Even though Black male unemployment is at a record low of 17%, African-American men are still suffering from the fallout of The Great Recession. According to MSNBC, the current unemployment rate for black men is down from last year’s rate of 17.7%, but still more than double the current rate of 7.9% for their white counterparts. Our social environment creates more obstacles to employment for even highly marketable black male job seekers, so African-American men need focused plans for successful career development. Here are some fresh approaches that can help black men address their unique employment concerns:
1. Find an internship or volunteer.
Volunteering or interning is an excellent way to get the inside scoop on job openings at organizations. One recruitment coordinator told the New York Daily News: “It’s a great way for an employer to assess your skills and motivations. It also opens up networking opportunities as well, since you’ll be able to communicate with all sorts of individuals.” Giving your time can also help you build your resume and stay active between full-time positions.
2. Get a degree or specialized training.
Now is the time to invest in a college degree, a master’s degree, or gain skills in a technical profession. A high level of education is not a guarantee of job security, but it is becoming a must to be competitive. During this recession, most of the jobs lost were of the low-skill, livable wage variety that many blacks have relied on for decades. According to Businessweek, the portion of jobs that will require a college education or higher over the next ten years could increase to 63%. Don’t take the risk of being left behind, and use this time to acquire the highest level of education possible.
3. Don’t be discouraged by a criminal record.
Criminal records often plague African-American men seeking employment, but even this hurdle can be surmounted with a plan. From looking into state laws that protect ex-prisoners’ rights, to practicing how to deal with interview questions regarding incarceration, it is possible and essential to tackle this issue head on by applying the right information.
4. Clean up your credit.
More employers than ever are doing credit checks on potential applicants. Get ahead of the game by investigating your credit status: Attain copies of your credit report, dispute entries that are incorrect, and enter into relationships with creditors to develop plans to eliminate debts. Take steps to re-establish good credit, like opening a secured card and paying current bills on time. It is never too late to start improving your credit rating, and help your job prospects.
5. Seek counseling for anger and resentment.
The frustration of facing a tougher search can further impede job prospects for black men. Anthony Quinones, an expert in helping African-American men find jobs, told MSNBC that “resentment… is a big thing for black men and they have a tough time recovering. Anger stops you from moving forward.” Make the time to talk about your feelings with someone, or even create your own support group. Do not allow negative emotions to strangle your future.
6. Network, network, network.
African-Americans tend to participate in networking groups and career sites like LinkedIn less often than other groups. It is critical to break free of our cultural tradition of “sticking to our own” in the job search arena. Learn about professional organizations and clubs related to your fields of expertise, and utilize as many web networking sites as possible, such as the African-American career community, A Mighty River. Ask for business cards, and follow up with new contacts easily using online tools.
7. Take an inventory of your personal skills.
Assess potential career abilities that you might consider developing. This is essential to developing a plan for the kinds of career groups you network with, or the organizations you volunteer for. If your past jobs are in a stagnating industry, it is imperative that you determine new areas of expertise to build upon from your personal arsenal. The Boston Globe recommends that job seekers “take a top-to-bottom inventory of skills and interests; identify industries that need those skills; and then update, adapt, and refine those skills with short-term training programs that quickly lead to paying jobs.” These steps could be crucial to your finding your next career.
8. Improve your communication abilities and soft skills.
Time between jobs is an excellent period to work on “soft skills,” like making eye contact, delivering short verbal pitches of your professional abilities, and conducting practice interviews. Similarly, “social skills training” sounds fluffy, but the ability to get along with others and be perceived as “likable” is central to getting hired and retaining employment.
9. Create a personal marketing plan.
Once you have evaluated your skills, worked on your communication abilities, and begun your networking process, you can get creative about how to set yourself apart from the crowd. In this job market, there are literally thousands of people competing for the same positions. While maintaining professionalism, think of ways to distinguish yourself to potential employers. This might include learning about their personal interests, and sending letters customized to reflect their tastes, or tastefully designing your resume to reflect the branding of targeted companies.
10. Consider unconventional industries for men.
Industries like health care have traditionally been dominated by women, but black men should look to these areas and others like them, which are exploding. Professions in education or social services might be more secure and offer lower barriers to entry, offsetting any discomfort that taking a social role one is unaccustomed to might cause.
Job seeking is difficult for all of us, but it has proven to be the most difficult for African-American men, even as the recession enters its decline. It is more important than ever for this segment of our community to take extra steps to close their consistent gap in employment that often leads to social problems affecting the entire black community. By getting creative, we can band together to help more African-American men participate fully in economic life.
Looking for work? Check out Monster’s diversity job listings on BlackPlanet.com here!