Employment Tips for Black Men to CRUSH IT in 2021

Be honest with yourself. Do you feel completely happy with your career—your day-to-day work, your future prospects, and your compensation? Few of us can say we’re one hundred percent thrilled with our professional lives. If you’re a bright, committed Black man in search of more satisfying work and a higher salary, there’s no time like the present to make it happen. That’s right—even as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial anxiety that has accompanied it, it’s possible to find a new job or score an awesome raise. Let’s check out my smart and practical employment tips for Black men to help you fulfill your personal goals in the workplace.

A graph illustrating bachelor's degree jobs with $100k+ salaries.
Bachelor’s Degree Jobs with $100k+ Salaries. Source: US News

Make Yourself Hireable… and Desirable

Many of us continue to be stuck at home as we wait for COVID vaccine eligibility and reports of reduced community transmission. While quarantining at home isn’t always conducive to great productivity, you can use this period to make yourself more attractive to potential employers. Here are a few ways to make yourself a stronger candidate.

Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

WIth many campuses still closed, it may seem like an odd time to go back to school, but obtaining a college degree can open many doors. In 2019, the national employment rate was highest for Americans ages twenty-five to thirty-four who held at least a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, Black Americans with bachelor’s degrees out-earn those with high school diplomas by 99.5%. And nowadays, many respected universities make it possible for you to earn your degree from home and at your own pace. Have a look at these bachelor’s degree jobs that pay $100K or more, and see if there isn’t a field that interests you. And be sure to check out the ten highest-paying college degrees for Black Americans.    

Bolster Your Skill Set

Even if you already hold a degree, there’s always room for progress. You can use your time at home to learn new skills—ones that will make you eligible for attractive jobs with competitive pay. You might strengthen your understanding of global economics or develop greater emotional intelligence in leadership. Or, if you’re technologically inclined, you might learn to code at home. Adding to your skillset means you’ll have a more impressive resume and more to offer potential employers. If you have the time and money to invest in developing a new ability, 2021 is the perfect time to do it.

15 Hot Jobs on the Rise in 2021
15 Hot Jobs on the Rise in 2021. Source: LinkedIn

Maintain a Flawless Resume

Speaking of resumes, when was the last time you gave yours some TLC? It’s always important to maintain an updated resume for any opportunities that may arise, but you should raise your standards. Take your resume from adequate to awesome by making some simple changes. You want it to stand out to HR staff and hiring authorities when they’re reviewing hundreds of submissions. If you’ve never worked with a professional resume editor to perfect yours, it’s an excellent investment. An editor can tweak your resume so that it communicates your experience, talent, and abilities in just a quick glance. 

Tips on how to make the perfect resume.
The Flawless Resume

Use Dynamite Cover Letters

Many employment experts recommend that you keep your resume to one page (two max), unless you’ve been working for over twenty years. When there’s so much you’d like to communicate to potential employers, one or two pages can feel limiting. That’s where the cover letter comes in. Your cover letter is your opportunity to elaborate on why you feel you’d be an excellent match for an open position and what you’d bring to the table. If you elect to work with a professional resume writer, they likely can help you craft cover letters for the types of positions that interest you. That’s right—you need to tailor each cover letter you send to the individual job description. Think of each one as a new opportunity to tell your professional story.

Hone Your Interview Skills

Now that you look amazing on paper, it’s time to brush up on your interview skills. It’s important to be confident, focused, and well prepared, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. After all, it’s hard to present yourself in the best light when you’re nervous. That’s why it’s so important to practice your interviewing skills before you need to use them for real. Check out this list of helpful tips for rehearsing for an interview. Like anything else in life, getting good at it is simply a matter of practice. 

A list of tips on how to prepare for a job interview.
Hone Your Interview Skills

Start Networking for New Employment

An excellent education, a strong skill set, and an impressive resume and cover letter mean you have the full package. Here are some ways to make sure you get your message to the right people. 

A list of top networking websites.
Start Networking for New Employment

Create (or Refresh) Your LinkedIn Profile

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If not, you need one ASAP! LinkedIn is one of the most powerful professional networking tools available. With more than 760 million members, it allows you to connect to potential employers and makes it easy for them to find your resume. There’s also a handy job search feature, which tailors its recommendations to your skills and experience. If you’re just getting started, the site includes a helpful primer on how to create a good LinkedIn profile. Spend some time making yours look great, and be sure to add “update LinkedIn profile” to your monthly reminders. Recruiters and potential employers will be watching!

Reach Out to Your Network

Now it’s time to connect to the people you already know—friends, colleagues, former classmates, or professors. Commit to setting up calls with ten people you know who have influence in or knowledge of the hiring process. You’re not calling to ask for a job, but to ask for professional advice. Ask each person if you can pick their brain over lunch or coffee (or, if you need to continue social distancing, use Zoom). Your goal is to find out as much as you can about what makes each person want to make an offer to a candidate. What impresses them? What turns them off? What do they consider a deal-breaker? By the end of each conversation, you should have a better idea of how to sell yourself in a job interview. You might even ask some of your contacts if they’re willing to do a mock interview with you and give you feedback afterward. You want to arm yourself with as much information as you can.

Welcome to Black Men’s Career | Your Key to Success

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Changing the trajectory of your career means you can’t always play it safe. It’s time to make some bold moves.

Look Beyond the 9 to 5

As a society, we’re pretty conditioned to believe that working daytime hours and weekdays is what we’re expected to do. And while it’s true that many great jobs follow the traditional schedule, there are plenty of excellent opportunities that don’t. You may find that there are more overnight shift jobs available in your area, since not everyone is cut out for nighttime work. It’s also worth looking into ways to make money from home, either full-time or as your side hustle. If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us about our working lives, it’s that many of us are fully capable of working remotely. Check out options like copyediting and proofreading, coding, or online customer service.

Top side hustles, things you can do on the side to earn more money.
Look Beyond the 9 to 5

Ask for More Money

As Black men, we tend to underestimate our worth and undersell ourselves to employers. If you’ve been a productive and faithful employee, now is a great time to ask for a well-deserved raise or a few extra perks at work. Do some quick research to see if you’re currently being paid a competitive salary for your position and location. Then have a look at these helpful tips for asking for a raise. Much like a job interview, it’s not always the easiest conversation to have, so it’s vital to be prepared. But don’t let your nervousness keep you from approaching your supervisor—you’re worth it!

A graph that shows the weekly earnings based on educational attainment.
Ask for More Money. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consider a Career Change

Have you been curious about pursuing something entirely different? With so much up in the air, now is as good a time as any to consider switching to a new profession. Take a look at the most lucrative industries and see what matches your interests and skill set. Some of these professions require a specific degree or certification, but others don’t. Many tech-based companies, for example, hire based on skills and experience, which you can acquire through a coding boot camp. Where do you want to go, and how are you going to get there?      

An illustration that shows the most lucrative college degrees.
Most Lucrative College Degrees. Source: PayScale

More Employment Tips for Black Men

As you evaluate the state of your career and your future prospects, be kind to yourself. It’s easy to fall into the trap of fixating on your professional shortcomings and comparing yourself to others. Do your best to maintain a positive mindset as you explore potential career moves, even when things don’t work out as you’d hoped. Not only will it help you to be more confident in the interview process, but it also will help your mental and emotional health. Remember that no matter where you are in your career, you deserve to feel a great sense of self-worth. You’ve got this!