By Michael Lynch
This is a question that has popped up in all of my social circles lately. From my friends in their twenties to my mentors in their sixties, we are all asking ourselves how we plan to move forward after the past two years.
To preface, I know my perspective comes from a place of great privilege. At the same time, I believe the pandemic has affected us all and we can make space for our different experiences.
Frankly, I have no desire to return to how life was prior to the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I worked incessantly and accepted every freelance job imaginable to make ends meet. I also saw how incredibly difficult it was for my Black and Brown peers to start and sustain a career in the media industry.
So, imagine my surprise when June 2020 came, and the media industry suddenly started caring about Black people. Initially, I was annoyed and thought I was in the Twilight Zone.
My mentors later came to help me, as they typically do, see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rewrite the rules on what a career at the intersections of science, communications, and policy could look like for people like myself.
I knew that I wanted to get my masters, double my salary, have a title that reflected my level of experience, re-launch my freelance consultancy, and to be bicoastal between Texas and the East Coast. I also wanted to be more present for my friends and family, place a greater focus on my overall wellness, and rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. So, I did.
Admittedly, it was not easy. Negotiations are tough and rejections can take a toll on even the most confident person.
As I worked to reinvent myself, I was simultaneously experiencing an incredible amount of loss. I was ghosted by two organizations – a higher education institution and a management consultancy firm – for reasons unbeknownst to me after several rounds of interviews. I also left an abusive relationship after completing an accelerated master’s program while working at two different public relations agencies.
I internalized it all and started questioning if the vision I had for my life was even attainable. Nothing was going as planned, and despite what my Instagram displayed, I was miserable.
Dealing with challenges in your professional life is hard enough, as there are not many blueprints for young, Black queer men in public relations to model ourselves after. Layer on having a partner who is both inspired by and jealous of you, I found myself often making myself small to avoid making them uncomfortable. Tip-toeing around my own accomplishments because someone is unwilling to take the necessary steps to change their own situation is no way to live.
That season of life taught me that rest is just as important as the work. And all that glitters is not gold.
So as you chart your next chapters, I hope the below can be of use to you:
Negotiate and Utilize Your Benefits
Before you accept your job offer, get on Glassdoor.com and see what the average salary is. Negotiating your salary does not make you greedy, it prevents you from being underpaid. Moreover, if you are interested in returning to school and are concerned about how to pay for it, check with your Human Resources department to see if there are any tuition reimbursement programs available. If you are eligible, that would be a cute coin to help finance your tuition.
Establishing boundaries has been very helpful as my friends, family, industry colleagues, and I navigate life’s latest transitions. I have found it very important to have a thriving personal life and to make time for non-work activities. So there are times where I will dedicate to not answering calls, emails, etc. Also, if I know I need to discuss something with someone that may be mentally or emotionally strenuous, I try to give them a heads up.
Let’s Get Physical
SoulCycle, let’s talk sponsorships baby. I kid. However, I do love your classes because your coaches light a fire in me like no other. We dance, scream, cry, yell, talk…it gets cathartic in there QUICKLY. Seriously though, SoulCycle has been a way for me to find community in a new city. In addition to SoulCycle, my son (see below my signature) and I have been trying to get our steps in daily to keep the juices flowing. He also told me to cut back on the Prosecco. 🙂
Pop Out (If You Can)
The pandemic, school, and dating put a damper on my social life. So once I was done recuperating from the end of my last relationship, I made a commitment to be back on the scene. Events and in-person connections are what initially attracted to public relations, so these last few months I got back into my socialite bag. I loved seeing the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers. All that to say, pull out that outfit, remind yourself you still look good, and rock it.
As always, I thank you for reading. It is my hope that we all can continue to learn and grow with each other.