The February 2016 jobs report is out today and while the U.S. labor market is showing signs of improvement and recovery, there is still a long way to go before African Americans can begin to bask in the glory of a post-economic crisis America. We’re seeing a slight increase of hourly earnings overall, but those improvements don’t always trickle down to the Black community.
The unemployment rate for Blacks is still more than double that of Whites at nearly 9 percent. However, there are booming industries with employment opportunities for the taking, particularly if you have transferable skills that would allow you to seamlessly transition from one career to another.
Torin Ellis calls himself a human capital strategist who makes successful, professional marriages for a living. He has a passion and penchant for helping companies who have made diversity a part of their strategic hiring plan.
“My clients who allocate resources to diversity understand that no one group of individuals have a lock on innovation or intellectual capital,” said Ellis. “It showcases to other companies that everyone has the ability to deposit into the betterment of this organization, the betterment of the bottom line, the betterment of our mission and our standing in the community.”
Ellis believes that while more companies are seeking out his skills to connect them with diverse candidates of all kinds, not nearly enough have made the effort, especially when it comes to hiring Blacks. Well, that is unless they’ve been publicly shamed (as many science and technology companies have recently been), for their lack of interest in hiring diverse employees.
“If we’re going to be honest, unemployment with African Americans is about where it was for whites in 2009,” shared Ellis. “A good portion of the growth is happening in what I would call just above minimum wage opportunities, and so we still have a way to go if we are going to decrease unemployment in our community.”
The path may be long, but it’s not impossible. Start by reinventing yourself. Rebuild your skill set to adapt to the wide range of opportunities that are starting to open up, particularly in the science and technology space. Some of them include: Cyber Security, Life Sciences (healthcare, biomedical, pharmaceutical, etc.), Cloud Computing (technology/IT), Data Science, Data Architecture, Wireless Telecommunications and Social Media Community Management.
Ellis shares his personal, winning three-point formula that he believes will help African Americans who are considering a career transition move the needle ahead and become competitive in these evolving industries.
1. Tighten Up Your Footprint
Resume: “There is no room or any need in 2016 to include an ‘objective’ on your resume, but you should include colorful adjectives and substantive statements that describe the work that you have done and highlights your contributions to the organization and delivery of results.”
Social Media: “Clear out negative postings, lock down your accounts and be prepared to provide potential employers with the passwords to access those accounts. A lot of candidates don’t know that recruiters can search for things that candidates have posted on social media even after they have locked down their accounts. It’s not full proof, but you should make your accounts private anyway.”
Voicemail: “Make sure that the greeting on your voicemail message sounds alive, likable and professional. Too many candidates are poor communicators with overly relaxed voicemail messages. Also, don’t be afraid to go beyond the resume and application and get on the phone. As a recruiter if I reach out to you and I do not like the sound of your greeting, there is a good chance that I will discount you as a candidate.”
2. Build a Spider Web of Opportunity
Be a Proactive Participant: “For many candidates, the job search is to throw your resume up on various job sites and sit back to see who responds. Instead, use research sites like Alexa.com and Hoovers.com to find new opportunities by uncovering who is your ideal employer’s direct competitor, who may be unfamiliar with you as a candidate. You should also look at a company’s annual reports and venture capitalist blogs to uncover new opportunities.”
Go Beyond the Usual Suspects: “There are plenty of unfamiliar opportunities that exist as long as you are willing to retool your skills. Look at what you can bring to the equation and then repurpose the things that you have done to become attractive to other companies inside different industries.”
Keep It Singular: “Do not subscribe to the idea that you need multiple resumes. Every candidate should have one resume and a transition does not change that. You are who you are…period.”
Use Your Words: “Comment on interesting articles you find on LinkedIn or use hashtags on Twitter and let the people who are writing or reviewing these articles see your thoughtful comments and contribution. If you use the right hashtag, they will find you.”
Be Mindful: “Attend networking events, but be interested as much as you are trying to be interesting. People like to talk, but as a candidate you can learn a lot just by being willing to listen and encourage another person to talk showing that you are interested in them.”
Find Peace of Mind: “Know that patience and proactive movements will prevail. It won’t happen overnight, but that’s because the job search is a job within itself and you cannot work 80 hours a week with no outlet. Throughout the day, go outside, get some exercise or volunteer at a non profit to keep yourself sharp within the space you are in. You have to do something outside of your routine so you can maintain some semblance of progress.”
Following these tips during a career transition (or frankly any job search) will likely result in a substantially more profitable paycheck by way of a better quality job, something Black workers have yet to experience in droves. Each month tells a new economic story, but the time has come for us to begin writing our own scripts.
For more workforce enhancing tips, listen to Torin Ellis on “The Karen Hunter Show” every Monday at 4 p.m. EST on SiriusXM 126.