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While we continue to wait for our 40 Acres and a Mule and for Ice Cube’s Contract with Black America to be signed, a coalition of 35 corporate executives have pledged one million jobs for Black Americans over the next 10 years, through a newly minted non-profit, OneTen. The organization's leaders recently announced their promise to invest 100 million dollars in “upskilling, hiring, and advancing Black Americans.”

This is one of many pledges to advocate for and become allies with the Black community that we have seen in 2020. Throughout the pandemic and since the tragic murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, legions of corporate leaders have publicly pledged to increase diversity in their companies and have declared their solidarity with the Black community, taking a stand against racial injustice. For the first time that I can remember, Juneteenth was even recognized globally.

It appears that we are finally making progress at assuaging underrepresentation. Although, I cannot help but wonder if there is an underlying agenda. Are these public proclamations of advocacy and alliance nothing more than a preemptive measure to ensure that these corporations stay on the “right” side of the narrative in this boycott/cancel culture that we currently live in? After all, we may be underrepresented in the workplace, but we are not underrepresented in the marketplace. No doubt some of these corporations felt the effects of Blackout Day 2020. There is power in the Black dollar.

There is only one way to know for sure if these leaders are sincere in their efforts to eradicate underrepresentation in corporate America. We must hold them accountable. However, to hold them accountable we must first hold ourselves accountable. You see, they may have pledged to create opportunities for one million jobs over the next 10 years, but they did not say they were giving one million jobs away. Do not let the news headlines fool you. We will need to earn these jobs.

In fact, on the OneTen.org website it clearly states, “OneTen is committed to ensuring that Black Americans with the skills and aptitude to earn success, also have the opportunity to achieve it.” That means we must do the work today, so we do not get denied tomorrow.

Although, the initiative is deemphasizing the requirement for a four-year degree and instead “focusing on skills-first,” there are still things we must do now to ensure that we are ready for these opportunities.

1. Level up your skills

As the world changes, so does the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. According to research from Deloitte, “the average worker is missing around two of the 18 critical skills that are advertised for a job.” Deloitte also predicts that while technical skills will be necessary, over the next 10 years, soft skills will be even more important with “soft skill intensive jobs growing 2.5 times faster than other jobs.” If you want to get one of the million jobs promised by OneTen, you need to focus on leveling up on six of the most in demand skills for the future of work: 

  • Innovation and creativity
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Growth mindset
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Data analysis

2. Learn how to market your skills

Having the skills is not enough. If you do not know how to sell your skills to potential employers, you may be overlooked for opportunities. Though one million jobs may be made available to Black Americans over the next 10 years, no one is going to knock on your door with a job offer. You must have a well-written resume that conveys that you have the skills and experience employers are looking for.

Further you must be able to communicate how your skills and experience will add value to the company in an interview. You must effectively and strategically market yourself and your skills if you want to stand out from the competition.

3. Look into getting certifications

While the value of a four-year degree is debatable depending on who you ask, certifications are a less expensive way to learn specific skills and validate your expertise.

Getting certified is also a way to stand out from the competition, and trust and believe, there will be competition for these jobs. Not everyone is going to invest the time or the money in getting certified. Your willingness to invest in your own development might be the tie breaker when you are in the running for a position.

4. Lead where you are

Far gone is the belief that to be a leader you need to have a “supervisor” or “manager” job title. You can be a leader in any role at any level. In fact, you must be able to demonstrate leadership capabilities. Being Black alone is not enough for you to qualify for one of the million jobs promised. Showcasing how you lead from where you are in your current role is going to be key.

5. Leverage your network

Last but certainly not of least importance, you must begin nurturing and leveraging a diverse network now. Do not wait until you start looking for a job, start today. We have all heard the old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know.” I would also argue, it is not only about who you know but rather who knows you. When these one million jobs become available, someone in your network should be reaching out to you to say, “We are hiring and I think you would be a great match for the job, send me your resume and I will pass it along.”

We demanded more representation in the workplace. A coalition of corporate leaders heeded the call. We must hold them accountable to their promise, but we must first be accountable to ourselves. Will you be ready with the skills and aptitude to earn success when opportunity knocks, so you won't miss out on one of the million jobs on the horizon?