As proven by students securing job opportunities through positive discrimination, the colour of your skin can sometimes work to your advantage
For fear of losing the internship I have managed to blag my way into, I have chosen to remain anonymous. Furthermore, as the subject matter in this article is race, I have attempted to be as politically correct as possible when referring to different races, but I apologise in advance if I cause any offence.
Being born into an Asian family, the scope for career choices was always going to be narrow: doctor, dentist, pharmacist, engineer. However I’ve never liked stereotypes. I hate the thought of people seeing me and assuming my A-levels consisted of maths and the sciences and that my parents had chosen a career path for me and betrothed me to a cousin at the age of two.
For this reason, I rebelliously took a gap year and travelled a little (something scarcely done by ‘my people’) and applied to university to study something less traditional for an ethnic minority. I base my previous statement on the fact that I was only one of two people of Indian origin on my course and, for ethnic company, had only a couple of African students and one Chinese girl. The rest of my peers were middle to upper class Caucasians and needless to say were a real mixed bag of personalities.
Upon receiving a 2:1 from a decent enough London university, it dawned upon me that unlike my friends completing medicine at Imperial or the pharmacists at London School of Pharmacy, my career path was undecided. I genuinely had no clue as to what I wanted to get into. The scope was endless, yet so narrow at the same time. I refused to sell-out (in my opinion) and apply to soul-crushing (and recently economy-crushing) banks and decided that I would attempt to follow my passion of the written word in my endeavours to find a job.
My first port of call was the jobs section on the Guardian website, looking for anything that caught my eye. With a well-written and experience-filled CV, I tried my luck at applying for several entry-level positions in journalism and various other fields but with no luck. As the long summer days dragged on, desperation kicked in and I signed up to Total Jobs with their one-click applications. I wrote a generic cover letter and applied for anything that I could potentially do. There were posts urgently requiring couriers, social media companies wanting graduate for effectively data entry and coffee-making and many more. None seemed too demeaning and, every night, I would apply for at least twenty jobs. Not a single company called or emailed me back.
I was then made aware of SEO London, “a not-for-profit organisation focused on improving access into the most competitive professions for students from under-represented ethnic minority backgrounds.” They were (and still are) offering creative access internships at companies such as Channel 4, The Times and Random House. All they were asking of me was that I was ethnic and provided my CV and 200 words detailing my experience in the industry I was applying for. Within a matter of minutes I had effectively applied to four companies and been somewhat fast-tracked because of the colour of my skin. I’ve never once in my life felt the need for positive discrimination, but I’m not one to turn it down. Within two weeks I received a call from SEO London who conducted a phone interview with me before deciding that I was an suitable candidate for a specific internship at a reputable book publisher.
At the interview, the other candidates were of course all of ethnic origin and seemingly more than capable of struggling with our Caucasian peers for graduate jobs. There were Oxford and Cambridge graduates – and there was even one candidate who already had a job with an even bigger book publisher, but was just exploring his options. Although it wasn’t said on the day, we all knew we had used the system to essentially be fast-tracked for an internship based on nothing other than the colour of our skin. I am aware that there is an under-representation of ethnic minorities in many industries but I doubt that is based on discrimination. I’d like to think that in London today, companies hire based on merit rather than anything else.
After two interviews, I successfully out-blagged the opposition and secured a one-year internship. Although I’m not entirely proud of the fact that I was only given the chance to interview because I am ethnic, I can’t say I’m not grateful. The companies that SEO London were offering opportunities with did not have any opportunities advertised on their site, which makes me wonder how my Caucasian friends who I used to sit at coffee shops with and discuss the impending gloom of entering the real world with have fared in this tough economic climate. Jobs are scarce and it seems the only outlet (that I could find) to get a job was being ethnic.
I guess what I’m trying to say is simple. In a world where opportunities are so few and far between, I would encourage anyone with a sporting injury to attempt to pass it off as a disability and any Caucasian with a relative who has married an ethnic person to attempt to claim they have become ethnic in the process. It’s a cut-throat world out there but companies need to fill their quotas and tick their boxes. Do the right thing. Be the best, but also tick the box for them. So as I sit to complete this article at my new flashy cubicle in my Central London office, what I’ve been trying to say is probably best summarised by the legendary words of a great man:
“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
Image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
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