to connect with a mental health therapist. If you’re an alum, see if your company has an employee resource group or other health benefits that can connect you with a therapist. You can also check out A Human Workplace’s resources for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.   

  • Celebrate your wins. Take a moment to reflect on all of your accomplishments. 

What other tips do you have for BIPOC students and recent grads entering industry? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter. 

For more identity-based career resources, visit the Diversity Resources page on the CAPD website.  

CAPD advisors are here to talk, even over the summer. Schedule a virtual meeting if you’d like to talk with someone about how you can share your accomplishments and make the most of your summer experience