20/20 Vision Forum: Create Your Own Job and Reinvent Yourself

Black Enterprise teams with Walmart to help African Americans gain an edge in today's tech-driven, global job market

Hajj Flemings breaks down the difference between a brand and commodity

One panelist Bishop Noel Jones, senior pastor of City of Refuge and the force behind the public-private partnership United Job Creation Council in Los Angeles, maintains the first step is “to be global in our thinking because technology has shrunk our world.”  So he stresses training an emerging and existing workforce with a focus on competition that is no longer national but global.  For quite some time, contenders have not been contained to California, New York or Illinois but can be found in China, India, Brazil and other parts of the world—across a range of industries.

In fact, Taylor’s assessment was more frank: “African Americans are the only group in this country with no connection to the global economy,” citing as one example the stronger ties the Chinese government and businesses have with Africa.

That’s why it’s important, Taylor says, to learn languages such as Spanish and Mandarin to expand your portfolio of opportunities. To make his case, he offered the example of a bilingual American broadcast journalist who was able to find employment in China as a news anchor.

Identifying hot spots like IT, mobile services, healthcare, green jobs, genetics and elderly services can prove to be a smart move. In most cases, you need the right skills demanding “years and years of preparation,” says Curtis Silvers, area director of the Southern California region of UNCF. Large numbers of mid-career workers can gain retraining to become employable in such fields. But Silvers, along with Jones and Taylor, believe the next generation will gain the best shot at being positioned to advance and innovate within such occupations—that is, if they gain sufficient education in K-12 and at the collegiate level.

Always use new technology to your advantage though.  Social media strategist Hajj Flemings demonstrated how to bolster your personal brand to remain relevant in his comprehensive tutorial on how to use social media and online tools.  He maintains that inviduals must develop a personal branding map, a visual representation of your relationships and “how you are wired positions you for greater impact in the space you desire to dominate. ” How do you achieve this goal? Create an idea, develop quality content, follow a detailed strategy and pursue it with passion. Says Flemings: “You should own your genius.”

Black Enterprise CEO Earl "Butch" Graves, Jr. (second from left) poses with a few of the day's panelists

Another key to job creation and advancement: entrepreneurship, of course. Panelist Magnus Greaves, founder and CEO of TheCASHFLOW and advisory board member of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, described his model to foster business development. Greaves’ incubator includes selection of winners of his business pitch competition who receive $10,000 in capital and mentorship to boot.  BLACK ENTERPRISE has partnered with Greaves’ organization in producing the Elevator Pitch Competition at our annual Entrepreneurs Conference.

Greaves says one size doesn’t fit all: different types of entrepreneurs need different skills. However, all must have passion, dexterity and guidance to create sustainable enterprises: “Entrepreneurs must develop skills and platforms to pass on to other entrepreneurs.”

To achieve that end, Schleier-Smith advises budding entrepreneurs to take an “honest assessment of their skills and to set yourself up with a great mentor.” He speaks from experience: Schleier-Smith’s was counseled by one of the co-founders of LinkedIn.

Timothy A. Reese, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Minority Angel Network, has identified crucial steps: Attend business forums to discover how financiers make investment decisions and “learn the difference between equity and a paycheck.”

Don’t fret about setbacks. Our panelists admitted that they found the path to success through failure. Says Reese: “I was fired once and that was all it took for me to become my own change agent.”

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    Great article. We would only add that the imperative to follow these prescriptions is much stronger than it might seem at first. This past Thursday, University of Michigan Economics Professor Mark J. Perry published a chart showing the recent new record high in GDP…compared to a loss of 6.6 million jobs over the same period. Growth in Employment and GDP have historically tracked very closely…however, the continued explosion in productivity is finally coming home to roost. While data interpretations may vary, one thing seems incontrovertible…The U.S. economy has lost a lot of jobs at a time when output has risen to historic levels…and the bad news is, the lost jobs are not coming back. The sooner we accept this and prepare ourselves to succeed in the new economy, the better off we will be.


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