My best friend recently entered the job market; not as an employee, but an active job seeker. The days of writing research papers and volunteering time through unpaid internships were activities of her past. She needed a job. Fortunately, she had a strong support system through this transition, but as each day passed she no longer wanted support, but an actual career.
Applying for jobs is always the easy part. A simple job search can lead to thousand of positions within your career field, so this is not the challenge. Obtaining a job in your field, however, is extremely difficult and mentally draining.
My friend admitted she was starting to envy her peers’ success. The job search was her full time position and she was a dedicated worker. When she was not applying for positions in her field, she was volunteering at organizations or building her professional network. In order to generate some type of income she even applied to part-time jobs, but hiring managers would tell her that she was overqualified and intimidating.
“I did everything right,” she stated.
This statement was familiar. I was three years into my own job search and I truly believed that I was doing everything right. After graduating with my bachelor’s, I started searching for a job. Six months of rejections and denials later, I applied for graduate school to enhance my resume. When I could not get a position I was qualified for, I applied lower; relegating my abilities to that of an intern because I simply wanted to get in. When I questioned my skills, I sought out ways to improve them. I started a blog to motivate myself to constantly write. I also never allowed myself to give up on my goals and I told my friend she could not dismiss her own.
As an African-American, you get use to the eye rolls that come when you bring up the difficulties of obtaining a job. People believe that federal measures on diversity ensures equal opportunity;however, this is not true. I have excelled at job interviews and even had my references give rave reviews, only to be denied a job. One job even called me back (probably after realizing I was the better candidate) to re-interview so they could “select” me this time. We hope that talent and skill will always win, but find at times that this is not enough.
My white peers tend to obtain top ranking positions within months before or after college, while my peers that are minorities settle for any type of job position or go back to school to obtain a higher degree. For a minority student, applying for a job is all about chance and luck. It often feels like only a few of us get to make our dreams come true.
The lack of diversity within some industries have become newsworthy. The media has played a pivotal role in providing a space for minorities to make their concerns known to a society that simply ignored the problem for many years. The tech, public relations and social work fields are just a few environments with evident diversity issues within the work place. In my field, only 8.7 percent of African-Americans work in public relations and marketing. This percentage alone would motivate any minority student with this degree to pursue another career field, especially one that promotes diversity within the work environment.
I work constantly to accomplish my goals despite the odds that are against me. When I feel that my hope is draining, I allow myself the chance to cry, stress and shut out the world, but I never allow myself to doubt my abilities. The 8.7 percent of African-Americans who made it in, were just like me. They were dedicated to accomplishing their goals. I would gladly dedicate three more years of my life to my job search if it meant going to sleep every night knowing that I had tried. Giving up is never an option.
The sadness soon left my friend face when she discovered that she was not alone in this job search. We like to believe that race does not play a factor in the work environment, but it is naïve to think otherwise. The only way to change the work environment is by requiring businesses to evolve beyond its mundane practices. Simply meeting a federal quota or having diversity questionnaires to ensure compliance with federal standards is antiquated and not enough. Minorities must also work with industries to change the work environments so that they are inclusive for everyone. Media is helping society evolve, but beyond the media there is still a great deal of work.