Jamillah Nasir has her career mapped out.
No, she can't predict the precise path she'll travel toward the goal: running her own advertising firm. But Ms. Nasir has a basic outline in mind and the conviction that constant self-improvement will make her dream reality.
"I made a list of the things that I wanted to improve," said Ms. Nasir, an administrative assistant with Career Communications Inc., a Baltimore publishing firm. "First, I made a list of the kinds of attributes that people I admired had. And then I tried to figure out what kinds of barriers would keep me from having those attributes. When I found out there were none, then there was no excuse."
A city resident who's studied communications at the Community College of Baltimore for a year and a half, Ms. Nasir, 22, said personal improvement is an ongoing, incremental process. She sees her long-range quest as hinging on a short-range one -- a specific promotion within Career Communications. "My goal is, in a year's time, I would like to be in the sales and advertising department as an account executive," she said.
The way to facilitate that move, Ms. Nasir believes, is to excel at her present job. Consequently, she devours any and all reading material that might improve her job performance.
"I have a few books that I like to get out of the library," Ms. Nasir. "Also, I subscribe to a newsletter called "Creative Secretary," which gives you tips from upper management secretarial positions down to receptionist. It's coming out of my own pocket to do that, but it's making me a better employee."
She also covered the cost of a written communications seminar.
Ms. Nasir knows what it's like to tackle the job market armed with few marketable skills. Before her present job, which includes word-processing duties, employers tended to offer her entry-level jobs. The experience was a frustrating one she would prefer not to repeat.
"They kept giving me things like receptionist and clerk-typist, but I wanted more dollars," she said. "So I had to figure out the best way to do that. I felt that the only thing that was feasible was to leave work and go to school, but I didn't have enough money for school."
Ms. Nasir's solution was to attend an Urban League-sponsored word-processor training program that was free; she also received a stipend. She began the 18-week course in September 1989 and completed it in nine weeks. Next year, she plans to start working on a degree in marketing at Morgan State University.
Regardless of one's career goal, all job experiences have some value, Ms. Nasir said. "I think everything I've done thus far [has been beneficial], even receptionist jobs that I really didn't like. At least they helped me figure out what I didn't want to do," she said. "Each of those positions helped me get closer to what I do want."