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Dream Deferred: The Path to Accomplishing Career Goals

By: Afrkah Cooper 

It seemed to happen overnight. D’ante Whitney, a 13-year old from Detroit, woke up with a deep voice – a really deep voice – and he knew he was destined for a career in radio. Throughout high school, Whitney read his school’s announcements every morning at Detroit School of Arts and Sciences, using his joking personality to create a unique and positive school culture. This experience solidified his love for broadcast radio and he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Whitney struggled in high school and his grade point average was not sufficient for college acceptance. Committed to pursuing a career in broadcast, he attended Specs Howard School of Media Arts, a private career school in Southfield, where he wowed interviewers with his great personality and radio-ready voice.

After an intense 48-week program, Whitney received an undergraduate certificate in broadcast media arts and landed an internship at his favorite local radio station. At the time it seemed like this was his big break. The unpaid internship was in promotions, so he spent most of his time setting up for events, rather than developing his skills. “It was basically free labor,” Whitney said.

After his radio internship Whitney returned to Specs Howard to acquire more skills and boost his resume with an undergraduate certificate in digital media arts. Even with two certificates under his belt, he struggled to find work in the field and settled for stagnant jobs over the next four years. Dreams deferred, Whitney became comfortable with being independent and kept telling himself that he would pursue his dreams one day.

After three-years of working at a plant, Whitney was laid off. Not only did he lose his independence but he immediately began to regret his decision to give up on his dream.

Whitney decided to use this experience as an opportunity to get back on track. He landed an internship at local radio station WDET 101.9 FM and realized this was the perfect place for him.

The WDET staff has been extremely hands-on, and Whitney has been able to rotate throughout departments over the past year, gaining more responsibility and continuing building his network. He now serves as a correspondent on one of WDET’s flagship culture shows, “Culture Shift”. “It’s like being at Specs again, I’m learning,” Whitney said.

WDET has provided an environment for Whitney to flourish. However, the internship is unpaid and he is now at another turning point in his life. He feels he has the experience and is ready to work in his field but is still struggling to find a paying job in his field. Committed to success, he has given himself a two-year deadline to strengthen his network and build his career.

Companies need to develop their own talent. Students need to the opportunity to learn; work experience is key to success. As you look to your own organization, ask yourself how can you develop more impactful internships and offer development-focused, entry-level positions. We have incredible talent in Southeast Michigan and we need to ensure our future workforce is prepared to fill jobs available today and in the future. There’s a role for students, postsecondary institutions and employers.

At the Detroit Regional Chamber, we work with businesses to create a community around talent development within the workforce. If you have a great internship program or support entry-level positions or unique continuing education opportunities (i.e. tuition reimbursement) please contact: Sarah Craft at scraft@detroitchamber.com.

There are so many students like Whitney who lose track because they lack opportunities and guided development. To continue the regions growth, we need to prioritize student access and on-the-job learning.