5 Ways Black Graduates Can Survive The Workforce
You made it..now what?
June 22, 2017 at 11:50 am
You’ve worked four excruciatingly long years and pulled more all-nighters than any human body should endure. Your cap and gown are neatly folded again and tucked somewhere in your parent’s basement, and you’re beaming at the revelation that your life will no longer be a breathing episode of Dear White People.
But now what?
For nearly a decade, a college degree has provided little certainty in being able to secure a job after we cross the big stage. This is increasingly true for those of us who are African American. Many of us are first-generation college students. We often lack the familial professional networks that many of our white counterparts benefit from, and in many cases the fields we plan to pursue simply don’t have many folks who look like us.
Despite the unfortunate disadvantages placed against us, there are numerous Black trailblazers who have paved the way and shown what it takes for us to achieve those dreams and goals that lie in our journey ahead. The good news is, you can be a high achiever without finding yourself at the next company Christmas party in the "Sunken Place". Here is a short list of ways to do so:
- Develop a Vision
Who do we look to as our Elon Musk or Steve Jobs? Unfortunately, the lack of African-American representation at the executive level of many enterprise leaders leaves us without a clear path to follow. Despite this, we can forge our own path to unprecedented success by articulating our vision (no matter how ambitious) and developing clear and concise goals. Want to be the first Black tech mogul, fix the criminal justice system or inequality? Once clearly identifying your long-term vision, you can focus your energy and develop a plan to achieve your goals.
2. Think Like an Entrepreneur
As of recent, both economists and technology experts are predicting that the next decade will usher widespread job loss across industries due to digital transformation and automation. A widely used Oxford study estimated that up to 47% of jobs would be automatable over the next two decades. If true, nowhere would this be more detrimental than in marginalized communities or folks who are not in highly specialized professions. Make yourself resilient to this phenomenon by developing a versatile skill set and thinking of yourself as a problem solver rather than a specialist. This innovative mindset will increase your value by being effective in multiple departments of an organization, or identifying problems and creating solutions within society.
- Start Building a Network
Is your LinkedIn high quality and updated? Does your city have any clubs, organizations, or a network of Black professionals? If so, take advantage of these opportunities, ask the people you meet if they know three additional contacts that you might benefit from talking to. What about that Black business owner you met last year? Reach out to them and ask if they wouldn’t mind taking fifteen or twenty minutes to grab coffee and offer some advice. The key here is not only to meet new people, but to ensure that the connections you’ve made over your four years don’t go to waste. Stay in touch!
- Find a Mentor
Ever heard of code-switching? What about imposter syndrome? Entering the workforce, especially in predominantly white organizations, can be both daunting and draining. Mentors can provide valuable guidance on what obstacles they faced in your industry, and how or if they were able to overcome them. When searching for a mentor, aim high! You will often be surprised at the highly successful individuals who would welcome the opportunity.
5. Perfect your Personal Pitch
We’ve all heard it before - being Black you have to “work twice as hard for half as much.” While racial bias in the workplace has certainly improved over the last few decades, it still remains a significant factor. Your pitch is an opportunity to dispel any initial judgments and advocate on your own behalf. Be sure to confidently state your passion, values and why you would be an asset to the company or organization.
Are there any tactics that I left out? What are you all's experiences being Black in the workforce? Let me know in the comments!