When it comes to carving out a career. African Americans have never had the luxury of floating around for years in an attempt to find themselves. And yet, TX: knowing what you truly want and love to do is crucial to finding a place in the working world that brings you real fulfillment.
These days especially, with stiffer-than-ever competition and steeper- than-ever student loans to repay, the search for a career that’s perfectly in synch with your talents, skills and–if you’re really lucky- -dreams is often checked by the need to snag any steady paycheck you can get.
But there are still those who are determined enough, crafty enough or just plain lucky enough to find that just-right vocation. Here are four individuals with unique careers that suit them to a tee and afford them the lifestyles they want. In forging a career, what more could you hope for?
ROBB ARMSTRONG, SYNDICATE CARTOONIST
Robb Armstrong has an enviable life, and he knows it. At 34, he is married to his college sweetheart, has an adorable three-year-old daughter, a comfortable home and the career he has dreamed of–and striven toward–since childhood.
Armstrong is the creator of JumpStart, a comic strip that appears seven days a week in about 250 newspapers nationwide, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun Times, New York Daily News and, Armstrong’s hometown paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is now an author as well, with three books of a five-book contract with HarperCollins already under his belt.
The youngest of five children raised in Philly by a devoted and supportive mother. Armstrong began drawing cartoons as a preschooler. What he may have lacked in drawing ability as a child, he more than made up for in enthusiasm and confidence. “My mother really thought I had extraordinary ability,” he says, laughing. “I did not.”
His mother’s steadfast belief in his talents sustained him, even after she died during his freshman year at Syracuse University. Armstrong majored in advertising design, but spent much of his time as art director of the college’s newspaper, the Daily Orange, which also ran his first strip, Hector. Featuring a black college student with heavy attitude, Hector was a campus hit that Armstrong was sure would take off in the real world.
After graduation, Armstrong started pitching Hector to syndicates that he found listed in a trade book, while working days as an $18,000-a-year art director at an ad agency. He thrived in his day job, moving from agency to agency, gaining in experience, industry acclaim and income. Meanwhile, Hector met with nothing but rejection. But Armstrong persisted.
“It was tough, but my wife kept telling me, ‘You have a gift. Don’t give up,'” he recalls. He didn’t give up but he did change his strategy. “It finally hit me to get off of Hector, who was clearly not going to be the next Garfield, and find work as a cartoonist.”
Armstrong began drawing cartoons on commission, for $100 here, $50 there. He also developed a new strip about two policemen, one black, one