Career Advice From A Former Slave


He believed in equality among men, between men and women, and between races.

Long before Martin Luther King, there was Frederick Douglass, a former slave who met with President Lincoln more than once.

The words of Frederick Douglass provide a guidebook for today’s job seekers.

1. Welcome obstacles starting now

Without a struggle, there can be no progress.

Career building isn’t easy. In fact, just getting a job isn’t easy. It can be exhausting and discouraging. Turn your viewpoint upside down and invite obstacles. Welcome every challenge. It is through adversity that we grow. Know that you will be stronger, wiser and more capable.

2. Train people to treat you with respect

People will treat us the way we let them.

At work and in life, you will be treated by others in accordance with how you train them to treat you. In my younger years, I allowed people to walk all over me. As a result, I was passed up for promotions and was largely ignored. Today, I draw a line and communicate that line to others.

The best defense against abuse and indifference in the workplace is your own self-esteem.

3. Hold onto your values and principles – always

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

Today in business, many people will compromise their values to get ahead or make more money. They sell their soul. Once that happens, their reputation becomes tarnished. Their integrity is questioned. Something else happens of greater concern – they lose respect for themselves. Be known for excellence, honesty and tenacity and never waver.

4. There is nothing wrong with you. But you may need to change your approach.

The soul that is within me no man can degrade.

I know many young people, including family members, who are smart, capable and eager – but securing a good job has thus far eluded them. Over time, their self-esteem is eroded. Am I not good enough? What is wrong with me? Nothing is wrong with you. You are, in fact, fantastic. It’s just that others do not know that yet.

You may need to try new, innovative ways of applying for jobs to stand out from the crowd – using video, submitting value-added ideas customized to each employer, creating your own “idea” blog, or including a personal guarantee of honesty and hard work. Today, standing out from a sea of resumes is crucial.

As you move forward – never express resentment or anger. Be that rare person who is filled with sincere enthusiasm. All employers want enthusiastic people on their team. That alone will help you get attention and ultimately, employment.

Frederick Douglass knew that no matter how badly the outside world treated him, no matter how many people refused to hear his message – his inner soul, his self-esteem, his belief in himself and in his cause, could never be destroyed.

Success is a strange thing. It can seem like a million miles away, then emerge overnight. But only if we never give up.

5. You’re in the driver’s seat

Our destiny is largely in our hands.

The world is filled with people who blame outside factors – the economy, a slumping job market, a lack of opportunity. Make yourself recession-proof through a commitment to service. It’s not about “What will this employer do for me?” It’s about “How can I be of service?” Your viewpoint can have an enormous impact on the results you achieve.

Frederick Douglass was smart, ambitious and committed. Progressive far beyond his time – he preached equality for everyone and once said: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Douglass escaped the horrible conditions of slavery in 1838 eventually ending up in New York. He had made several unsuccessful attempts before then. He never stopped seeking his freedom, and never stopped believing that one day America would abolish slavery.

Like Douglass, never give up. Never allow circumstance or others to degrade your soul. Welcome obstacles, learn from them and you WILL see a better day.


 © 2016 Cory Robert Galbraith, All Rights Reserved.


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