Partner Insight: Supporting people new to the workforce with YMCA!
When people are newly joining the workforce, it can sometimes feel like drinking from a firehose. There’s a lot to learn—from the basics of the job to the more complex nuances of internal culture. Empower Work partners with a range of organizations and communities that provide training, education, resources, and support for those newly entering the workforce or are new to an industry.
Recently, we caught up with Angela Scott, workforce coordinator at the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA in San Francisco. Angela has had a long career as a coach, case manager, and facilitator, and works with transitional age youth getting them the skills they need to enter new jobs. She’s also an Empower Work advisor. Angela’s insights and perspective has informed our service since day one.
What struck you as important about Empower Work’s approach when you first heard about it?
What really stood out to me was having something in your back pocket when something goes wrong. If you’re worried about something, calling someone runs the risk of being overheard in your workplace. That makes someone feeling vulnerable, even more vulnerable. With Empower Work, you can get a quick perspective or thinking on a situation from a trusted source—immediately and discreetly.
How do you see it being helpful for the young people you work with?
A lot of young people I work with are scared in a sense. They go to work worried about losing their job and speaking up for themselves. Their financial security is important. There is often a constant fear of losing income and not knowing their rights.
Young people I work with can, unfortunately, get taken advantage of. For example, employers can have them work overtime without pay; or they can withhold the overtime pay or not pay them overtime in a timely manner. It can be really scary to speak up about getting that pay, or advocating for yourself out of fear of losing income.
Having a conversation with an Empower Work peer counselor can help them say, “Not only do I know this doesn’t feel right—I also have the right to get paid.” And if they choose to, they can walk into a conversation—with a coworker, HR, or whomever—confidently with information and a plan.
What do you think are the most important things for those newer to the workforce to consider or ask when they hit a speed bump?
Working with young people one-on-one, I often see situations that are high-emotion—whether it’s microaggressions or pay issues. I think of it as reflect, reset, and re-evaluate.
First things first, I say: we need to reflect on ourselves. Where are we at emotionally? Is now the time to have this conversation [with your manager or HR]? We need to look within first to know whether we’re good to address what to do next. And validate that emotions are ok.
Let’s use the example of payroll. I had a student who didn’t get paid. She understandably got very upset. We started with managing those emotions. It’s ok to be angry and frustrated.
Second, we’re going to reset: what information do you have and what have you’ve done so far? For instance, did you put your payroll in when they asked? Ok, great. Did you talk to the payroll team or your manager already? Good.
Now, we need re-evaluate: do I need to take any additional actions? If so, which ones?
Sometimes the best place to start is with a simple discussion. It can be so valuable to simply acknowledge, “I just need to understand what’s going on.” During high-emotion moments, it’s not helpful to focus on pointing the finger and we’re not going to get what we need if we come in disrespectful and fully charged.
When these kinds of things happen, you have to reflect: there are many expectations in your workplace and it may not have been clearly communicated, or there could be other circumstances going on. You may not know that they started right after payroll and they’d have to wait for the next pay period. That reflection, reset, and re-evaluation approach helps align and bring perspective.
Have you heard feedback from your community about using Empower Work?
Yes, I had a mentee I was working with on microaggressions. She was having ongoing issues with some colleagues and we were working back and forth. I told her I was always available for her, but if something pressing arises, here’s Empower Work’s card and number. If you can’t reach me and it’s urgent, contact them.
On the afternoon she didn’t get ahold of me and she reached out to a peer counselor. She shared afterwards that it was really helpful. She told me it felt like it was reaching out to me! She received similar questions. support, and re-framing to help think through the situation and what to do.
If an organization, network, or affinity or industry group was thinking about whether to partner with Empower Work, what would you suggest they consider for their community?
Trust is a really big thing. A lot of times people need to know: is this ok?
Having people in your community vouch and say, “I did it myself to see the process” is a critical point. It’s also really important to say Empower Work is completely third party and isn’t affiliated with any specific business.
Especially with young people, that’s incredibly important. They are so aware and thoughtful about engaging with tech approaches. It’s important to lay out that it’s SMS or web chat and everything is confidential. The only thing ever shared is anonymous, aggregate trends across thousands of conversations—for example, the percentage of people who reach out about pay issues. And that’s only shared to help make workplaces better for everyone.
How does Empower Work provide a complement to 1:1 mentorship?
As folks newer to the workforce gain more experience and a better handle on their own self-awareness and self-care, they can navigate themselves through challenges a bit more. The 1:1 element of mentorship is priceless. It’s hard to replicate on a larger scale.
Having Empower Work provides an extra space to explore something that feels off but you may not be able to name it. And sometimes your mentor or community may not be available when you need to chat about it.
What’s the best way to share Empower Work?
Give everyone a card and ask them to take a picture—put this in your phone and your back pocket.
I refer to it as: “Break glass in case of emergency.”
When people graduate from our programs I say, “hopefully you won’t experience something shady or weird or confusing, but the chances are high you will—we’ve all been there!” Now you’ve got this when you need it.