"Ask yourself why you want to do what you want to do. Make sure you’re living your own dream, not someone else’s."
These were some of the words of advice given to over 60 of our black heritage members at Bright Network Black Heritage Future Leaders on Tuesday 24th October 2017. These attendees had been chosen from our network to hear insights on how to get ahead in their careers from business leaders and successful Bright Network members, as well as networking with six leading employers: Accenture, American Express, CMS, EY, Government Communication Service and J.P. Morgan.
The day started with a welcome from Bright Network, including our commitment to diversity and why we felt it was so important to hold the event. Students moved into a panel discussion, with representatives from all of our partner firms: Abidemi Ogunbowale-Thomas from Accenture, Dereck Kachere from American Express, Laure Lusteau from CMS, Pamela Hillie from EY, Selvin Brown MBE from Government Communication Service and Diana Kiluta Amoa from J.P. Morgan.
The panellists talked about their career journeys and answered questions on diversity. Highlights included:
- In a world that’s becoming more multicultural, the companies we work for need to reflect that or they can develop a siloed perspective. The challenge is to think about the world as the world, not as the people currently running it. Think about Jay-Z and Kanye West - they created their own mainstream and encouraged everyone to join it.
- Diversity has three levels: legacy (for example the colour of your skin), background (where you’re from) and the way you think. We need to get beyond the first of these so we’re focusing on the other two.
- Diversity and inclusion is not just about getting people through the door, it’s about what you do with them once they’re through the door.
- Strong networks are important, as are mentorships - trying to foster diversity organically rather than forcing it works better. Ground yourself with a network of people who have similar interests to support you on the days when things don’t go as well.
- How to deal with negative comments? Don’t always react straight away, weigh up whether a comment was conscious or unconscious. Build up your personal resilience, fight against negative stereotypes and try to stop people having those reflexes.
- Work on your personal positive reinforcement messages so you can leave the house tall and proud, think about who you’re representing and see yourself as a role model.
- You need to be deliberate about change - target, prioritise and achieve. You need to believe in the mission and drive it forward so that you can take other people on that journey.
- Don’t be scared to stand out. Don’t doubt your capabilities and skills. Own that space, there’s a reason why you are there. All is possible.
Attendees then heard some Bright Network Member Success Stories, where members of our network shared their experiences on gaining internships and graduate roles. Advice included:
- Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get back up again. Rejections give you an opportunity to re-evaluate, to look at why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’re good at.
- Have a single book for all these careers events, then you can refer to your notes before interviews.
- Journal every day when you’re doing an internship (if you have an interview with the same firm it could be months later).
- Stay in touch with like-minded people.
- Sign up for the Bright Network Commercial Awareness Updates!
The students then had the chance to network with the panellists and representatives from all of our partner firms, learning more about the firms’ culture and opportunities available. The day finished with the option for all attendees to have professional headshots taken for their LinkedIn profiles - we’re looking forward to seeing some of these in use.