In late June 2021, we put out a call for applications for our Student Advisory Committee as a first step in convening a group of 5-7 young people to steer and shape the direction of our student-led podcast series, later named The Future is Talking. These are 10 ways in which we brought intention to making the application process more inclusive.
We purposely say “more inclusive” rather than “inclusive” because we know that inclusivity is relative. There is always more we can be doing to ensure that the ways we work, and specifically the ways in which we design our hiring / application processes, are actively challenging and dismantling oppressive systems like patriarchy, racism, ableism, adultism and colonialism. We are guided by Maya Angelou’s “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” and are committed to doing better as we know better.
1) Valuing interest on par with experience
One of our qualification criteria for prospective SAC applicants was to “have some experience, and/or a lot of interest, in media, journalism, and/or storytelling.” We intentionally name and value interest on par with experience because we understand that not all applicants will have had access to gaining prior experience, and we are keen to build podcasting and storytelling capacities in young people who have a genuine interest in the work.
2) Highlighting the range of ways contribution can look
We specify that we are looking for young people who “are excited about learning more about interviews and making podcasts, whether it’s on the mic or behind the scenes!” We intentionally highlight the option to participate on the mic or behind the scenes because we understand that people may feel more comfortable contributing in certain ways (I.e., someone might be very skilled at research and scripting, but anxious about co-hosting an episode) and we do not want youth self-selecting themselves out before getting the chance to explore what that looks like for them.
3) Providing a detailed breakdown of when, how, and how often SAC members will be engaged.
In addition to letting applicants know that the time commitment for the role would be 25 hours across four months, we provide a detailed breakdown of how much time we anticipate they will be spending on each task. Especially for young people who are juggling school alongside extracurriculars and responsibilities at home, this can help them plan ahead and more accurately assess their capacity to take on this role. Sharing this information upfront can also help alleviate students’ anxieties around what the role will look like and whether they will be able to do it justice.
4) Highlighting a broad range of benefits, not limited to financial compensation
As a part of our job description, we highlight a range of benefits that we as an organization are committing to offer successful applicants. This helps us portray the offering in a more holistic way (beyond just the financial compensation), while also signals to youth how they might go about making the most of this experience (e.g. ask us for feedback on how to incorporate this experience on your resume, because it’s a part of our commitment to you). Sharing these benefits upfront also helps keep us accountable to the promises we are making to SAC members (e.g. assuring that we are indeed providing training and mentoring from experienced podcasters rather than engaging SAC members solely for their “voice”, without actually building their capacity).
5) Offering choice around how honorarium is paid out
We offer youth the option of having the honorarium paid in two installments, or in one full payment at the end of the project. This allows those who may need or prefer access to resources earlier to let us know in advance so that we are not contributing to any additional stress around finances for SAC members.
6) Proactively naming technology access as a requirement and offering support if this is a barrier
We note that to participate as a SAC member, applicants will need to have access to the internet, and access to a computer or internet-enabled phone (smart phone). If they are qualified and interested in applying to the position but having access to the internet and a device will be barriers to their participation, we invite them to reach out so that we can proactively figure out a way to support them.
7) Inviting applications in multiple formats
We invite applicants to submit applications in one of three formats, including a 1-page document, short video or audio clip. This is meant to be inclusive to various kinds of learners and offering choice around how they feel they can best express themselves.
8) Inviting but not mandating self-identification
As a part of the application, we offer students this prompt: “Tell us a little bit about yourself (if you think it’s important, then we will too!). It’s important to us to work with a diverse group of young people, so please feel free to self-identify (eg. queer, racialized, disabled, etc.), if you are comfortable!” We intentionally invite rather than mandate self-identification because we recognize that while self-identifying may feel empowering, liberating and/or connective for some, it may also be triggering, confining, and/or isolating for others. We leave the decision up to applicants.
9) Anticipating and addressing fears around belonging
In one of our FAQs, we address the fear of not belonging in the group: “I’ve never participated in a group like this before. What if I don’t fit in?” In naming this fear upfront, we hope to validate it as legitimate. In our response, we commit to working together to establish a respect agreement for a “safer space”. This includes coming up with ways of interacting, boundaries and ground rules to make sure everybody in the group feels welcomed and respected, as well as guidelines for dealing with conflict in respectful ways.
10) Providing tips and resources for resume-writing
Our call for applications includes a section that provides applicants with tips and resources for building a resume, should they need it. Given that our target audience is young people who are 19 years old or younger, this may be their first job or formal application and we want to be careful not to assume that they already have or know how to write a resume. In providing these resources upfront, we hope to normalize that it is okay to be starting from scratch while building their capacity (for this and future applications) to create an effective resume.