Career Advice from Black Business Leaders Across America was originally published on DiversityJobs.
For young Black professionals, there are many unspoken rules about navigating the workplace. And when there aren’t many people around who look like you, mapping out a success plan for your career can be challenging. In 2021, Black Americans made up 14% of the workplace population, and the percentage of Black workers at the managerial level was significantly lower than that.
More than ever, it’s important for young Black professionals to seek the career advice of Black business leaders. The road to success is different for everyone, but when you’re a minority it’s helpful to align with those who’ve had a similar experience navigating the same spaces as you. Here are a few pieces of career advice from different Black business leaders:
Find a Mentor
There’s no better support than connecting with someone who’s been exactly where you are. Mentors and sponsors can be a saving grace for young Black professionals. Crystal King, Founder of Amazing Baby, explains just how central mentors can be to one’s success. She says,
“[They] provide you with invaluable insights into the market, which will help with your
business success and growth. The easiest way to find mentors is through SCORE, LinkedIn, or just do a quick google search to find their email addresses. Tell them about the industry you’re going into and your interest in getting advice from them and learning from them.”
As a young Black professional, regular check-ins with an in-industry mentor can help you grow in unexpected ways. Not only can you know and understand your job better, but you’ll gain the confidence you need to believe in yourself.
In their book, Twice as Hard: Navigating Black Stereotypes and Creating Space for Success, Opeyemi and Raphael Sofoluke discuss the importance of personal branding early on in one’s career.
They encourage Black professionals to be intentional and thoughtful about what values they hold and what mark they wish to make in their respective fields. Opeyemi and Raphael explain,
“It’s really important to know what your personal brand is. When you leave the room, what do you want people to be saying about you? Is it that you’re a hard worker?
That you’re a thinker? That you’re someone who goes above and beyond?”
However you want to define yourself at work, you must take the time to acknowledge who you are and what you want. Over time, you’ll grow and expand in your career, though your values and beliefs should remain steady.
Don’t Be Afraid of Change
If there’s one thing to always count on, in the workplace and in life, it’s change. A common piece of advice from Black business leaders is to never become stagnant.
Young Black professionals should always be evolving and expanding who they are. Sometimes, this calls for a physical shift, and as daunting as that can be, it’s crucial for success. Monta Fowlkes, Senior Director of Sales for Uncrewed Aerial Systems, offers that,
“Real growth comes from change, so always be open to trying something new and unfamiliar. Many of my best experiences came after I took on something entirely new and outside of my comfort zone. The opportunities are everywhere. Take them.”
Perhaps the most important thing to note about change is that you never know how successful you can be if you never try. Saying ‘yes’ to change is saying ‘yes’ to yourself and your values– to your beliefs and the things you stand for.
Each of these pieces of advice can help you become the professional leader you’re meant to be. In time, you’ll develop the skills and connect with the people who will lead you to a path of success.