How To Use Your Career To Uplift Our Community
Words: Janet Asante
The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged us to find ways to help each other on and off the protest lines.
The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and the five Dallas policemen highlighted the discourse between Americans on the topic of police brutality. A number of us found ourselves arguing online with strangers and friends about why the Black Lives Matter movement is important. We carried the burden of trying to explain that there isn’t an “only” in front of the Black Lives Matter slogan. Some of us were ridiculed and made to feel that our individual and collective experiences with police were blown out of proportion or exaggerated. All of this took a toll on our mental state. Out of sheer frustration and a need to show our economic power, several people have called for consumer boycotts and “buy black” campaigns.
I understand the calls for consumer boycotts, but I also want to encourage us to buy in. Buy in to the idea that we can use our careers and talents to uplift our community. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that we are using our chosen career fields to support our community. Through the pain of recent tragedies, I found myself being so proud of bloggers, writers, poets, mothers, fashionistas, yogis, artist, nutritionists, and counselors of color who steadily shared content on solidarity and encouraged people to participate in self-care.
I found comfort in Alex Elle’s poetry. I found myself scrolling through my social media followers for self-care advocates and sage yogis for solace. These people did not venture into these careers out of fear, but out of optimism and conviction that our perspectives and our needs matter. It was refreshing to rediscover those who serve our community and tell our stories. I am filled with pride for those who are knee deep in the business of people of color. I can’t imagine what we would do without influencers giving us language and strength to find the hope within ourselves.
We’ve come a long way, and we appreciate everyone in these spaces, but there’s more work to be done. We need more doctors, yogis, therapists, writers, poets, artists and business owners of color who represent our experiences and struggles and who fearlessly and passionately create things and experiences that speak directly to us.
As you process the racial discourse we are facing, my challenge to mater mea readers this month is to identify ways you can use your career or your talents to move our community forward. For me, sharing helpful career tips targeted specifically for people of color and creating space to discuss topics that impact minorities in the workplace are my ways of giving back. I challenge you to take some time to identify how your career can help other people of color.
Serve Your Community With Your Talent
Identify how you can use your professional talents to serve people in your community or at work. For example, an accountant can spend time each tax season providing tax advice to people of color in low-income areas. Doing so will allow you to not only share your talent, but provide an opportunity for them to connect with someone who may understand their circumstances.
Become A Mentor
Mentor a person of color in the office. You don’t have to be at the top of your career game to mentor a co-worker. If you are in your first year of a job, mentor an intern or a current college student. If you are at the top of your career, invite a junior-level minority to lunch and just check in on them. Let them know you want to be a sounding board.
Have Your Colleague’s Back
Speak up for other people of color in the office. If you hear or see a colleague giving a fellow colleague the short end of the stick, speak up. You don’t have to be rude or antagonistic—simply step up to the plate to sponsor him or her.
Take Your Dream Off The Backburner
Write that book or whatever dream you have been putting away. We need more people of color in all spaces. Each time you put away your dream, you’re taking away the opportunity for us to appreciate your awesomesauce.
Whatever action you take to make a difference in the community, know that protests do not only happen in the streets. Making a conscious decision to buy in to being your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper is a form of protest.
Janet Asante is a human resources executive with 18 years of leadership experience and a successful track record serving as trusted advisor to executive leadership team members and employees from all walks of life. She has comprehensive HR leadership experience in private, non-profit, government and information technology industries. Janet is passionate about helping people of color bring their best self to work and navigate challenges at workplaces everywhere.