For many, The Great Recession has ushered in The Great Apprehension.
Every day a slew of mass layoffs are announced, with projected workforce cuts looming over everyone’s shoulder. So far in 2023 alone, more than 120,000 tech workers were laid off with more on the way.
It’s not surprising that for a large number of us, the anxiety around keeping your job is very real, nevertheless the expectation of a promotion.
This isn’t the case for Kayla Grant.
For nearly three years she worked as a freelance writer for various publications including ESSENCE Girls United, The Grio, and Business Insider among others. While racking up bylines, her mentor approached her with a seasonal contributor opportunity with Blavity that looked like any other, but little did Grant know, it would the trajectory of her career.
“I signed up for the opportunity and a short time later the team reached back out with an offer to be a regular contributor instead of just a seasonal one,” Grant explained to ESSENCE, stating that her role led her to write commerce pieces the media company’s flagship platforms 21Ninety and TravelNoire.
After quickly establishing a track record of submitting excellent work, she was approached by the team to extend her contract beyond the holiday.
“My boss at the time asked me if I was interested in becoming an editor for one of the brands, which was such a surprise because I thought they were just going to ask me to stay on longer in a contributor role.” It was much more than that. She was named as interim deputy editor for Blavity in response to a structural change with the company.
She attributes the swift jump to her commitment to excellence early on.
“I really pride myself on my attention to detail,” Grant told ESSENCE, pointing out that as a freelancer, she quickly gained the trust of her editors by identifying small edits. “I’m just so grateful my editor saw something in my work early on and trusted me to take on the role.”
There were other contributing factors that led to Grant’s expedient rise up the ranks as well.
Willingness to fill productivity gaps.
Thanks to some coding experience gained from her time in Northwestern University’s graduate journalism program, Grant was able to showcase her ambidextrous work style.
“I’d share links to my stories and I’d notice, ‘Oh, the title is coming up weird. It might be something in the back end.’ And I’d suggest that the strong titling coding be fixed. And the team thanked me for that.”
She suggests that even as freelancers, get comfortable asserting a strong voice.
“Don’t be afraid to step up and help if you have a workaround for something that needs correcting,” she suggested.
Get comfortable with standing out.
“Work ethic is critical but I know my ability to network is another key factors in my growth journey,” Grant told ESSENCE.
She attributed this early awareness of relationship building to her undergraduate experience at Clark Atlanta University.
“I saw that doing something as simple as speaking to my professors, talking to them, really building a natural rapport laid the foundation to a successful college experience. I would reach out to people, make sure that professors know me and talk to them about any questions, and would literally have no fears about that. They remembered me. This mindset is still applicable to the workplace. I’m willing to be connected with anyone on the team to talk through something just to ensure they know my face and name—that way, if an opportunity is available, I’m top of mind.”
She suggests asking your superiors for 15 minutes of their time on either a weekly or bi-weekly basis for a status update and goal review is a clear pathway to success.
“Overall, you have to prepare your mind for success before the opportunity for it even presents itself. Always be willing to show up and receive what’s yours regardless of what’s happening around you.”