CAMERON ALFORD | CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST
I have found my voice as a black student here at Butler University.
It took me two-and-a-half years of successfully struggling through academics, leadership and continuous writing to find something I could be proud of about myself and my black history.
I learned so much about myself and my history as it relates to others.
But as a senior business major, I am faced with my future as a professional in corporate America.
I am scared.
My education at Butler has allowed me to plan, produce and prove I can innovate. But I came in knowing that about myself.
I am scared my voice will not matter, my pride will not be embraced, my skills will not be enough to rise to the occasion and meet the expectations of a business.
I am scared I will not have the same opportunity to innovate as I did at Butler.
I am worried my young professionalism will be strangled by the forces of unethical behavior, having to sacrifice my brand; my character tainted.
Jeremy Washington, a senior organizational communication and leadership major, said professionalism starts with being a student.
“You are your own brand,” he said. “Being a brand is you having to maintain a business, maintaining your character and a face to what could potentially be something.”
Washington has not worried about being an instrument of corporate America because he has created his own businesses.
As a young professional, he has never seen working for someone else as a part of his identity.
“You realize so much about your own history, about who you are and what your ancestors went through,” Washington said. “Me working for someone is just a diluted version of that in my mind.”
He had to look at his goals and his passions to figure out what he could do to work with and uplift the black community.
He learned a lot through his partnerships with other business around Indianapolis that have to do with fashion and communication.
“I am my first entrepreneurial adventure,” he said. “But I am just a face. We are great people— there’s a lot of us who are capable of doing anything we want to do.”
Hearing that message as a young black millennial encourages me to embrace my natural gifts.
Carson Byrd, a self-proclaimed “voice of the urban millennial,” seeks to influence young professionals in recognizing their capabilities.
Byrd is the principal of The Carson Byrd Group, a global consulting firm specializing in influencing the perspective of the urban millennial.
“We’re in a crossroads of philosophy and thought of what it means to be a professional,” Byrd said.
He says that as millennials, we get caught up with our parents’ experiences and it forces us to think the way they do about professionalism.
Byrd says millennials live in a different world with much more access.
“We hinder our greatness to fit one specific thing,” he said. “We are creating a new system for success.”
Byrd was able to come to that level of self-awareness when he attended Hampton University.
He reflected on his time on campus and realized that he had a natural tendency to influence people. Embracing his influential nature in college made him the person he is today.
“Once you identify what you would do for the rest of your life for free, then you figure out how you can make money out of it,” Byrd said.
Both of these men are professionals in their own right. They have embraced themselves and have been unapologetic about what they stand for.
Being a professional does not mean we assert power over someone else. It is about embracing our natural skills and abilities and putting together a set of goals that will help us develop into stewards for our communities.