We’re not going back to “normal.”
Kimani Jones had been happily working in the wedding industry in New York City as a content creator when news about Covid-19 broke. She, like many workers across the country, was sent home with her laptop and work file, assured her job was safe and told to return when the pandemic blew over. Shortly after, she received an email that the company was laying off the team, but would bring them back. But that never happened.
The unemployment program payouts were dwindling, and even with the stimulus payments, Jones and her chronically-ill husband needed more income to take care of their family. She had always been a self-published writer and had done some editing work in the past, but had transitioned to a full-time job for stability. After urging from a family member, she turned to her existing skills for a Plan B.
“I couldn’t depend on that (inconsistent income). I thought, ‘When are you going to wake up and realize you can’t depend on anybody but yourself to take care of yourself?’” she says. “That’s how I went back into editing, and I opened up my business.”
She adds: “I did the research on everything that I needed to do that will sustain me now. I have nothing but time to learn now, and that’s a luxury.”
Black women are working themselves back up for success and freedom.
Jones isn’t the only Black woman who changed her career due the uncertainty in the workplace during the pandemic. Overall, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs in December 2020, according to the National Women’s Law Center. McKinsey/LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2020 reported that women either contemplated leaving or downsizing their jobs due to increased responsibilities at home or stress during the pandemic, and 61 percent of women surveyed planned a career change altogether. Across the board, Black women were impacted the most, but they are also a key group working themselves back up to success and freedom.
Kanika Tolver, tech leader, coach and author of Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work, says in the past year, Black women have been taking the necessary foundational steps to get what they want out of their work lives. “Black women have started to invest in themselves in a way that they may have never done before, and not just from a perspective of just career, but transitioning to understanding ‘how do I take better care of myself?’”
Those investments, Tolver says, could be therapists, life coaches or career coaches or a combination of them all depending on your needs.
“I think if your life is not right, your career is not right,” she adds. “A lot of times there’s some trauma that we’ve experienced throughout this pandemic, but there was some trauma that we were experiencing within corporate America… We really needed to transition our mental, physical and spiritual state of mind to a (new) place.”
Julia Rock, a Houston-based career coach, says her business has seen significant growth in services over the past year and Black women are at the top of her client base. Her clients are regrouping primarily after a layoff or company restructure, to assess how they want to reenter the workforce after a significant time investment or even due to job burnout.
Women in the Workplace findings support this insight. The report states the following: “Black women are less likely than women overall to report that their manager has inquired about their workload or taken steps to ensure that their work–life needs are being met.”
To boot, of the managers interviewed, only 44% reported advocating for equal pay or mentoring (37%) women of color.
No matter where Black women are in their transition, Rock says some key advice remains effective:
Positioning yourself as highly effective. — “Sometimes Black women are seen and judged in a particular way, and they’re judged in a particular way, and that’s why they’re not either given opportunities or given jobs.”
However, not positioning yourself in the best way on paper could come back to bite you, and some of that may be due to biases. The resume has to be right, and should clearly state your accomplishments.
Having clarity of mind. — Ask yourself: ‘why do you want to make this move? What does success look like for you?’ Rock says not knowing what you want prevents you from aligning with the right opportunities moving forward.
Building your network. “What companies say on websites is all well and good for the general masses, but the experience, especially for people of color, can be quite different,” Rock says. Networking will help you better determine if the environment suited for you to thrive.
Women who are planning a career change may also refer to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report for employment and industry projections regularly for a leg up.