Former Def Jam Records President Kevin Liles has made a career of helping entertainers get to the top and stay there. Now he has launched a non-profit effort to help ordinary people get their acts together.
Last month Liles started the “Make It Happen Career Motivations” Challenge online, and already more than 10,000 people have clicked on to take the computer-based assessment he is offering for free to help set career paths.
“I want to give people a personal owner’s manual for their lives. I want them to have a blueprint so that they can build something,” Liles told BlackAmericaweb.com.
“People come to me and say ‘I want to be in the music business.’ I ask them what do you really want to do? A lot of times, they aren’t sure. They can’t answer that question.”
The fact that people have no idea of a direction for their lives feeds into many of the problems today in urban America today, said Liles, a proud native of Baltimore who now makes his home in New Jersey..
Even as the unemployment rate falls, African-Americans are disproportionately represented on the unemployment rolls.
In the latest statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for blacks was 13 percent, down from 16. 2 percent a year ago. The same rate for whites 20 and older was 7.4 percent down from 8.1 percent a year earlier.
Unemployment rates for black teens between the ages of 16 and 19 continue to be high with 38.2 percent unemployed, compared with 22.8 percent of whites in the same age range.
Liles said the key is for individuals to prepare to take advantage of career opportunities and to know what is needed to position themselves to advance.
By discovering personal aptitudes, leadership style, and cognitive skills, results from CareerMotivations’ assessment helps test-takers to identify an educational and personal development path to career goals.
The assessments typically cost $129 each. They are being offered free through Liles’ Facebook fan page or the Challenge Facebook page.
His goal is to complete 1 million assessments by Sept. 1, 2012.
“I want to reach that goal by the first of September because that’s the typical start of the school year in many areas,” he said. “You can start out with 28-page report on your life.”
Liles said he really didn’t know what he wanted to be when he was growing up, but he knew education was important.
“I entered Morgan State University and studied electrical engineering,” he said. “I could have finished the degree, but I left 13 hours shy of it. I found something else that was my true passion.”
In addition to his former position as head of Def Jam, Liles has also been executive vice president at Warner Music Group. He currently heads KWL Enterprises, a strategic holding company that manages a portfolio of brands in talent management, brand development, marketing and philanthropy.
“As I recently celebrated my birthday, I reflected on the path that my life has taken and felt gratitude that I am able to give back,” Liles said. “In today’s knowledge economy, self-knowledge is more important than ever.”
While there is no age limit for taking the assessment, Liles said he really wants to reach young people. “I believe in ‘Generation E': Education, Employment, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship and that’s why this race to a million assessments is a critical step in helping a new generation of talent find their path,” Liles said. “This is an opportunity for them to press the reset button.”