Life-changing smiles and a lesson on bias

Every week on Friday for the last six weeks, I drove to a town just south of my house to coach a soccer team for kids with special needs. I’d quit working on Three Ears Media and plan our practice. I would research games and coaching styles, trying to find little ways to make this hour the best of their week. I didn’t know what to expect in week one when I walked on the field. I coached a similar club in college, but it has been 15 years.

The part that surprised me was how little my plan meant and how much joy I found in their smiles. The way it felt when nothing else mattered for an hour because they remembered my name. The endorphins I experienced every time they got excited about a new game, and I let my life revolve around someone besides me for an hour.

Last week to end our program, I planned a big cheering section for the kids. Each kid would be able to take a shot on a big soccer goal with all of us clapping. Then, all the volunteers lined up, and the kiddo went through our human-made tunnel.

I could cry as I sit here trying to find words to describe their smiles. I keep thinking of one kid, in particular, we’ll call him T. His speech isn’t the strongest but his smile? Life-altering. I took a video of him walking through the tunnel and included it below. It was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Why? At that moment, I got to see something rare: a person having faith in themselves. Unadulterated joy. Happiness in its truest form.

When I decided to sponsor this program, I just knew it felt like the right thing to do. Every kid should have access to sports. I didn’t realize the kids would become a permanent reminder of why I show up at my desk every day.

See, job postings are more than bulleted lists and job pitches. They are the story of someone’s life and stories that often cater to typical adults. Work, however, should be accessible to all – just like sports.

When my team can help a hiring manager create clarity, and we’re honest about the work, we give access to every person. Most importantly, we provide a path to those in the special needs community who may have struggled to see a clear career track before—people like T.

The truth is, overcoming bias is the responsibility of everyone else, not those kids. Having special needs doesn’t mean you’re incapable. It means that people don’t understand what you’re capable of when they see you, and that’s a problematic bias to overcome.

They shouldn’t go through their life punished because we haven’t taken the time to understand what they’re capable of doing. We shouldn’t keep people away from work because we wrote biased postings. Or worse, we never even took the time to learn how to write a job posting.

We can do better by creating safer spaces – at work, in our job postings, and everywhere else – especially if we remember our why. Going into Pride month and digging into the biases against the LGBTQ+ community in postings and everywhere else, I know I can use all the life-altering smiles and “why” reminders I can get.

Katrina


• See that smile? The inspiration behind this week’s post.

• Pride Month At Work: A Promise – How should you celebrate pride month at work? By creating safer spaces for everyone to exist openly and honestly.

• Pride Speaker + LGBT ERG Events – THREE EARS MEDIA: I can help you build belonging and educate your team on inclusive language.

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Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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