Your dream clients are the ones that inspire you. That’s how I felt Friday night leading a UX journey map sprint with Victor Ehienulo of Plugged Services.  Plugged Services is a start-up, recruiting platform focused on improving the job-hunting process for diversity candidates. It’s driven by analytics, matching candidates with cultures that value diversity and fit their unique skills.

General Assembly generously provided space and even offered up their happy hour. Beer in hand, we demo’d the app to thirty proto UX and Design Thinkers – before we rolled up our sleeves and asked them to share their own experiences.

It can be difficult to get a bunch of strangers to share, especially when many of those experiences touch on their fundamental feelings of self-worth. Job-hunting and money talk can be deeply personal and scary. It touches on our most basic parts of the brain – our fight for survival. It can also be a disempowering experience, being judged over and over. This is especially true for diversity candidates. They don’t have the data or experience to give them the perspective to confirm their instincts that yes indeed the hiring process is rigged against them.

Through the discussion, many of them learned that they faced similar obstacles. They shared resources, hacks, and tips for improving the process.  To get them to that place we first:

  1. Set the ground rules.

The first thing we did was state why we were there and the ground rules for the workshop. We asked them to reserve judgment, treat others with respect, listen, actively participate and make sure to grab a beer before happy hour ends.

  1. Share the “why”

Victor kicked off the demo by first sharing his reason for starting Plugged. Coming back to Howard to help with recruiting for Microsoft, he met an international student who had lost his mother, who was also his sponsor. As a born and bred Nigerian, Victor empathized deeply with the student who was faced with the task of securing employment in the midst of grief. Having been on both sides of the equation, he knew there had to be a better way.

  1. Make it easy to be vulnerable

Using a process we lifted from Create& and Brllnt, we asked participants to write their “pain points” and “bliss points” for each phase of the “journey.” At the end of each exercise, a volunteer randomly read a post-it and described how that experience might feel. Others built on to comments, sharing common experiences and how they coped.


The Double Whammy – Diversity and Debt

Given that most of the participants were in their early twenties, debt and paying off student loans was a big topic of conversation.  Many were frustrated having made investments in their education only to find the opportunities weren’t there after graduation. Facing a mountain of debt, and a lengthier job-hunting process, it’s little wonder that many of them can’t hold out for the right fit and/or feel stuck in jobs that undervalue them.

Starting out on the right foot

Plugged knows the value of starting out on the right foot. Finding the right organizations that value all candidates and are committed to success, begins a virtuous cycle that gives candidates opportunities to do their best work and thrive.

UX sessions like these remind us of why we do what we do. They serve to reinforce our commitment to empowering candidates with the tools, data, and mindset to succeed, for themselves, for their families and communities, and for the economic value that they bring to our country, definitively proving that an inclusive economy is a stronger, better and more resilient economy.

With that in mind, we’re super excited for 2018 and the new year!

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