“Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals” by Frances Mensah Williams addresses need for positive role models for young Black Britons
The social unrest seen in the UK during the summer of 2011 has brought to the fore the need for positive role models for young people from ethnic minorities. There is an urgent need to showcase Black heroes that today’s young people can identify with and to highlight careers that are realistic and achievable, says Ms. Frances Mensah Williams, a writer and careers coach with a successful track record of guiding Black professionals in the UK to achieve their career aspirations.
Speaking ahead of the October launch of her new book “Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals”, Ms. Mensah Williams, who is the CEO of HR and Training consultancy Interims for Development Ltd. and Editor of the leading online careers publication, ReConnect Africa.com, says: “While the arguments rage on about the causes of the summer riots, some things are self-evident. We have to reach out to those young people who see no future for themselves. Instead of just telling them what they are doing wrong, we need to also be showing them what they can do right.”
“Everyday Heroes”, she says, “came about because young people are often unaware of the kind of careers they can aspire to while Black youngsters, in particular, can feel intimidated about joining professions and, as a result, can end up setting their sights very low. Yet the truth is that we have so many successful Black professionals in Britain who are a great resource from which young people can learn.”
Famous names are often cited when the question of Black role models arises and, according to Ms. Mensah Williams, this is part of the problem. “When it comes to black role models, there seems to be a limited range of names and occupations that crop up,” she says. “But the fact is that relatively few young Black people are going to end up as premier league footballers, famous singers or successful athletes.”
Focusing on famous Black people as role models can prove counter-effective, agrees Henry Bonsu, a former BBC journalist and now a presenter and broadcaster with Colourful Radio and Vox Africa. “This is not the first book aimed at raising the aspirations of African/Caribbean children, but where it differs from most is that it takes “success” away from the realms of celebrity, and grounds it in the reality of those unsung heroes all around you. So let’s stop expecting Trevor Macdonald, Diane Abbott or Rio Ferdinand or Lewis Hamilton to inspire our children, and point out some everyday heroes closer to home; because in my experience, they usually bring more sustainable results.”
“Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals” is a collection of interviews with 16 professionals from different careers including law, accountancy, music, publishing, medicine, banking and architecture. In a practical, easy-to-read format, the ‘everyday heroes’ talk about what it takes to succeed in their careers, their own influences and the life lessons they have learned along the way. The book also includes a number of projects and exercises to help readers assess their own skills and identify potential career routes.
By shining the spotlight on what she calls “the quietly successful” professionals, Ms. Mensah Williams aims to redefine the meaning of success for today’s youth who are bombarded with messages that focus on money and fame. “I think it is important to stress that achieving success is not necessarily about being famous, but involves working hard and being committed to doing something you really like and that suits your skills and personality.”
She adds: “Young people, whatever their background or ethnic origin, really need guidance to understand that they can be successful simply by understanding their own skills and talents and applying them with integrity to whatever career they choose to undertake. By reading about people in the book who look just like them and who are working in careers they may have felt intimidated about considering for themselves, my aim is for today’s generation of Black youngsters to not only feel inspired but to aspire to professions that will give them better and more sustainable opportunities in life.”
“Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals” (ISBN: 978-0-9569175-0-8) is available through www.everyday-heroes.co.uk and Amazon.