Ever since she got her first job with the federal government when she was in 11th grade, Fatimah Pierce has set her sights high. “Even when I was in a clerical entry level position, I had a vision,” explained Pierce. “I could see the big picture and figure out how to get to the next level.” Fortunately for IDEA scholars who participated in the 2020 IDEA Summer Jobs Program, Pierce shared her insight and experiences from her two decades with the federal government and in her latest venture as a career development consultant.
Each Wednesday during the six-week internship program, which was conducted virtually because of Covid-19 health requirements, Pierce conducted workforce training with 60 IDEA interns. “We talked about everything from setting career goals and defining your plans to identifying what you bring to the table and translate that into telling a story through your resume and cover letter,” she said. The sessions also covered topics such as networking, creating an effective LinkedIn profile, engaging with potential mentors, and how to sell your skills in an interview. “I prepared templates for interviews that the interns practiced over zoom, and shared videos that they could review and refer back to,” Pierce said. “We had great interactive sessions.”
The workshops included both practical tips and lessons on attitude and ambition. “We focused on the fact that everyone has something to contribute,” Pierce said. “I taught the scholars about the three Cs: clarity, contributions, and confidence. This means you ask yourself questions to define what you want to do, what you’re good at, what you like, and what you can make money doing. You think about what you already have that you can bring to the table. What are your skills? How can you translate academic experiences into work experiences and showcase them on a resume? Finally, how are you going to out there and achieve these things when you are facing rejection or might not have support system you need? How do you move forward?”
While these sessions were geared toward current and recently graduated high school students, Pierce explained that you can do the same exercises at any stage of your career. It is important, she emphasized, to develop an action plan and accountability measures to help articulate and remain focused on your goals.
“We spent a lot of time discussing possibilities that scholars hadn’t even considered,” Pierce said. “There’s so much that they’re dreaming of doing but they don’t have the knowledge about and need that exposure. I was privileged to be the person to walk them through it. I think it’s important for them to see me—someone who grew up in DC, attended DC schools, who is Black and a first-generation college student who now has a PhD—as relatable and accessible. They can see in me a starting point or blueprint. I invited them to stay in touch with me on LinkedIn. So many of them expressed that they didn’t have someone in their lives they could count on for mentorship or conversations about career development. It’s important to see those real-life examples of what you can do.”
The strategies Pierce learned and adopted throughout her tenure in government helped prepare her to launch her own consulting firm in 2018. “In every position I was in, I did my research, so I understood the qualifications for the next job. I was proactive in working with supervisors and managers, asking questions and focusing on soft skills. I found opportunities to volunteer for committees and other activities that give you exposure to other parts of the organization. As I gained authority, I became a mentor to others and was able to help people create a vision and then achieve it.” That success led Pierce to start Hickman Rose Strategies, which initially focused on individual career development but has since expanded to work with service-based businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies to facilitate strategic planning, implementation, and employee development.
After a successful summer workshop series, Pierce looks forward to finding additional opportunities to work with IDEA scholars throughout the school year.