Although signs are showing that the job market is improving, the unemployment rate for African-Americans in the U.S. is still more than double the unemployment rate for whites. While there are a number of reasons why this is the case, many experts say that a lack of a strong network of professionals will hinder many people’s job searches.
Finding a job is about who you know, and that can make the search even more difficult for African-Americans. In a 2013 study published by the Russell Sage Foundation, Professor Nancy DiTomaso of Rutgers University says that hidden forms of racial inequality tied to seemingly innocuous things like networking are holding black job-seekers back. In a job market where hiring is increasingly based on personal connections and internal employee referrals, African-Americans are at a disadvantage because they don’t have as much “social capital” and aren’t as connected to networks that can help them land good jobs compared to other races.
For black professionals in the fields of web development, web design, and graphic design, finding a strong professional network is especially important. The combination of fierce competition for jobs and the smaller number of black professionals in the field may mean that you will be passed over for opportunities. However, by following these tips, you’ll be able to create and establish a network of professionals that will enable you to to take your career to the next level.
Join a Professional Network
Many black professionals seek organizations such as professional associations or company-based employee networks that are devoted to serving them. This could definitely help you find your next job or freelancing gig or reveal open opportunities to you that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Some of these groups have a strong online presence and can make it easy and economical for you to network. Find a local chapter of the National Urban League Young Professionals or look for black professional networking groups in your area on Meetup.com. If you joined a fraternity or sorority in college and are still an active member, see if they have any networking opportunities available.
Diversify Your Network
Some people believe it’s difficult to advance professionally without guidance from professionals with whom you share a racial or ethnic identity. However, many successful professionals know that climbing your way to the top means working with people of all different backgrounds. Therefore, having a diverse network of professionals can work to your advantage. If you have already proven yourself to colleagues in your field and they’re willing to help you with your job search, feel free to reach out to them to find out what opportunities they may have available or if they’re willing to forward your information to someone who can get your foot in the door at a company where you may be interested in working.
Find a Mentor
More than likely there is a professional who has gone through exactly what you have when it comes to networking or finding a job. Having someone who can guide you in the right direction, provide career advice, and introduce you to people in their professional network is invaluable. Use online sources like LinkedIn, volunteer at local entrepreneur events or local chambers of commerce events and seek out mentors. Invite them out to coffee to find out exactly what they did to become successful, and illustrate how you can add value to their network.
Establish a Strong Online Presence
If you already have a website, creating a blog and becoming a subject matter expert in your field is another way to establish and grow your network with fellow professionals. With so many professionals sharing their ideas online, you could use your website or your social networking presence help you find money-making opportunities. Let’s say you offer design services as a freelancer. Share that information with fellow professionals and collaborate with a larger network and bring in referrals!
Listen — the job market out here is tough. Finding a job as a black professional in the field of graphic and web design and web development has its own share of unique challenges. Knowing the right people and making important connections is extremely important. While the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” may sound cliché, it’s an important factor to consider when seeking job opportunities.
Do you have some networking tips that have worked for you? Share them below in the comments!