Determined to see more faces of color in corporate America, this seasoned media executive is personally imparting “the rules of the game” to students with drive.
The media industry is like a dirty little secret. It’s an industry that impacts and influences people’s thoughts, minds, deeds, behavior — it’s very powerful. Also it is a real opportunity for the most creative people to impact the world. I think Black people deserve the opportunity to participate, and I want to give them that opportunity to participate in what I call “the dirty little secret.” It has so many facets and so many things that young people don’t even know about.
The media industry, at the end of the day, is about power, influence and money. What I try to do with young people through the Louis Carr Internship Foundation is give them the tools that they are going to need to be successful in this industry or any other industry. As I tell them, “I want to teach you the rules of the game. Whether you decide to play by them or not, at least you know what they are.”
John H. Johnson, the founder of Johnson Publishing Company, was the first person who started teaching me the rules of the game. I interviewed with him for my very first job in this business and I’ll never forget it. I had on a pair of red shoes, and that wasn’t 2014 either! We went through the interview and it went well. He told me I had the job but he said, “You have to do a couple of things. Take off those red shoes. Black people are not allowed to wear red shoes in corporate America.” Got it.
Next he said, “Make sure you always have all of your buttons sewed on your shirt,” because on my sleeve the button had broken off and he noticed. He said, “Make sure you’re always buttoned up, son.” The third thing he said had to do with the fact that I had a beard at the time. He said, “Next time I see you, make sure it’s off.” I didn’t like [his advice] but I aligned myself quickly. It’s one of the things that I learned from my mother. She said, “Whether you like it or not, until you’re in a position to change the rules, abide by the rules.” So I always did.
Now, I guide every intern and show them the rules of the game because they just don’t know. Whether it’s guys with dangling earrings or jeans half down their butt, I have the conversation of, “I’m not trying to judge you, I am just trying to teach you the rules of this game.”
As a manager, the thing that I most recently learned is that everyone doesn’t start from the same place or grow at the same pace. I try to understand that as I lead, mentor and educate people. My management style has changed and become extremely flexible and different for each individual that I have to come into contact with.
There have been four things that I’ve been teaching young people lately:
1. Pray for Vision. Vision is where knowledge, experience and imagination meet and fuels your desire.
2. Look for Strategic Partners. A strategic partner can be your mother, your father, your brother, your teacher, your co-worker — someone who has the ability to fill a void or deficiency.
3. Build Capacity. A lot of young people don’t have the capacity to work in today’s environment to be successful. That’s the physical, mental and emotional capacity. I’ve had people tell me, “Maybe I’m just not built for this.” They don’t understand, however, that you can build capacity over time and if you’re on a path to success, it grows over time.
4. Have Clarity. Be able to see the real situation and the environment. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.
Louis Carr is president of media sales for BET Networks and is responsible for the strategic plans to generate revenue for BET Networks, the company’s flagship; CENTRIC, their network for a mature audience and BET.com, the largest portal for African-American content online. For the past decade, the Louis Carr Internship Foundation has provided paid internships for students of color at some of the world's leading marketing and media companies. He also sits on the board of Boys Hope Girls Hope in St. Louis, which provides residential homes for students who show academic promise.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Earl Gibson III)