CLAUDINE ADEYEMI Founder & CEO of CareerEar
THE NETWORK I HAVE, I HAD TO BUILD IT FROM SCRATCH
Claudine Adeyemi, Founder & CEO of CareerEar, explains how she went from living in hostels to a successful law career, and why she started a company which aims to propel job applicants from all backgrounds to reach their full career potential.
I knew I had to build a network that was going to be effective and useful to support me in my career journey, because I just didn’t have that.
This hinges on why I decided to start CareerEar – I wanted to provide a platform that offers the support that I think I would have benefited from. Over time, it has developed into a platform that is designed to take you on a journey to make an informed choice about your next career move.
When we look at creative industries generally, one of the most prominent challenges is that culturally, members of the black community still don't necessarily look favourably on the creative industries.
I am aware that this is changing as more young people from the black community are thinking about careers within the creative sector. In my experience, PR isn't as prominent as an option within the creative sector, it sits somewhere in the middle. So often when some of the people that we are speaking to are thinking about careers in the creative sector, they are thinking about options in the arts, theatre or music. So, even when they are considering creative prospects, PR almost lags behind the other options as a possible career path.
Racial diversity in most prominent industries is poor and there are sufficient reports that show that PR is particularly bad. From the outside looking in, and my experience of speaking to people, it seems to be an industry that has been born out of elitism and therefore dominated by white, middle class, privately educated individuals.
This also explains why we don't just focus on young people. So much needs to be done around creating inclusive environments to help make sure that people from different racial backgrounds actually stay in these jobs – and then on top of that, ensuring that they progress right through to the top.
Also, when analysing the whole process of hiring and promoting talent, one of the major downfalls in the entire process is the human element. By that I mean, as humans we have incredible amounts of bias and notably feel more comfortable supporting, hiring, or progressing people who we are most familiar with and able to relate to the most. That then means that those that are not given the holistic support, because they don’t fall under the white, middle-class bracket, are not afforded the same avenues of growth and opportunities.
Many black professionals in industries like PR see the structures that are around them and experience casual racism daily. Whether it is microaggressions, being held back in various ways that make them feel like they're not in a safe space, or feeling like they cannot bring their whole self to work, they find themselves in a position where they doubt if they can climb up the ladder, so end up leaving.
What you typically find is that people who are from the lowest economic backgrounds are often made up of ethnic minority groups, but not always.
I make that distinction because there are some people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who are very affluent and well connected. If you take that intersection and you look at those lower socio-economic families, they typically don't have people who prior to them have gone off to university or into professional careers. In part, this explains why they don’t always have a network to tap into.
This is something I can speak to. I grew up in a household with my father and brother. My mother passed away when I was five. My dad worked for a local authority in housing, so we had a relatively modest one-person income sustaining our household. I ended up falling out with my dad at the age of 16, which resulted in me leaving home and being classed as homeless – living in various hostels and alternative accommodations – all whilst completing my A-levels.
I had decided that I wanted to be a lawyer from quite a young age, and to be perfectly honest, it was not because I knew the industry well, it was just that several career options become the pinnacle to pursue because they are deemed by most people to be prestigious and ambitious career paths to go down.
Culturally speaking, as someone who is half Nigerian, half Jamaican, there was an expectation that you should study and work hard in order to enter a career that your parents did not have access to. I latched on to becoming a lawyer because it was just one of the few professions that I knew of outside of the more traditional career paths. In hindsight, I question whether I would have gone down the lawyer route if I knew about the range of options that I know now. One thing I did know was that I needed really good grades, so I remained focused on that.
After getting the grades I needed to get for UCL, I also got into Law School where I trained and practiced as a lawyer and then left.
Admittedly, I didn’t have a specific sponsor or mentor when embarking on my journey into law, but I took opportunities that came my way and built a network with the people I had around me to have access to certain insights.
To ensure that there are more success stories, I would like to see a commitment to both hiring and developing talent in a target-specific way. I speak to so many young to mid-level career professionals across a range of different industries, including PR, who when they look up, don't see anyone that looks like them.
I would like to see organisations within the PR sector subscribe and commit to specific programmes. One that goes past just hiring at entry level but includes having a specific sponsor for each of those individuals on that programme – taking them through that career journey and making sure that they are being nurtured as the awesome talent that they have the potential to be.
I hope that there is going to be sufficient activity within the PR industry to make a change for the longer term. Until the industry unpacks the entire system and takes a step back from the behaviours and mindset that are currently in place, it's difficult to bring about real and sustainable change.
The end goal should be that anyone can thrive, regardless of their race and background.