October Is Black Professionals Month, A Push To Make Corporate Leadership More Diverse

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The first day of October is the first day of a month-long push to help make corporate leadership more diverse. It’s the brain-child of two black executives who say it’s time to have more diversity at the top, so they are trying something new.

It’s called Black Professionals Month, 31 days of events, recognitions and celebrations.

Denise Kaigler is one of the co-founders. She told WBZ-TV it’s time to work together. Watch video here.

“There is a such a great opportunity for us to come together, black professionals to come together, to work together, to increase our presence, black professionals’ presence in leadership roles around the world,” Kaigler said.

October 1st starts a month-long series of virtual events and speakers, all with the goal of inspiring and coaching black talent.

“We are also going to be bringing speakers together to host sessions that cover a wide range of topics that impact the ability of black professionals to climb up that corporate ladder, personal branding, career advancement sessions,” Kaigler told WBZ.

Right now, she says, the numbers are bad. Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles in America, a change she knows can’t happen by the end 31 days, but one they plan to push for years to come.

Read the complete article on CBS local.

Lumen: The Platform for Amazing Things

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Lumen is guided by our belief that humanity is at its best when technology advances the way we live and work. Learn more about our purpose to further human progress through technology at jobs.lumen.com.

We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all persons regardless of race, color, ancestry, citizenship, national origin, religion, creed, veteran status, disability, medical condition, genetic characteristic or information, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, pregnancy, or other legally protected status (collectively, “protected statuses”).

We do not tolerate unlawful discrimination in any employment decisions, including recruiting, hiring, compensation, promotion, benefits, discipline, termination, job assignments or training.

Hot Jobs of 2022

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The past few years have brought about a lot of changes to the workforce. We have improved on our “work from home” systems and specific industries have grown in unexpected ways. If you’re looking for a career change this year, here are 2022’s fastest growing jobs that you may want to consider.

Healthcare

It’s no surprise that the healthcare industry has risen so quickly with recent events. Now the industry is in need of professionals in every field of medicine, and these jobs are some of the least likely to ever see a decline.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth of healthcare careers is expected to grow by 2.6 million jobs in the next decade.

Jobs to Consider:

  • Nurse Practitioners:
    • Description: Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare.
    • Median Pay: $117,670 per year ($56.57 per hour)
    • Education Level: Master’s Degree
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants:
    • Description: Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.
    • Median Pay: $60,950 per year ($29.30 per hour)
    • Education Level: Associate’s Degree from an accredited program
  • Physical Therapy Assistants:
    • Description: Physical therapy assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.
    • Median Pay: $49,970 per year ($24.02 per hour)
    • Education Level: Associate’s Degree from an accredited program

Information Technology

Not only is the world of tech and online presence growing, but it’s becoming more and more necessary every year. Whether you are working in the world of cybersecurity, code or maintenance, this field isn’t slowing down any time soon, with an estimated 668,00 jobs to be created in the next 10 years.

Jobs to Consider:

  • Information Security Analysts:
    • Description: Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems.
    • Median Pay: $103,590 per year ($49.80 per hour)
    • Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Web Developers:
    • Description: Web developers create and maintain websites. Digital designers develop, create and test website or interface layout, functions and navigation for usability.
    • Median Pay: $77,200 ($37.12 per hour)
    • Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Software Developers:
    • Description: Software developers design computer applications or programs. Software quality assurance analysts and testers identify problems with applications or programs and report defects.
    • Median Pay: $110,140 per year ($52.95 per hour)
    • Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree

Energy

As more and more of an effort is being made to invest in clean energy, prevent climate change and work to care for our planet, specialty jobs centered around these projects have begun to increase.

Jobs to Consider:

  • Wind Turbine Service Technicians:
    • Description: Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain and repair wind turbines.
    • Median Pay: $56,230 per year ($27.03 per hour)
    • Education Level: Postsecondary nondegree award
  • Solar Photovoltaic Installers:
    • Description: Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, set up and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy.
    • Median Pay: $46,470 per year ($22.34 per hour)
    • Education Level: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Forest and Conservation Technicians:
    • Description: These technicians provide technical assistance regarding the conservation of soil, water, forests or related natural resources.
    • Median Pay: $38,940 ($20.57 per hour)
    • Education Level: Associate’s Degree

Finance

No matter what the career, everyone could use some extra help when it comes to dealing with their finances. If you have a strong suit for math and an expertise in matters of money, careers in finance are a sturdy, high-paying route that might work for you.

  • Accountants:
    • Description: Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records.
    • Median Pay: $73,560 per year ($35.37 per hour)
    • Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Statisticians:
    • Description: Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply computational techniques to solve problems, usually working in areas of the federal government, scientific research and development companies.
    • Median Pay: $93,290 per year ($44.85 per hour)
    • Education Level: Master’s Degree
  • Financial Analysts:
    • Description: Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals in decisions about expending money to attain profit.
    • Median Pay: $83,660 per year ($40.22 per hour)
    • Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Best Colleges

How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

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How To Become An MBE

Minority-owned businesses are on the move. There are now more than four million minority-owned companies in the U.S., with annual sales totaling close to $700 billion. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship minority businesses have created 4.7 million jobs in the U.S over the past 10 years.

In a climate of intense awareness for the fair treatment of all minorities, getting your business officially certified as minority-owned can open important contract opportunities.

In the spirit of equalizing opportunities, federal, state and local governments and big corporations reserve a percentage of their contracts exclusively for minority-owned businesses. To get your share of the contract pie, however, your business needs to be officially certified as a minority-owned business. Here’s how you can get certified. 

National Minority Supplier Development Council

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is a membership organization comprised of small minority-owned businesses and large corporate businesses, both public and privately-owned. With 23 affiliate regional councils nationwide and 1,450 corporate members, the NMSDC’s mission is to promote supplier diversity through education and connect corporate members with minority-owned businesses.

The NMSDC also offers an official certification process for minority-owned businesses.

Does Your Business Qualify?

To qualify for certification, you must meet these qualifications:

  • The business owners must be U.S. citizens
  • The business must be at least 51 percent minority-owned, operated and controlled. (Per the NMSDC, a minority must be at least 25 percent Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American. Also, minority eligibility is established through screenings, interviews and site visits. For publicly-owned businesses, at least 51 percent of the stock must be owned by one or more minority group members.)
  • The business must be for-profit and physically located in the U. S. or its territories.
  • The minority owners must also participate in the daily management and operations of the business.

Start Locally

Although the organization’s headquarters is located in New York, the NMSDC requires applicants to register and fill out the online application on the website of the regional NMSDC affiliate closest to their business.

Before you start the application, make sure you’ve gathered the required documentation (requirements vary by business type). You’ll need:

  • Your business history
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Stock certificates and stock ledger
  • Minutes to the board of director’s and shareholder meetings
  • Corporation bylaws and amendments
  • Any agreements and documents regarding ownership, operation, and control of the business
  • Identification documents for all principals including business cards, resumes, driver’s licenses and proof of U.S. citizenship (birth certificates or U.S. passports only)
  • Corporate bank resolution agreements and bank signature cards
  • Business lease agreements/security deeds
  • Proof of general liability insurance and bonding if applicable
  • Copies of the businesses’ canceled checks

Don’t worry about completing the online application all in one sitting — you can save your progress along the way and return to the application at your convenience.

When you submit the application, you’ll be asked to pay an application fee, the amount of which varies by region. 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve uploaded the required documentation through the online portal, you’ll be asked to schedule a site visit and interview. Then you can expect an NMSDC Certification Specialist to reach out for confirmation.

Typically, the certification review process can take up to 90 days to complete, although you’ll need to check with your regional office to see how the process time frame has been affected by the pandemic.

Your application will be reviewed by the NMSDC’s Certification Committee and then submitted to the Board for final approval. The Board reviews the Certification Committee’s recommendation and then makes the final decision. Once your application is approved, you’ll be notified via e-mail and postal mail. The certification is then required to be re-certified annually by providing current tax forms and any changes in contact information.

If your application is not approved, you can file an appeal with the Board.

Finding Opportunities

Becoming an official Minority Business Executive (MBE) then allows your business to participate and take advantage of the many networking and educational programs provided by the NMSDC. Check with your regional office about business opportunity fairs, leadership training, and networking opportunities.

For federal and state contracting opportunities, go to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) contracting website. Here you’ll find a large number of helpful links to procurement opportunities nationally and locally, plus helpful guides on how to bid for them.

The official website for federal contracts is called SAM. You need to register your business there so you can bid and receive contracting notices.

Don’t limit yourself to government and corporate contracts. Once you’re certified, make sure you note your business is minority-owned on all your marketing vehicles, including your website, brochures, email newsletters, etc. You never know who is on the lookout to support your minority-owned company by sending business your way.

Source: Score

“Stay Interviews” Are Coming. Here’s What Workers Need To Know

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Posted on Yahoo! Life

As the Great Resignation continues, many employers are starting to wonder what they can do to keep more people from leaving. Enter the “stay interview.”

Don’t worry — this isn’t an interview where employees have to make a case for why they should stay in their jobs. Rather, it’s about employers learning what experiences, benefits, and compensation will help them retain the people that they hope to keep on their teams.

To learn more about stay interviews and how you can use them as a time to negotiate for what you want, I reached out to Lily Valentin, Head of Operations for North America at the job posting search engine Adzuna.

Here’s what she had to say:

1.First of all, stay interviews are generally more informal than, say, a job interview.

Don’t worry — this isn’t an interview where employees have to make a case for why they should stay in their jobs. Rather, it’s about employers learning what experiences, benefits, and compensation will help them retain the people that they hope to keep on their teams.

Valentin says that these types of interviews tend to be a bit more casual, so you don’t need to freak out or get extra dressed up if your boss schedules a stay interview with you. “The conversation focuses on what is motivating an employee to stay, what they enjoy about their current position, what would improve their work experience, and their career development goals within the organization.”

“Though this can seem nerve-racking at first, the stay interview is an opportunity for every employee to share how they have been feeling, what they are enjoying about the company, and what can be done to keep them from looking elsewhere if they’re on the fence about their future.”

2.In fact, getting invited to a stay interview can actually be a really great sign that your boss wants to keep you around.

Being invited to a stay interview is pretty positive — it means that your boss recognizes your contributions and likely doesn’t want to lose you. “At a time when employees aren’t short of choice, knowing their current employer cares about their experience, work situation, professional ambitions, and is eager to address any challenges, makes all the difference,” Valentin says.

3.So what kinds of questions can you expect to be asked in a stay interview?

A stay interview can cover a lot of ground. Valentin provided a list of some sample questions that you might get from your employer:

• How are you feeling in your role?

• What motivates you to “come in’ to work/log on every day?

• What are some of the challenges you’re facing that prevent you from delivering your best outputs, and what do you think the team and company can do to alleviate these challenges?

• Are you able to find a positive work-life balance, and if not, what can we do to help?

• Is there anything you really don’t enjoy working on, and is there anything you are looking to work on more?

• What are your longer-term career aspirations?

4.And unlike a job interview, you can actually ask to see stay interview questions in advance and prepare your answers.

When it comes to stay interviews, Valentin says that it can be really helpful to ask for the questions in advance and prepare your answers. “A great way to ensure there is no miscommunication on the objectives is to ask what questions will be asked in advance and have bullet points for each one. This is especially important if your chat is with a member of the executive team or even the CEO.

Read the complete article originally posted on Yahoo! Life

Less Than 1% of Hotel Owners Are Black Women. This 34-Year-Old Is Changing the Game

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34-year-old Davonne Reaves says she became the youngest Black female hotel owner under a major chain.

By , Next Advisor

Davonne Reaves is not your typical 34-year-old.

Last year, Reaves and her former college roommate turned business partner, Jessica Myers, brokered a historic $8.3 million deal to acquire a Hilton hotel.

Through this deal, Reaves says they became the youngest Black women to co-own a hotel under a major hotel chain.

Investing in a hotel may seem like a faraway dream, and for most Black people, it’s an even bigger stretch. “Only 2% of hotel owners are African-Americans, and less than 1% are Black women,” said Reaves. But she is determined to change the narrative.

Reaves is a 14-year veteran of the hospitality industry, and in 2017 founded The Vonne Group, which provides coaching, courses, and advice about hotel investing, raising capital, and becoming a hotel owner. Reaves also sits on the board of her alma mater, Georgia State University’s Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality. But her path hasn’t been without challenges.

From Front Desk Agent to Hotel Owner
While attending college, Reaves worked as a front desk agent at a Hyatt hotel in Atlanta, which sparked her interest in hospitality. After graduating with a degree in sociology, she wanted to explore the corporate side of the business, but felt she lacked the financial skills that would make her a strong candidate for certain positions. Reaves accepted an unpaid internship to learn the skills she needed.

“That was my introduction to financial analysis, feasibility studies, and the investment side of hotels,” she said.

In 2017, after a few years in Boston and several positions with different organizations, Reaves took the biggest risk of her career and left the corporate world. “I’m continuously building other people’s brands, making other people wealthy,” she said, which led to a realization: “Why don’t I take that same initiative, drive, passion, hard work ethic and put it within my company?”

Reaves now lives in Atlanta and in 2019, she partnered with Jessica Myers to form the Epiq Collective, a real estate venture which pools community resources together to invest in commercial real estate deals. Through Epiq Collective, and in partnership with Nassau Investments, Reaves and Myers closed the deal to acquire a Home2 Suites by Hilton in El Reno, Oklahoma, in 2020.

Hotel Ownership as a Black Woman
At the Vonne Group, Reaves kickstarted the 221 initiative, her mission to create 221 Black hotel owners and investors in 2021. “I hope my story will inspire people to not only think big, but also think about hotel investing and ownership as a possibility,” she said.

Outside of buying a hotel, there are other ways to invest, like hotel real estate investments trusts (REITs), which allow investors to add hotels to their portfolio in a similar way they would add stocks or bonds. “I want more people to look at hotel investing as a way to diversify their retirement portfolio and build generational wealth,” she said.

According to the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), Black people hold 1.5% of positions at the director level and above, with only 0.5% of those positions held by Black women.

Click here to read the full article on Next Advisor.

Why Do You Want This Job?

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One of the most common interview questions is some version of “why do you want this job?” or “why do you want to work here?” How you answer that question can be a significant factor in whether you get the job because the employer wants to know if you will add value and be a good fit for their organization. They want to know why you like the position and why you like their company. So how should you prepare to answer that question?

Sometimes it helps to think of the flip side of this question. Ask yourself, “Why would this company want to hire me?” In other words, think more about what you have to offer, and how you could make an impact rather than why getting the job would benefit you. There are 3 factors that most employers are looking for in your answers. They want to know: (1) that your experience and skills qualify you to do the job; (2) that you have researched their organization and are enthusiastic about its product, service or goals; and (3) that you align with the company’s values.

Match Your Skills with the Position

If you have previous work or volunteer experience that is a good fit for the company or position, be ready to discuss that as well as why you enjoy the type of work the company does. If your skills match up well, you can shine when you are asked why you want this job.

If your work skills don’t necessarily match perfectly, maybe your soft skills do. Does the person in this position communicate with the public? If that is something you enjoy, you can focus on that aspect of the position and share your experience. Do you enjoy problem solving at work? Again, if it fits, describe how you’ve solved problems on the job or with a group before.

Express Your Interest and Enthusiasm for the Company

Before you landed the interview, you did your homework and checked out the company culture, right? Learning about the organization you’re interviewing with is key, but this includes more than just knowing what the organization does. You’ll also want to know about its leadership, culture, employees, stakeholders and competitors. By being well informed, you’ll make a good impression on an interviewer. You will also learn whether the organization is a good match for you.

When you make it to the interview, share what caught your eye about either the company or the position. Maybe the position is a good fit or the company’s mission is something you can support.

Think About Your Career Goals

Are you applying for an entry-level position in a field you’re really interested in? Are you making a career change, or do you want to apply the skills you’ve gained to a new type of position? While you don’t want to sound like you’ll only stay in this position for a short time, you can discuss where you see yourself in the future and how the knowledge you can gain from this position can help you get there. This is also a great time to discuss why you picked this company. Asking about growth opportunities and career development show you’re interested in investing in the employer for a longer time.

Source: Ticket to Work

5 Business Strategies You Need to Know Today

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Confident Businessman. Happy african guy smiling at camera working at office. Panorama, free space

By Mark Quadros

Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected 76.2 percent of U.S. businesses. COVID-19 impacted most of these businesses negatively, disrupting everything from their supply chains to their in-store sales.

So, if you’re one of these business owners, how can you adjust your operation to thrive during lockdowns, stay open for customers and keep staff engaged?

Here are five COVID-19-involved business strategies to help small businesses survive the pandemic:

Redefine your business growth opportunities

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown measures have disrupted many significant industries, including the hospitality industry, retail industry and entertainment industry. Naturally, companies in these fields have changed how they deliver their products and services to customers to continue growing.

But redefining your opportunities isn’t just limited to companies directly affected by lockdowns.

If you want to keep growing during the pandemic, you will need to seek out new ways to improve your profitability, including:

  • Entering new markets
  • Taking out a bridge loan and investing in new projects
  • Adjusting your marketing and sales approaches
  • Targeting new customers
  • Redesigning old processes with new online business tools
  • Forming new partnerships (especially with local suppliers)
  • Finding new ways to improve your offerings for customers

To identify the best opportunity for your brand, you must research potential options, identify the best ones and formalize them with a new business plan. According to this guide to business plans, your business plan should include detailed product and service plans, a market analysis, a management plan and a financial plan for each growth strategy.

Adapt your current business models

Experts predict that coronavirus will continue to spread around the world for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, if your brand wants to survive this new normal, you’ll need to crisis-proof your business so you can continue to operate in the current economic climate. To crisis-proof your business, you should:

  • Measure the damage to your company regularly so you can adapt to potential problems before they arise
  • Back up your data and embrace digital solutions to help staff work from home
  • Prioritize the health and safety of your employees with workplace safety measures like social distancing, hand sanitizer and masks
  • Reduce your cash flow to only essential expenses
  • Adjust how you deliver products and services to customers to ensure their safety when shopping
  • Re-organize your work processes to prioritize key functions (e.g., by redefining customer support)
  • Establish contingency plans for further lockdowns and pandemic restrictions

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, you could also take out a personal loan to keep your business’s cash flow steady as you adjust your business models.

Rethink your financial structure

A 2020 study on 5,800 small businesses from the U.S. found that the average brand with over $10,000 in expenses only had access to two weeks of cash at the start of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, many of these companies had to adapt their spending habits to survive.

And the rest of us should learn from them.

To keep your brand alive during the pandemic, you will need to establish an emergency fund to cover any unexpected events (like lockdowns). You can build an emergency fund by saving the money you would have spent on unnecessary expenses.

To identify unnecessary expenses, sort your expenses into two key categories:

  • Value-adding expenses that are crucial to running the business (i.e., expenses like supplier costs, inventory acquisition costs, online advertising, staff wages and technology costs)
  • Extra expenses that are not crucial to running the business (i e., additional office space, extra professional training and food/drinks)

Once you have sorted your expenses, identify expenses you can eliminate to reduce your operating budget and make cuts according to your priorities.

Retrain your workforce

While it may seem wise to fire non-essential staff and redirect their salaries into your emergency fund, this decision may hurt your business financially long term. Currently, it costs $4,425 to hire the average employee and weeks to train and acclimate them. To avoid incurring this cost later, retrain your workforce and adjust their duties to match your new business model.

You should also consider ways to improve your employee’s productivity (the quantity of their work) and efficiency (the quality of their work). Improving productivity and efficiency will increase your business’s output, increasing your revenue and decreasing your expenses.

To improve efficiency, you can use a productivity formula and calculate your current figures:

Productivity = Total Output / Total Input

Efficiency = (Standard Hours Spent On Task / Actual Amount of Time Spent on Task) x 100

Then, brainstorm business-specific ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

Build meaningful relationships

Finally, you should prioritize maintaining good relationships with your customers. As research shows that the top 10 percent of customers spend three times more per transaction than the bottom 10 percent, maintaining a relationship with loyal customers will increase your revenue.

To maintain a connection with customers, you could:

  • Set up social media accounts and encourage customers to send you User-Generated Content (UGC)
  • Establish a customer loyalty program to keep customers happy
  • Improve your email marketing
  • Send digital ‘thank-you’ cards to customers
  • Offer special discounts to loyal customers
  • Improve your digital customer service practices
  • Convey your COVID-19 safety measures to customers with a poster

New normal, business

Periods of economic are very stressful for companies, but they frequently result in long-term growth and new industry-wide trends. For example, people often credit the fast rise of eCommerce to the 2003 SARS outbreak in China or the rise in click-and-collect to the early months of COVID-19.

If you follow the tips in this guide, your company can emerge from COVID-19 stronger and more profitable than ever before.

Source: Score

Formulating the Perfect STEM Resume for 2022

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Portrait of a young african woman holding resume document indoors

A fresh start is one of the gifts of a brand-new year, especially coming out of unprecedented times. If you’re looking to change up your career, here are some tips to help you revise your current resume and make the kind of impact you really hope for.

Polish visual elements

A resume that’s too visually distracting or disorganized can make an employer dispose of it without actually delving in. Use plenty of white space, and sharp, consistent formatting for each job. Use a limited number of fonts, preferably just one or two. Avoid using too many attention-getting methods such as all caps, bold and increased font sizes, or the reader struggles to know where to look. Make it neat and scannable by using clear headings.

Focus on Technical Skills

This is one of your strongest opportunities to introduce yourself; every organization, and even different jobs within one organization, may require you to make subtle tweaks to your resume to make it count. For STEM-related fields, it’s always best to showcase your skills for a specific position and the specific certifications that meet their needed criteria. Avoid listing expected skills required in any job and focus on special abilities that make you the best candidate for the job. It may also be helpful to list your expertise level (expert, proficient, etc.) to drive home your skillset.

Show Your Experience Across Disciplines

Though you want to be specific to the job, you will also want to showcase how your disciplines have crossed paths, especially in a time where scientific innovations and technological advances are increasing in overlap. Tell your reader about the experience you’ve had in your lines of work and school from outward appearance and design to the more behind-the-scenes work of sample collecting and data recording.

Add Results to Build Context

Do your jobs appear lacking in results? Maybe you didn’t track your statistics to — down the road — accurately report them on your resume. But numbers and impact are helpful to get a picture of what you’ve done. For example, a Conservation Corps worker described his experience as, “Coordinated group of 25 volunteers. As leader of 25-person team, removed invasive species growth over 50-acre wilderness, restored and maintained over 10 miles of trails. Developed new team protocols that led to improved communication and more efficient trail practices.” These numbers add more weight.

Revise Repeatedly, Even When You Can’t Stand It

The last thing you want is for your resume to be rejected over simple errors that could have easily been fixed. Go over your resume, use spellcheck, have a friend or trusted individual read through it, and ask for feedback from qualified individuals willing to help.

With these tips in mind, your resume will not only be ready to take on job opportunities, but your confidence will only increase. 2022 is a fresh start from the past two years; go make it count!

Source: CareerOneStop, KForce

Black Women Gamers Aren’t Unicorns — They’re The Future

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Gamer Girl and founder of Black Girl Gamers

By Jay-Ann Lopez

Many people still think that being a gamer and a Black woman is a juxtaposition. It’s not. We’re not unicorns. Just like in any other industry, there are content creators, industry professionals, and consumers, and Black women can be found in all of these categories — but they’re often overlooked, underestimated, or outright ignored. So Black women are taking their spot in gaming for themselves.

If you’re not familiar with gaming, let me briefly explain how we got here. Gaming started with simplistic classics like Pong, and in their infancy, games were aimed at a broad audience who just wanted to play and have fun. But after the video game crash in the 1980s, the industry essentially said, “Fuck it, let’s just focus on white men and boys.” And after decades of game creation and marketing geared toward men, here we are in 2021, with the majority of the highest paid gamers being white men. Not to mention that the workforce in the industry is also dominated by white men. According to jobs site Zippia, 72% of video game developers in the US are men, and 72% of developers are also white. And unfortunately, with this came the foundation of a toxic misogynistic culture, which companies overlooked and sometimes encouraged with their early marketing — just look at one ‘90s Playstation advertisement.

As the social climate changed to become more critical and vocal about racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination, some companies have vowed to change, but only after hitting rock bottom. In July, a lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged the company long facilitated an environment of harassment, discrimination, and a toxic “‘frat boy’ workplace culture.” The suit led to an outpour of horror stories on social media that exposed what often happens behind game creation. Some triple-A companies have started to hire experienced chief diversity officers, who slowly but surely hope to tackle the ingrained bias internally and in their games.

But many gaming companies are still struggling to hire, and retain, Black employees which means, beyond the marketing, the culture isn’t progressing. Just 6% of video game developers in the US are Black, according to Zippia, so it doesn’t take long to look under the surface and see the dust is still under the rug. Brands are still enabling toxic content creators or work environments where marginalized people can feel as though they are collateral damage as we’ve seen with recent revelations about Activision. There’s still so much to do, and it seems the industry only reacts to current events, such as the murder of George Floyd, rather than plan for a better future. Despite changing demographics and efforts from within to create more inclusive spaces, Black women still aren’t visible and have long been ostracized, ignored, and underpaid.

The space is democratizing. But rather than the companies that make millions, it’s creators-turned-entrepreneurs who are doing the necessary work to address the lack of transparency and seemingly unclosable gaps in gaming.

Click here to read the full article on Refinery29.

Meet The Founder Who Has Helped Women-Owned Businesses Secure Over $14 Million In Funding

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The Founder Who Has Helped Women-Owned Businesses Secure Over $14 Million In Funding

By Pauleanna Reid, Forbes

Black women have outpaced white men in starting a business according to recent studies. Yet despite being among the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. This is largely because building a strong, growing entity that has moved past its starting stage requires access to capital. A barrier for growth that highlights the inequities women of colour continue to face in finance. Black women run businesses not only get approved for loans at rates 20 percent lower than men but also receive significantly smaller loan amounts as well.

For Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, a fintech and investing expert and founder of EnrichHER, her mission is to change that. EnrichHER, the only digital lending platform specializing in connecting diverse entrepreneurs to capital, is Novellus’ solution to fuel inclusive economic growth by providing business owners with capital, coaching, and connections.

“I believe that women entrepreneurs are the cornerstones of society; our businesses not only create jobs, but they strengthen economies and sustain whole communities,” states Dr. Novellus.

In 2017, Dr. Novellus founded EnrichHER by gathering 50 organizations in Atlanta to test her idea. The full program launched in February 2019, receiving applications from 3,000 women-led businesses. “EnrichHER is the perfect name because we’re trying to put money into companies that have gender diversity in the leadership position. And by doing so, we’re enriching the business and enriching her,” Dr. Novellus explained. The platform focuses on two different types of customers. One being the funder profile – either an angel investor or a small angel group – that wants to fund a new majority founder. The other funder type is for a larger organization such as PayPal to deploy greater sums of money to well-qualified business owners. Providing the ability to make a financial transaction directly through EnrichHER makes it frictionless for funders to make investments. “Everything is built into our platform, and they can walk away a year later with a principal plus interest payment and knowing that they have funded new majority founders,” stated Dr. Novellus.

In 2017, Dr. Novellus founded EnrichHER by gathering 50 organizations in Atlanta to test her idea. The full program launched in February 2019, receiving applications from 3,000 women-led businesses. “EnrichHER is the perfect name because we’re trying to put money into companies that have gender diversity in the leadership position. And by doing so, we’re enriching the business and enriching her,” Dr. Novellus explained. The platform focuses on two different types of customers. One being the funder profile – either an angel investor or a small angel group – that wants to fund a new majority founder. The other funder type is for a larger organization such as PayPal to deploy greater sums of money to well-qualified business owners. Providing the ability to make a financial transaction directly through EnrichHER makes it frictionless for funders to make investments. “Everything is built into our platform, and they can walk away a year later with a principal plus interest payment and knowing that they have funded new majority founders,” stated Dr. Novellus.

Dr. Novellus is no stranger to gaining access to resources. She is one of very few Black women founders who has raised over $1 million in venture capital. But her journey toward economic empowerment and leveraging the power of investments began when she was just 15 years old. Recognizing that she would require a strategic plan to reach her goals, Dr. Novellus raised over $600,000 in scholarships to fund 11 years of higher education. She achieved this herculean feat by reaching out to over 200 companies to inquire about scholarships. Her persistence worked, and companies decided to invest in her educational goals.

Much of her determination and advocacy for economic equality began with the conversations held in her household growing up. Defying common misconceptions about women and their perceived lack of financial knowledge, Dr. Novellus was taught differently, “My mother always told me that women were the best at managing money and managing finances, even though other people often tell us otherwise. Women are the best because they typically have to manage all the money in every household.” Dr. Novellus’ mother encouraged her daughter to be knowledgeable and feel confident in any kind of financial transaction by giving her hands-on experience from an early age. “Outside of learning how to invest in the stock market at 12, I told my mother that I wanted to do the taxes for our family, so she allowed me to read through the tax books. And she believed that I could do it,” Dr. Novellus explained.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Thriving Black-owned businesses ‘righting the wrongs of the past’ in rural Mississippi

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Kenesha Lewis, 30, opened a juice and smoothie shop in her hometown of Greenville, Miss. where fresh and healthy food options are hard to come by.

By , NPR

In Greenville, Miss., pop. 27,000, a modern, brightly lit juice bar stands out in the small downtown lined with mostly mom and pop businesses and a few taverns near the town’s riverbank casino.

The chorus of friendly, neighborly hellos is a customer favorite, but what’s really turning heads is the owner of Kay’s Kute Fruit, 30 year-old Kenesha Lewis.

“I’m really excited for the young people to walk in, and they say, who’s the owner, and they’re like, what? I had somebody do that to me,” Lewis says laughing.

Growing up here, she can’t recall any prominent Black-owned businesses like hers (today the town is about 81% Black). She and her husband Jason Lewis opened up this brick and mortar last Spring after a few years of making edible fruit arrangements and smoothies and selling them out of their home on the side of their regular jobs.

“Being a young woman here in the Delta, it’s not a lot of health options,” Kenesha says. “It’s not a lot of places you can go and get a healthy wrap and then you can go in the same place and have nice service.”

Indeed, the Delta is known the world over for its delicious comfort food, but fresh produce and even regular grocery stores are few and far between. At Kay’s the blenders appear to always be running, churning up pineapple or mango smoothies with the popular add-ons of chia seeds or turmeric.

“Acai bowls and pitaya bowls, nobody sells that around here,” she says.

Lewis got the idea to start a business after her husband kept getting on her case for eating too much sugar.

“I lost two teeth and he said, ‘wait a minute now, you’re too young to be losing these teeth,'” she recalls, laughing. “[he said] ‘Let’s figure this out.’ So we created smoothies together and I said, okay, this is good for me.”

And it turns out, it was also good for business. Lewis exceeded her projected annual sales in her first month after opening. Growing up, she says people in her community were good entrepreneurs but they usually worked out of their homes. Her mom is a stylist and her dad ran a house painting business.

So, as a Black woman now with a storefront downtown, she sees herself as a role model.

“Our Black people are waking up, they know that they can do this,” Lewis says. “I think that we have helped them to understand that they can do this, they can succeed in this era.”

In this isolated corner of the country, the odds are still stacked against Black women particularly. The mostly rural Mississippi Delta has long been synonymous with racial and economic inequality. Yet today there are a growing number of small, economic bright spots, due in part to a grassroots effort that’s trying to right some of the wrongs of the past.

Hundreds of new Black-owned businesses like Lewis’s are starting to spring up in this region long seen as being dismissed or “forgotten” by outsiders.

The racial and economic disparity goes back decades
Drive south of Memphis, near the massive river levees, and a lot of small town store fronts are boarded up. Some buildings and old homes are condemned or abandoned. Much of this seemingly never-ending, flat expanse of land and its cotton fields is still controlled by white business interests. So when Tim Lampkin, 35, moved back to his hometown of Clarksdale after college and a stint working in corporate America, he had an idea.

“When I came back I noticed that a majority of the businesses in Coahoma County, and particularly where we’re looking at in downtown Clarksdale, are white owned,” Lampkin says. Like in nearby Greenville, more than 80% of Clarksdale’s 15,000 residents are African American.

In 2016, Lampkin started what he calls an economic justice non-profit. Higher Purpose Co. helped Kenesha Lewis in Greenville from start to finish, applying for a loan, prepping her for meetings with bankers. And they follow up frequently with her today, all things Lampkin says would probably be a given for aspiring white business owners in the area.

“If we’re going to make special exceptions for entrepreneurs because, you know, they’re a white farmer and we know their family, why can’t a Black entrepreneur get the same level of access and understanding and patience when it comes to getting access to capital?” Lampkin asks.

A mentorship program Higher Purpose started in late 2019 is now helping some 300 Black entrepreneurs across Mississippi take their business acumen to the next level. The non-profit helps them do things like find grants to cover closing costs or tap into donations and seed money for renting or buying spaces and storefronts.

“Part of this is just evening the playing field for everybody,” Lampkin says.

The disparity here goes back decades. At Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, says the region is a microcosm for the country’s broader racial and economic inequality.

“In the consciousness of America, this is considered to be one of, if not the most, racist states in the union,” Herts says. “Everybody’s able to look at Mississippi and say, at least we’re not Mississippi.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega Is Using Art to Uplift Brown and Black Women

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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

In 2017, Afro-Latinx visual artist Reyna Noriega began her career as a full-time creator. Little did she know that in just a few short years, she would have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, would be working with huge brands like Apple and Old Navy, and would design a cover for The New Yorker. Born and raised in Miami to a first-generation Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega, who is best-known for her bold, vibrant, graphic work, was destined to be an artist.

“My father is also an artist, and I became interested early on in just the magic of it all, being able to bring ideas to life on paper and communicate in a universal language,” Noriega told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. “I was always the ‘sensitive kid’ feeling a lot and thinking a lot, so art and writing were great outlets for me to get all of that under control and to be able to process my emotions.”

Now, Noriega’s art is being seen on a much wider scale and impacting thousands of people who follow her on social media or see her art on city walls and T-shirts. To get there, she had to put in a lot of work, including studying and learning on her own, despite the fact that she took art classes throughout high school and minored in art in college. Using the help of books and YouTube, Noriega honed her skills and eventually left her job as a teacher, with the full support of her parents.

“I was very fortunate that my family believed in me and my ability to make my passion a career and even help me make it happen! To this day, my mom is the person that helps me run my online shop, and they encourage me to strive higher,” Noriega told us.

By 2019, Noriega started doing brand work, after getting comfortable with her style and what she wanted to represent as an artist. It gradually became easier for her to align herself with brands that had the same mission. She is currently working on Amex’s “Always Welcome” design collective launch, which will provide businesses with signage for their storefronts and indicate their stance on inclusivity.

“Honestly, every time I get an email, I am honored and humbled that my name enters rooms I never thought would. From companies whose products I used to save up for at one point, like Apple, to legendary publications like The New Yorker, or having thousands and thousands of people wear a shirt I designed with Old Navy. It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Ultimately, it was Noriega embracing her culture and her commitment to advocating for Black and brown people through her art that got her there. She says her Afro-Caribbean culture is what brings “vibrancy and flavor” to her art. But we think it’s so much more than that. With just a single glance, it’s obvious that Noriega’s background informs her work. Her use of color, the way she showcases the female form, the various complexions and skin tones she celebrates in her work, and the stunning, tropics-inspired botanical scenes she often creates speak to exactly who she is and where she comes from.

“Art has always been a place I look to boost my mood, museums, galleries, [and] learning about art history. But unfortunately in those spaces, rarely did I ever feel I belong, because my story wasn’t told on those walls, and in the rare occasion it was, it only highlighted the struggles and traumas,” she said. “I wanted to create work that would lift moods and raise the self-efficacy of Black and brown women with positive representation and vibrant depictions of joy.”

Noriega describes the art she creates with a tremendous amount of care and respect. Her mission is to create art that represents and uplifts communities that are often left out of the conversation. “I focus on women because as a woman, I know all of the challenges and barriers we face,” she said. “Inequalities in pay, harmful messaging on body image, the ongoing fight for body autonomy . . . it can be really exhausting. Add on to that the challenges being a BIPOC, and it just magnifies. My art is meant to celebrate women, inspire joy, and a reclamation of peace and rest.”

Noriega recognizes how important it is to not only amplify voices like hers but also to use her gifts and resources to speak up for people who don’t have the same advantages that she does. Even as a Black Latina, she’s cognizant of the privileges she has and the responsibility associated with them. “For me personally, I often look at my identities as a privilege, which pushes me to amplify Black voices even more. I am all too aware of the advantages I have received being a Latina in Miami, and even being ethnically Caribbean, although my race is Black,” she said. “Being able to say where your lineage comes from is a privilege many Black Americans don’t have. I have been unfairly judged and treated and had some very hurtful comments said to me, but I must also be aware of how my skin tone provides privileges, how my heritage provides privileges, and how knowing more than one language is a privilege.” And in recognizing that, she’s able to leverage her position to empower others in really visible ways.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. From Day One
    February 22, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022
  6. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022
  7. NOBLE 2022 William R. Bracey Winter CEO Symposium
    March 17, 2022 - March 19, 2022
  8. From Day One
    March 29, 2022
  9. From Day One
    April 12, 2022
  10. From Day One
    May 10, 2022