What It’s Really Like To Be A Black Woman Job Hunting? Women Share How to Stay Motivated During A Grueling Job Search
Job hunting can be a long and daunting one for Black women. Imagine going on over 100 interviews within an eight-month period, only to find yourself in most cases, still unemployed, unpaid and unmotivated. It’s something that I’ve experienced in my own career, and that surely resonates loudly for other black women at some point on their career journey. It’s an unfair road of overcoming the unconscious biases that plague the interview process at many companies. This unfortunate cycle has grown within Fortune 500 companies, as they continue to report and share disappointing employee diversity numbers, while also complaining that they can not “find the talent.” But how is this so, when black women continue to apply and get overlooked for roles and opportunities?
Whether you are fresh out of college or picking back up after a company layoff, we want you to know that you are not alone in your job search. The women below share tips on how they’ve stayed motivated when on the hunt for a job, that can help you too.
Jasmine, 27, Atlanta, GA
I was looking for a job for over 10 months and only secured 35 interviews. No one tells you how hard it is once you’ve made money for yourself and your company to get a full-time job after that. Employers, in theory, get excited about entrepreneurial-minded employees but “minded” is the key. Actually having the personality and gusto to do so can pose a threat to some companies who are afraid of your talents and that you might leave. This gets especially complicated if there are peer interviews. I’ve run into many situations where I felt peers saw my accomplishments as threats to their career trajectory instead of an added-value to the team. Lean into your mentors, sponsors, friends and faith to take it a step at a time. Keep lists and remind yourself of past accomplishments. I’m grateful to say I started a position that aligned to all my wants in a tech company here in Atlanta this past June!
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Ashley, 23, Miami, Florida
I’m currently on a nine-month job search. I have been applying for a lot of social media and digital content producer positions because I’m really good at it, but I want to continue to build my skills to become an entertainment journalist long term. I have filled out over a thousand job applications for companies all over the country. My location has played a factor because I am in Miami and there are very few social/digital jobs here. My mentors and coaches, my entertainment media inspirations and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) are helping me stay motivated. I would say definitely surround with ambitious motivated people, especially ones who will check in on you. Next, make sure you tell people what type of jobs you are looking for. You only have one pair of eyes but telling people about the type of jobs you are looking for will definitely widen up your search and hopefully, people are willing to send postings your way. Third, don’t be afraid to take a break from the job search. Breaks give you somewhat of a fresh start to clear your mind and give you a chance to breathe, but don’t take a break for too long give yourself a time limit and get right back to it.
Janet, 29, Washington D.C.
For eight months I went over 35 interviews after I decided to leave my job as an academic advisor because it no longer served a purpose in my life in 2016. I made the decision to quit without having a paying job lined up, and I started to working internships and unpaid opportunities while applying to a lot of jobs in the marketing, PR, and entertainment field but was told I didn’t have enough experience or I was overqualified. I continued to take unpaid gigs during this eight-month job search and was still unsuccessful in obtaining a job in my desired field. Three words kept me motivated and that’s prayer, faith, and resilience; I don’t know how I would’ve survived without these attributes. I knew with my strong desire to work in the entertainment industry that my adamant diligence would pay off. I also didn’t give up because I knew if I did, I would return to an unfilled job that didn’t serve my purpose. My advice to any black woman going through this struggle is to make sure you have a strong support system. I cannot stress that enough because there were times where I fought this battle alone and it was very depressing. Having friends, family, and the church as a foundation will make the discouraging job search less stressful. Professionally, go to as many networking events/conferences as possible. Make connections and maintain relationships with people who are in your field as they can provide connections to your next job opportunity. Lastly, pray, meditate, remain resilient, know your worth, and don’t settle.
Stephanie, 29, North Carolina
In 2011, after graduating from college my job search began. Because I knew how competitive the job market would be, I began looking for jobs in January 2011 even though I didn’t graduate until May. From January to November of that year, I went on about 150 different job interviews in an 11-month time frame. When I first began the job search I was often denied positions because I was told I didn’t have enough experience despite completing over 6 internships during the course of my four years in school. It was really heartbreaking because I intentionally did so many internships because I wanted to stand out above my peers in the job market and not even that seemed to work. To be completely honest the only thing that kept me motivated was the fact that I refused to have to move back into my parent’s home forever. As hard as I know it may be, I don’t want other women to get discouraged. You’ll hear a lot of no’s but no’s don’t define you and while you wait for your next job, search for your own opportunities. Build your own brand around your knowledge and consider freelancing or taking on contract jobs.
Ashlee, 29, New York, NY
I went on about 75 phone, video, and in-person interviews in an eight-month period. Aside from the work being unsupporting to me as a black woman and the accounts I was placed on were intangible, the people were awful. I joined an established team that made me feel like an outsider for over seven months. When I left there, I told myself I wouldn’t settle for just any role. I have days where I question my own qualifications and feel like I’ve made a mess of my life. Then I have good days where I know this is temporary and all apart of the process. I have a supportive family and friends who encourage me on my bad days. I know that I’m capable of anything I put my mind to, so when I feel myself slipping into a down moment, I quickly push those thoughts out of mind and remember I’m more than a conqueror. I would tell other black women who are in a similar situation to “stay the course, sis!” Your situation is temporary. Take some classes, find some freelance gigs or even a part-time job. Your dream career is out there, but just don’t give up.
Ericka, 36, Washington, D.C.
I had been with my company at the time for two years and felt like I should be making more and having more control over the next phase of my career. Like many people I was interviewing while still having a job. This comes with its own set of challenges as you must maintain your happy at your current company even if you are not. I was going on average about three interviews a week. I was making it to second, third and final rounds but offer letters were not being sent. After speaking with my mentor about my frustration in the process she gave me a huge reality check. The roles I was seeking would often make me the face or spokesperson for an organization. The hard truth is that some of the companies didn’t want a black woman representing their brand and being the “face”. She told me to not get discouraged because it will be their loss but that this job search could go on for longer than I had anticipated and it did! I stayed motivated my building my network and strengthening my relationships with the external partners at my job at the time. Every interview I added the HR contact and whomever I interviewed with to LinkedIn. My friends and family never gave up on me and I didn’t give up because I knew that I am a value-add. I knew that when the right opportunity with the right pay came along it would be mine and nothing would block it. Networking is what lead me to my current role which was through another black woman. We cannot be shy about asking for help or asking for a referral. Some things are worth waiting for even though it may not be easy mentally or financially. Be patient and positive and if you don’t find the right job, create it!