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LEVEL
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Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Where do you see yourself by the end of this article?

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium. Source: Getty Images.

They couldn’t pay me enough to avoid having a nervous breakdown due to incompetent middle management, scheming co-workers, sexually harassing executives, all while making an unlivable wage that made treating said breakdown impossible. Also, just looking to explore new opportunities!

5. “What’s your worst quality?”

Not so much a question seeking actual worst qualities as much as it is a test to see if the applicant can spin the query into something self-aggrandizing like “I’m a workaholic” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist and way too detail-oriented to ever fucking chill for just one second.” …


The Only Black Guy in the Office

Stimmy envy is too real

Illustration of a man working at a computer daydreaming of being a rich man lying on a big check.
Illustration of a man working at a computer daydreaming of being a rich man lying on a big check.
Illustration: Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

One of the first rap songs I ever learned the words to was “Mo Money Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G. Even as a young’un, I was fascinated by the hook Kelly Price sang: “I don’t know what they want from me / It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”

That song came out in 1997 when I was still a kid living under my parents’ roof with nary a bill to pay; the only problems I had involved arithmetic. But growing up with two parents who worked blue-collar jobs, I did know that…


The Only Black Guy in the Office

Once upon a time, I wasn’t the only Black guy in the office

A Black person with very short hair standing with their back to us with their hands on their hips. They’re facing an office populated with all Black coworkers. Large glass windows show a partly cloudy sky.
A Black person with very short hair standing with their back to us with their hands on their hips. They’re facing an office populated with all Black coworkers. Large glass windows show a partly cloudy sky.
Illustrated by Michael Kennedy for Level

Last week, I had lunch with Adam, a friend and former colleague visiting from Portland. Outdoor seating, of course. He, like me, is part of the token Black employee gang at another company, so whenever we link up, we get into a competition of oppression Olympics: who faces the most annoying microaggressions, how our respective companies are botching diversity efforts, how much onus is put on each of us to bring about change at said gigs. You know — fun, light discussion.

Banter aside, though, we always make sure to toast to thriving (not just surviving!) in a Mad Men


THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

Yes, they’re basically indentured servitude, but that doesn’t mean we should shame students who pursue them

Illustration: Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

The summer before my senior year in college, I landed an internship in New York City at a company where I’d always wanted to work. I still remember that experience like it was yesterday: subway rides to the office, chopping it up with people whose LinkedIn accounts I’d stalked as a junior, soaking up all the game I could. I was living the dream — aside from the fact that my only compensation was fist bumps and the occasional extra scone from a Starbucks run.

These memories came to mind recently last week after a perennial Twitter topic trended once…


THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

Sure, you wish them well—but navigating the aftershocks is tricky at non-diverse companies

Illustration: Michael Kennedy

A couple of weeks ago, I poured out a lil’ liquor for the homie. I knew Ryan would leave us eventually; I just wasn’t ready to see his time come so soon. But I’m finding solace in the fact that he’s moving on to a better place — a land where vacation time is unlimited, gym reimbursements are plentiful, and 401(k) funds get matched. Ryan got a new job.

No matter the reason, it’s tough to see colleagues leave for greener pastures, especially the ones who are part of your daily routine. Even teammates you think of as acquaintances provide…


If you want to imagine a world without racism, it’s gonna take much more than a kumbaya soundbite

Photo: Ivan Pantic/Getty Images

My job has a weekly meeting about diversity, equity, and inclusion, in that order. DEI, that now-mainstream acronym adored by corporations and organizations everywhere since last year’s racial-awareness uprising, are what “diversity trainings” used to be. You remember those. Once a year or so, you’d spend a few hours listening to someone talk about bias, suffer through an awkward role-playing exercise, sign a form in which you pledge to be demonstrably less problematic, and then go back to work and wait for a softer, gentler workplace culture to kick in.

This portion of the meeting didn’t always exist. Last year’s…


The Only Black Guy in the Office

When keeping it real goes right

Illustration by Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

A few weeks ago, I got my first whiff of celebrity status. And it was horrifying.

I got a text from my boy James, a member of the POC posse at a former job. We’d stayed in touch over the years, and he’s elevated to a meme swap acquaintance — basically a half-rung below what I’d consider a friend. It’s always good to hear from him, though, and when his name popped up on my phone, I was already prepared for a good laugh. His latest correspondence, however, wasn’t a silly TikTok video or Bernie Sanders Photoshop job.

It was…


The Only Black Guy in the Office

You may not be in person, but you’ve still gotta come correct

Illustration by Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

For the first time in a long time, I’m happy with my current job. I have support from my higher-ups, a good deal of responsibility, and room for improvement, word to Drake. Still, at least once every year, I browse the job opportunities on LinkedIn to see what else is out there. I’ve done so ever since a friend who works in HR suggested making an effort to interview elsewhere annually — especially while I’m employed. For whatever reason, she said, many companies find poaching a prospect preferable to hiring someone who is unemployed. (It’s human nature, I guess, to…


You Are Here

What are you working for?

Photo: Martin Schalter/Unsplash

Here in Northern California there have been tremendous windstorms recently, with gusts sometimes getting up to 90 mph. A piece of Highway 1 washed away and fell into the ocean. There has been lightning, an occurrence formerly rare for this part of the country.

A good friend who has moved out of the city and off the grid now rents a tiny cabin in the mountains. I go up there on occasion to write and help with some of the labor that comes with living off the grid and in the woods. Digging ditches to prepare for floods, setting traps…


THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

And forward this to the whole damn company while you’re at it

Illustration: Michael Kennedy

Today is the first day of February, and I’m officially stressed out. Sure, I’m happy to have escaped the most bizarre January of my lifetime, with only the mild shellshock of a militia-fueled insurrection and the inauguration of this nation’s first Black vice president occurring just weeks apart. But I’ve got a love-loathe relationship with the second month of the year. Black History Month can be beautiful — but for Black employees in corporate America, it can also be awkward as hell.

In the aftermath of 2020 — a year in which the phrase “performative activism” was cemented in the…

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