Wanted: a hassle-free first job at a great company with unparalleled pay. Where can such an ad be placed-and answered? Only in your dreams! At one time or another, nearly every college graduate-to-be has imagined a job with an employer that came close to defying all sound business reason. Varying in size, shape and scope, these mental masterpieces, in reality, could never be much more than daydreams.
As a young African American who’s watched your parents’ generation struggle to climb the career ladder only to repeatedly bump their heads on the industrial-strength glass ceiling, your dreams are tinted a beautiful shade of black. Against this backdrop, it’s easy to understand why. On the surface, you may assume a company run by someone of the same race and populated with people who look like you will clear the way for a smooth coast up the ranks with little adversity.
But in truth, considering employment with a black-owned firm is no different from choosing a job with a white company.
Why? At the end of the day, a black company is just that-a company. The race of a firm’s owner and/or employee population is just one of several factors-size, industry, career advancement opportunities, etc.-that must be thoroughly investigated when looking for a job, especially your first one. Rather than trying to find the best black-owned company, your focus should be on locating the best company for you. Period.
To help you get a better perspective on this rarely explored subject, we’ve talked with young professionals working for firms in the BE 100s mix-the nation’s largest black companies. They’ll share some of the pros and cons of working for a black company, as well as personal anecdotes that speak to the true nature of their experiences. Our experts will provide further insight into major black firms and offer advice to help you determine if this career path is for you.
THE BEAUTY OF GOING BLACK
A common thread among major black-owned firms is that they are generally family-owned with average revenues below the $50 million mark. Like many such small companies, they are more willing to go out on a limb with their employees. Take the case of Doralinda Mack. She manages a Chevron gas station owned by United Energy Inc. (No. 74 on the be industrial/service 100 list with $29 million in sales) in Portland, Oregon and supervises a team of 16 employees.
She joined the company in July 1997 as a temporary administrative assistant. Her willingness to take the initiative and work as hard as a full-time staff member helped her stand out and gain the attention of management. Hired three months later as a bookkeeper, she quickly rose through the ranks to become manager last August. Even more interesting, though, is that Mack, 21, has managed to do it without a college degree.
“United was willing to take a chance on someone like me, and needless to say, I was impressed,” says Mack, who had no management experience prior to this position. “They even offered to help