Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, we talk with top leaders about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes.
In this episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce, Ahva has flipped the script for National Intern Day and speaks with three interns at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Kennedy, Amiya, and Olimpia share their internship experiences, the qualities Gen Z brings to the workforce, what they believe are the necessary steps to increasing access to jobs and wealth creation, and more. Watch the video.
What has been the most memorable part of your internship experience?
Amiya’s highlight has been bonding with her peers, as well as attending briefings, which are like mini-lectures for policy makers, and gatherings outside of the workplace. Olimpia agrees and adds that the program expanded her professional network, and she particularly enjoyed the seminars that taught about networking and opportunities post-graduation. Olimpia also enjoyed sitting in on the Education Workforce Committee, where she got to weigh in on strategies to expand study abroad opportunities. Kennedy’s highlight was that the program introduced her to a whole new bubble she didn’t know existed. Surrounded by successful people of color, she realized “wow, this could really be my pathway.”
How can companies better support early talent in the workplace?
Olimpia encourages companies to follow suit of CBCF and provide housing for interns, as well as accept students from diverse backgrounds, like Olimpia who is a first-generation college student. Doubling down on this, Ahva emphasizes the importance of paid internships and compensation for relocation in order to make these professional development experiences available to anybody, regardless of their economic position. Amiya shares that companies should provide more mental health support to help their early talent succeed in their new jobs and deal with an unfamiliar environment.
How can organizations overcome the barriers to the workforce?
Amiya says companies have a fear that Gen Z lacks work ethic. Employers have communicated similar apprehensions about remote workers. She suggests providing professional development and training in career skills so that the talent hired are prepared to excel when they enter the workforce. Ahva reinforces this recommendation and acknowledges that this seems to be a cyclical pattern of doubt that occurs when a new generation enters the workforce.
The unique qualities and characteristics Gen Z brings to the workplace
Kennedy shares that this era of social media and the expansion of AI offers new opportunities to advance the ways we work and communicate, and Gen Z as digital natives have natural skills in navigating and implementing these tools and platforms in their processes. Olimpia adds that Gen Z is highly coachable and teachable, they thirst for knowledge and enjoy breaking barriers and teaching about boundaries. She acknowledges Amiya’s previous point that people might see that as lazy, but Olimpia stresses it’s about work-life balance and sticking with established boundaries to protect your mental health. In her words, “We’re not necessarily lazy, we just have an understanding of work-life balance, and that we’re not going to work past a certain time. We’re not going to let our work interfere with our mental health.” Amiya highlights Gen Z’s creativity, and that advanced technology like AI and emerging social media platforms have allowed Gen Z to expand on this creativity. She says, “We’re able to help more companies and more employers stay relevant and up to date with society.”
Advice to others entering the workforce?
Amiya recommends taking risks. Apply for jobs even if you doubt you qualify for it; go for it anyways! She also recommends out-of-state experiences (if you can financially afford them). Kennedy suggests engaging in coffee chats. She says, “Network is so important because it can lead to your next opportunity without you even knowing it.” Use LinkedIn to see who has the job that you want so you can mirror those steps to grow into your desired career. Kennedy adds, say yes to almost every opportunity you get. Even if it’s not what you’re typically looking for, it might lead to something better than you thought. Overall, be open-minded. Olimpia agrees and reiterates the importance of being open to opportunities and willing to take unexpected paths.
What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?
- Kennedy says, with recent DEI initiatives, it’s important for employers to be open to different communities and different types of people. Even if the candidate’s background is not perfect on paper they may have valuable skills you aren’t aware of that could be great for the role. She asks employers, “to be more open and optimistic with the people that they hire. You never know.”
- Olimpia calls out the Digital Divide and the importance of allocating resources like wifi, in addition to providing housing and teaching early talent new skill sets.
- Amiya believes employers need to be more focused on opening up the workforce to early talent. She says, “There are a lot of bright young minds that are looking for different opportunities than their desired career fields but they just don’t have the resources to actually take on these experiences.” She emphasizes the need for more early career opportunities so that more people can gain professional skills and enter their intended career fields.
Inspired, Kennedy adds another point, emphasizing the importance of compensation. “A lot of people…can’t afford to live, can’t afford to eat, based off intern salaries. Especially in a different city, and that’s why CBCF is so important.” On a separate note, she adds that some companies publish a resume and/or cover letter template on their website so that applicants know what the hiring managers are looking for, and encourages more companies to follow this practice to be more supportive and inclusive of candidates from less privileged backgrounds.
How are you celebrating National Intern Day (NID)?
Amiya will be attending her internship program’s closing ceremony at CBCF tonight, which will feature contests like “best dressed” and who’s “most likely to be president.” She’s looking forward to soaking up the Hill experience and closing out the program with her peers. Olimpia is in the same cohort as Amiya and is also looking forward to attending the closing ceremony. Her work isn’t quite over yet; she’ll be hosting a forum on health disparities among Black men and boys because the member she interns with is part of the Commission for Advancing Black Men and Boys. Kennedy’s internship ended a few months ago but she’ll be celebrating NID by advancing her skills with a LinkedIn Premium course.
About Kennedy, Amiya, and Olimpia
Kennedy Murray is a 20 year old recent graduate from George Washington University. Originally from New York City, she has worked in the private and public sector in Washington D.C. from non-profit organizations to the U.S. House of Representatives. Post graduation, she interned with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation as their Pathways to the C-Suite Intern with the Association of American Railroads. Currently, she spends her time volunteering for a non-profit to help young girls grow confidence through dance in New York City.
Amiya Davis is a Midwest native born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Illinois. As a rising senior at Spelman College, Amiya is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science while minoring in pre-law. Amiya has maintained a 3.5 GPA during her academic endeavors and plans on entering law school post-graduation. She has obtained honors from Spelman, Alpha Lambda Delta, and The Dean's List. Amiya has a passion for civic engagement, volunteering, advocacy, and legal activism. During her college journey, she has earned the rank of President of the Morehouse Pre Law Society, Treasurer of The American Sign Language Club, and active servant to the local community within the Atlanta neighborhood. As the president of the Pre-Law Society, Amiya plans to expand the range of events and partnerships to provide members with diverse opportunities for learning, networking, and skill development. Amiya has completed consistent community service opportunities with the Greater Food Depository in Chicago, The Obama Foundation Community Engagement Team, and Garments of Grace in Atlanta.
Amiya has served as an intern for the Obama Foundation, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and now as an intern for CBCF member Jonathan Jackson representing the 1st District of Illinois. Post CBCF internship, Amiya hopes to attend law school and work in the prosecution office of the State’s Attorney. Her efforts with these associations have led her to grow experience within non-profit organizations, legal services, and governmental affairs. Amiya is proficient in technical skills such as Word, Excel, RStudio, and PowerPoint, she brings a well-rounded skill set to her present and future endeavors. Fluent in English and with intermediate knowledge of American Sign Language and Mandarin, Amiya offers a multilingual perspective. During her leisure time, she enjoys working out, reading books, expanding her culinary skills, and creating memories with friends and family members. With a strong academic foundation, diverse professional experiences, and a passion for community engagement, Amiya is poised to tackle future challenges and embrace new opportunities.
Olimpia Elce Andrade is a rising senior Political Science major at Spelman College from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Olimpia is a first-generation American and college student. She is a Cape Verdean American woman. On campus, Olimpia is the finance chair for the NAACP and serves as a mentor through the Ford Motor Companys First Generation Mentorship program. She is an intern at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in the House of Representatives under Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida’s 24th District. She has a bubbly personality and cares about everyone she interacts with. Olimpia aspires to one day work as a Congresswoman to address disparities in her community, ranging from education to gang violence. Olimpia plans to create a college fund for students who plan on attending college but may not have the means to. She is a life learner and believes everyone can succeed but must have access.