Intergroup Relations

Clip art of two people interviewing

by Aaron Traxler-Ballew, IGR Alumnus

Some people say job searching or applying to graduate school is all about selling yourself. And if you're willing to think about yourself and your experience as something to be sold, this approach may work for you. I prefer a different metaphor: the generic novel.

That's right, getting a job or getting into graduate school is all about telling your story. You are the protagonist and the focal point. However, as with a lot of popular genres, people are only interested in your story if it follows a pretty generic script.

The central theme of this novel is always: "I'm qualified and motivated, and this is how my background, experience, and education fit with this opportunity". And that's exactly what they want to hear every time -just like the protagonist always wins.

Boring?

Not necessarily. Part of the challenge is making the story interesting and unique, despite the limitations of the genre. You also have to work within the confines of the preferred media. For jobs this includes resumes, cover letters, and interviews. For grad school it usually includes an essay or two, which allow you to showcase your prose. For guidelines on all of these forms, visit the Career Center.

As with most writing, the basic question remains:

Who is my audience, and what story do I want to tell them?

These are two helpful questions to ask in preparing any step in the application process.

Why IGR Facilitation Experience Is Important

It is unique. Very few undergraduate students get to lead a class, let alone one covering these issues. Because of this, employers and admissions counselors like to talk about this in interviews. It demonstrates:

  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Interpersonal skills

These are listed as three of the top five skills desired by employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Facilitating a dialogue also demonstrates care for one's community and sensitivity to diversity. All of the above are good reasons to mention your facilitation experience, as long as you can make it relevant to the position to which you are applying.

Employers and graduate schools will want to hear what this experience was like for you and what you gained from it -including applicable skills and personal development. The way you describe your experience with IGR, or any experience for that matter, will depend on how this experience fits within the overall story you are telling through your application.

Resume Ideas

While some people choose to list facilitation on their resume as part of their coursework under "education", it's also OK to list it separately under "experience". This way, you can elaborate a little more on what you did and what you gained through the process.

For example:

Intergroup Dialogue-University of Michigan (dates)
Peer Co-Facilitator

  • Promoted communication, conflict negotiation, and understanding among racial groups
  • Gained facilitation and leadership skills by leading and managing difficult conversations
  • Deepened own awareness of social and cultural diversity

It will be important to tailor this to your own experience and the message you are trying to send through your resume (i.e. please think about what your writing, don't just copy these bullet points).

Here are some ways that I have phrased my experience on resumes in the past:

  • Planned and analyzed group sessions using teamwork and interpersonal communication.
  • Demonstrated mature and productive responses to conflict, controversy, anger, and tears.
  • Managed group interaction using immediate and reflective problem solving skills.
  • Gained confidence and self-understanding from mistakes as well as successes.

I particularly like this last bullet point because it shows a willingness to grow through challenging experiences. I think it reveals more about my character than the skills listed in other places.

These are just some ideas. I hope you find them helpful in whatever next steps you are taking in your life and your career. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to stop by the Career Center for resources, advice, and support. We need advocates for social justice in every sector of society. I hope your facilitation experience can be an asset to career as well as to your knowledge, skills, awareness, and passion for social justice.