The Only Black Guy in the Office

Are These Recruiters Reaching Out Because I’m Good, or a Diversity Fix?

Pandemic headhunting is boosting my ego at the same pace as it’s boosting my doubts

Summer 2020 was a busy time for my inbox. Wanda was the fourth one to slip into my LinkedIn DMs in the same month. Much like Gene, Angela, and the other recruiters before her, the message followed a familiar format: “Reaching out about an opportunity” in the subject line, then some variation of “we think you’d be a great fit,” and “let us know if you’d like to chat” in the body. This isn’t even counting the other three intro emails that came straight to my personal.

Now, I’d be lying if I said Nicki and Bey’s “Feeling Myself” wasn’t playing in my head on repeat at first. It’s pretty lit to be sought out for a job instead of being one of 500 applicants throwing resumés into a black hole — and multiple times at that. The kid was feeling like a hot commodity, but I wasn’t the only one. There were a lot more of my Black and POC peers flaunting shiny new job titles on my feed than usual, which is obviously amazing, but I began having mixed feelings about all the new interest. Poaching in the tech and marketing industry is a common thing, but what did they all suddenly see in me?

Once summer protests stemming from George Floyd’s death reached a fever pitch, called out companies — all claiming to stand in solidarity with their Black employees — were pressured to hastily reshape team structures to spruce up their dismal diversity stats. That meant making some non-White hires immediately. Y’all not low.

Why block a blessing? Taking advantage of a company’s White guilt hiring spree doesn’t have to be such a bad thing.

I just might pay for LinkedIn’s premium feature, just out of curiosity about how many recruiters have checked out my profile since White folks suddenly awoke to systemic racism in America. Because around this time last year (before this gig), when I had all these interviews lined up and everything looked good on paper, we’d have the actual in-person chat, but it ended there. They just thanked me for my time and added me to a listserv. It makes me wonder, if I was in a similar situation now, given the stakes and where we are as a country, would the outcomes still be the same? Would I have gotten those offer letters? Would I have been hired sooner, or would it still play out the same way?

I can’t help but be a little skeptical, and wonder if this is some kind of reverse-reverse racism. (And we all know in Uno, two reverses cancel each other out. Stay woke!) But still, every now and then, I’ll entertain the recruiters. Take those introductory calls — just to get to know them. Or when I get notifications that say, “You appeared in five searches this week,” I tuck those names in my back pocket. Keep an open mind and a broad network. Because I’m pretty good at my current job; I know that. But I’ve only been there a year and change, so I haven’t climbed all the ranks and I certainly haven’t hit the proverbial ceiling. How do they know if I’m ready to take on a more senior, higher visibility role at a different company? Would I sink or swim? Is it even smart to jump ship from a relatively secure, stable gig in a recession?

I can’t help but analyze the optics, both for them and for me. My job has its cringeworthy characters and its sticking points for sure, but I don’t hate it. I’m not naive to the fact that learning never stops, no matter where you are. Some of the opportunities that are coming my way might just be better. They might have better people, better office culture, better pay, better perks, better work-life balance, better opportunities for growth. Hell, maybe even more diversity. But would chucking the deuces so soon make me look like a shitty employee? Will it be a case of: Well, you know why they hired you, right? Or am I overthinking it?

When I talked to my homie James about it, I could practically see him rolling his eyes at my mental gymnastics even though we were on the phone. As he put it plainly: Why block a blessing? Taking advantage of a company’s White guilt hiring spree doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. “So if there’s a better opportunity out there and more money, you’re not gonna take it?” he balked.

The man’s right. (This is why he’s the Yoda of the friend group.) As Black professionals and other people of color, we’re well within our right to be selfish with our destinies and use this moment to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Ultimately, I don’t want a recruiter or hiring manager to hire me because they need a Black body to meet baseline qualifications. I want to be confident that they consider me an exceptional candidate. Period. But also, the come up is real. I’m always here for us seizing opportunities to level up. Give us our opportunities, plural. And the pay that comes with it. Because dammit we deserve it, and we always have.

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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