chapter  5
28 Pages

Career Intervention Strategies and Assessment Issues for African Americans

Many of us absorbed a certain message about work when we were growing up: Go to school, get a good education, find a good job, and you will be satisfied for life. This message, the cornerstone of the Protestant work ethic, teaches us that work should be the main focus, if not the defining point, of our lives. That message also presumes that everyone has equal opportunity to earn the education necessary to enter the desired career. What that work ethic message ignores, however, is a second message that African Americans and members of other ethnic minority groups also hear on a daily basis. They are often told, subtly or overtly, that there are only certain careers open to them because of their ethnicity. This message becomes painfully clear when African Americans seek same-race role models in various careers, often resulting in few or no available resources. This message is evident when African Americans receive negative feedback about careers that their peers, or their elders, do not perceive as possible for members of their group. It is evident when entering a career in which there are few ethnic minorities, and receiving the message that one's hiring occurred only because of race, as though the new employee had no "real" qualifications. Finally, this message is evident when some African Americans find themselves in a position that forces them to interact in a system that is alien, and possibly hostile, to achieve status. Is it any wonder, then, that many African Americans select occupations to which they have already been exposed by other members of their community, occupations that, in general, are of a working-class or service-based level?