Thursday, December 24, 2015

Around the Web: What you missed in Dame Dash's Breakfast Club Interview

Back in March, Dame Dash did an interview on The Breakfast Club. I don't follow the show or Mr. Dash hence this delayed post, but a friend recently brought the interview to my attention. I've reached a place in my career where entrepreneurial thoughts monopolize my days in the office and this interview gave me a lot more to think about. It was interesting. Even if the underlying messages of "be your own boss" and "invest in yourself" are worn out, the delivery and examples of practical applications make the interview worth the watch. Warning: The interview is long, combative and offensive to pretty much every category of person. It is full of many ideas to which I do not subscribe. Watch at your own risk.

Here's what I found when I stepped back to think about Dame Dash's statements:

Diversify your Network

Mr. Dash appears on the show with two individuals with whom he has both personal and business relationships with. These men are not in suits, they don't have fancy titles...these are neighborhood dudes from Harlem that challenge him, encourage him and support him. CEO's don't become successful and remain successful by only spending time with other CEO's. One of the biggest mistakes new Corporates (especially new Black Corporates) make is assuming that people who are not in Corporate America don't have anything to teach you or offer you to succeed in Corporate America. Grandma may not have had the opportunities to go to school and succeed in the business world because of a whole host of 'isms, but she probably knows how to hustle in a way your roommate at WhoGivesA University does not.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


This week we bring you an "Around the Web" from Chris Hogan on characteristics of highly successful people. While most lists like these are cliché, unimaginative and lacking substance, Chris gives helpful advice for young corporate leaders. Here are our top picks: 

"It’s easy to get sidetracked by the trivial. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend valuable time on distractions that don’t help you reach your goals. Successful people concentrate on those tasks that line up with their mission and vision."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Corporatisms and How to Respond

"Circling back"
 I asked you for this a week ago. Where is it?
Your move: Respond immediately with a realistic deadline and stick to it.

"Let's table this."
This conversation has gone on way to long.
Your move: Set a date and time to have the follow up conversation. Send a calendar invite for a follow up meeting/call as soon as you wrap up. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Do you have any questions?" 3 Questions to Ask your Interviewer

Typically at the end of an interview the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Instead of bumbling through awkward, potentially inappropriate questions, keep a few good interview questions handy.

1. What made you choose a career with [COMPANY NAME]?

People love talking about themselves.  Your interviewer will probably not be above this inclination.  This question shows that you have an interest in both the job and the interviewer.

2. What type of informal mentorship opportunities does [COMPANY NAME] have?

Your office will be a classroom. Very rarely does academia prepare you for the work you'll be doing in the office. While the company website may talking about formal training and mentorship, informal mentorship is very important.

3. What kind of expectations does [COMPANY NAME] have for new [POSITION]s?

The answer to this question will give you information about what you'll be doing in your new position and send the interviewer the message that your head is in the right place.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Good Cover Letter

A good cover letter should introduce you to the company, reveal your interest in and knowledge about the position, and highlight key elements of your resume without reciting everything on your resume. It should only be a page in length and really only 3-5 paragraphs. Check for typos and good grammar. Clear communication and attention to detail are a must for any job. Below is a guide to a good cover letter:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Messy Moment at Work

I spilled my lunch on my lap and all kinds of drama ensued. I couldn’t go through the rest of the day with sauce-crotch. What if I got called into a meeting? I peeked out of my office to make sure that no one was in the hallway and I scuttled to the individual bathroom. After checking the door three times to make sure it was locked, I took off my pants and rinsed them out in the sink. I was panicking. This made perfect sense…. until I put my pants back on and had a huge wet spot in my crotch (front to back). Now what?        20 paper towels later, I realized I had to make it back to my office without being seen. Leaving the bathroom with wet pants is never a good look. It’s a Friday, no one will see me…My office is right there…Empty hallway and I was relieved. My blazer was strategically positioned in front of my crotch. Just when I thought I was safe, my co-worker came around the corner behind me and I look back to see if she saw the wet spot on my bum. Face red. We don’t make eye contact. Once I hit my office, I closed my door and turn on my space heater. Risking burns and a potential pants fire, I dried my pants with the space heater while wearing them. I couldn’t leave work until my pants were dry. So much for skipping out early on a Friday.

 Moral of the Story: Keep extra clothes at the office.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Event Recap: Mentorships, Sponsorships, and Spaceships

 I had the pleasure of attending a professional event where the topic was mentorships and sponsorships. While I thought I had heard it all, I left the event excited, energized, and feeling more confident about making deliberate career choices, getting the right kind of guidance, and launching into a more successful career.

Here are a few takeaways from women who are older than me, richer than me, and more senior in their careers:

Mentors advise, but Sponsors act. A mentor is a person who can advise you on the gritty details of your profession, your office politics, and ways to improve your work. A sponsor acts to put you in the best position possible. A sponsor will give you opportunities and fight for you at the table when decisions are being made.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Watch Me Work 2: Black Corporates in Popular Films

This post is the much anticipated sequel to our post Watch Me Work. This time we're focusing on popular movies that feature Black people in Corporate America.

Laurel Ayers, The Associate
Laurel Ayers is sick of being treated differently because she is a young Black woman, so she becomes an old White man. After quitting her job to start her own firm, the investment banker changes her gender and complexion to rise to the top.

Marcus Graham, Boomerang
Marcus Graham is a successful advertising executive who is also popular with women. He finds his career in uncertain territory when his company is bought out. Marcus attempts to sleep is way to the top with the well-seasoned head of the new company, only to find out that she is more of a figurehead. He then sets his sights to his attractive new boss who is as much of a detached, sexed-up walking ego as he is.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

InterviewingU: Interview with Sherri of Corporate Curls

We had the pleasure of interviewing Sherri of Corporate Curls to talk about her work to make Corporate America a safe place for natural hair.

Fast Fasts about Sherri

             Name: Sherri of Corporate Curls

Age: Still a Spring Chicken

From: North Carolina

Job: Corporate America – Manger of people. 

Lex: What are some of your hobbies?
Sherri: I love creating beauty with my hands including, but not limited to, drawing, styling hair, painting, and sewing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IncorporatingUS: Setting Effective Career Goals from Friends of Ebonie

This is an older post from Friends of Ebonie, but good advice doesn't have an expiration date.

Make them SMART


"SMART= (goals that are) Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Timely. This simple idea can help you to achieve your goals and be able to articulate what you want and what it looks like. We might set a goal that says “I will submit my paperwork on time” but that goal is too broad. If we take that same goal and make it SMART it might say I will submit all budget reports to my manager every Friday by 4pm. This goal tells us what we are striving to do, when we are supposed to do, and who is involved in that goals. SMART goals lend us a level of accountability and motivation. Boom!"

Check out the full list here: Ready, Set, Goals!

Friday, May 1, 2015

When Black Lives Don't Matter in the Office

I ran from this post. I fought this post. This post was the reason I created this blog and yet it is one of the most terrifying things I've done.

Seeing people who look like me pour their rage into the streets, onto placards, and up against Facebook walls does something to me. It's like drumming. They are on my television in the morning as I button my blazer and slip on my "walk to work" shoes. They are in the streets at night when I'm walking home after a long day with my laptop slung across my shoulder just in case something comes up. The drumming is getting louder and louder, but no one else in my office seems to hear it. Deals and deliverables. Birthdays and barhopping. Vacations. Nannies. House of Cards.

Are the turmoil and anxiety of an entire group of people shadowing my existence imaginary? Have I fabricated it? And then someone breaks the fourth wall and I know they can all see the drummer even if they cannot hear the music. Murmurs about the inconvenience of protesters disturbing their commutes. Whispers about seeing the riots on the news. Never to me.  But these words float in the corridor. It is a miracle I can hear them over the drums. I stay silent at work. I'm afraid if I start talking it will sound like the loud and oppressive drumming. I'm afraid of not being taken seriously, being ignored or, worse, being pitied.

Black lives don't matter in the office. Deadlines matter. Bottom lines  matter. But color lines, wealth lines, lines that separate Black people from justice don't matter in the office. This piece is for those of us watching the protests from our offices. Meeting deadlines, not leading picket lines. Staying busy, working later, doing all that we can to ignore the drumming. I hope it works for you. It's not working for me. There is an urgency in my spirit that is dangerous to success in Corporate America. Our jobs often depend on the same institutions that perpetuate our oppression.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

IncorporatingUS: Guest Post on Reimagining a Career by the Founder of Yellow Hibiscus Gallery

A self-identified professional risk avoider, the visionary and creator of Yellow Hibiscus Gallery shares his personal story of traditional corporate advancement and the necessity of an entrepreneurial spirit in today's cultural and economic climate. 

Excuse Me, But I am Sorry to Tell You that the American Dream Is Dead.
The American Dream is dead!  It died from complications due to a severe economic crisis that was worsened by corporate greed, political ineptitude, and societal excess.  Unfortunately for a generation that is accustomed to being told that we are the best and brightest that America has ever produced, we are the biggest losers of a bargain that cuts us out of the inheritance of the American Dream.

How did we get here? Society made a deal with us!  If we worked hard, sacrificed, and got an expensive degree, we would be richly rewarded with money, power and respect; at the very least, we could expect a decent home in the suburbs, two cars in the garage and a white picket fence.  The sky was the limit!  Then we graduated into the real world, and realized that for the first time in recent history, our collective generational lives would be worse off than the previous generations'.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


The other day I was on a project that wasn't going well despite my best efforts and I was stressed. I was 10 hours into the workday and my entire body was living the stress. I had a headache, I was nauseated and I couldn't focus. *I might have cried a little bit.*

At some point, I laid my jacket on the floor, crawled under my desk, and called my mom. I was going to be there for a while, the work wasn't going anywhere and I was non-functional. We talked for only a few minutes, but it was long enough to remind me that there was a world outside of my office that doesn't change because I couldn't close a deal or finish a report.

When the project ended successfully, it was all high-fives, but I'm wondering what's going to happen the next time I get to that point. I know all the tips for dealing with stress, but when I'm in it, really in it, most of that goes out the window...The work gets done and that used to be enough for me. These days, I'm more concerned about my mental and physical health.

Do you have a handle on work stress?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

IncorporatingUs: Tips Around the Web for Navigating Corporate America

Access is everything. The team searches for online communities, advice, and information that tackle some of the questions we want to explore. This post is a compilation of some of our favorite tips and insights from around the web on navigating Corporate America.

"Tips to Survive in Corporate America"

Blogger “Shady_Grady” of Urban Politico weighs in with tips for surviving Corporate America. Here are a few gems:

“Always strive for excellence: There's no reason you shouldn't be the best at your job. Ok, maybe there is a reason but you should certainly TRY to be the best. And if you fail try harder next time. This is especially important if you happen to be Black as likely there are more than a few people in your company who have negative stereotypes about your intelligence, your credentials, your work ethic and the quality of work that you produce. But Black or not, one of the best ways to keep your job and/or rise in the company is to have an unblemished reputation for quality work and for being able to pick up new assignments quickly. . .”

“Use Careful Communication: In terms of emails, instant messages, written documents, text messages, chances are that your company either views what you write or maintains an archive of what you wrote. Some companies use key-loggers. And I'm not even going to get started about inappropriate internet usage. There are different rules at various companies but a good rule of thumb is that if you wrote it over their network, it's theirs. They can look at it if they want to do so. . .”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Clocking Out: The Politics of Face Time and Leaving Early (or Late)

It was a busy day, but now it’s 6:30 and you've finished your project. As a junior in most corporate organizations, work is often assigned to you rather than generated by you. If you are finished with the assignments and your services are no longer needed for the day, can you leave? I’ve been often told that the answer is NO. However, by knowing your boss(es), knowing your organization’s culture, and using your judgment, it doesn't have to be NO.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Name Game - Navigating Names and Nicknames in the Office

Angela – Angie            Thomas – Tom           Chinyere – Chinny

Yoshikazu – Yoshi       Katherine –Kate          Daniel – Dan

Ask. If you are uncertain, ask the person how to pronounce his or her name.

Ask. If the person’s name has a common abbreviation, ask if it’s okay to use it. Do not impose nicknames because the person’s name is hard to pronounce. If you can say the name of your favorite athlete (Ndamukong Suh, Fernandinho, Anna Kournikova), you can learn the name of a person you see every day.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On Professional Disappoints and Setbacks: Explanations and Solutions

They came in thin envelopes -- the rejection letters. For all of my accomplishments, the thin envelopes came for me as they would for anyone else. Even when I was certain of the contents, I opened them. I had to know that I had been rejected. And in most cases I had.

It is a bad grade. It is making a mistake on a major project. It is being passed over for a promotion. This corporate world is presented hopeful students as a meritocracy, where winning is a sign of their virtue. Even some young associates cling to the idea of always winning.  

Virtue is most evident in the manner in which one handles disappoint. That idea is not novel nor is it my own.

This post is about the way we deal with losing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

IncorporatingUs: Black Enterprise's Five Black CFOs Calling the Shots in Corporate America

Occasionally, we'll feature articles and videos from around the internet. Look out for more IncorporatingUs posts. Today's feature is Black Enterprise's "Women of Power: Five Black CFOs Calling the Shots in Corporate America.

 Mary A. Winston, Family Dollar Stores, Inc.

"For three years, Mary A. Winston has been the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Family Dollar Stores, Inc. She oversees finance and accounting, corporate communications and enterprise strategy functions. Previously, Ms. Winston served as VP and CFO for Giant Eagle, Inc. and EVP and CFO for Scholastic Corporation. She graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a BBA and later acquired an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. The wife and mother of two currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina."

See the full list here:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Watch Me Work: Popular Black TV Characters in Corporate America

I asked several of my friends and families members to name a popular Black TV character in Corporate America. Every answer was preceded by a long pause. Often their answers were of Black professionals who were not necessarily in a corporate profession. Here are a few of my picks for Black Corporate TV characters:

Gina Waters, Martin
The title character’s better half Gina Waters works for a public-relations firm. She is one of the few characters on the show who is identified as college-educated. She is also often accused of being stuck up.  Not only is she a Black corporate professional, but so is her boss Mr. Whitaker. She ultimately moves up the ranks to a promotion as senior vice president of her firm’s LA office. Her promotion appears to present a conflict for her love life with Martin, but the couple jointly decides to move to LA to further their careers.

Kyle Barker, Living Single
Kyle Barker is a stockbroker living in New York and the stylish neighbor of the show's leading ladies. Through the show's run he earns multiple promotions. His iconic natural hairstyle became an issue when he was up for partner at his firm, not from the White partners, but from the other Black person in the room. One of his more memorable corporate moments was his impassioned defense of his hairstyle as an expression of his heritage. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Office Survival Kit

The day I was assigned my office, I spent my lunch break shopping.

When making an office your home base whether for an internship or for the long haul, here are a few essential purchases to make things easier:

In general:
1.     Headache medicine of your choice
2.     Box of Tissues
3.     Hand Sanitizer

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Corporate Headshot

 After canceling the last session for fear of embarrassment, I’m taking my corporate headshot. This will be my professional image for the next few years. Clients, higher-ups, and even rivals may come across this picture. I’m nervous. In my nervousness, I took to the internet for helpful tips and examples of good pictures. 

Corporette recommends: “To start, we would recommend first looking at the existing pictures for your firm. Particularly, flip to the female partners — what are they wearing? Our guess is that they’re wearing a classic suit and pearls. In light of the debate about how to wear shirt collars, we would recommend wearing a collar-less shirt (just our humble opinion), and the best pair of pearls you own.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lunch Your Way to the Top

"I jump at opportunities to be around clients, outsiders, and higher-ups, no matter my level of interest in the proposed subject matter."

From time to time, I attend lunch meetings in the office (often these are mandatory), but sometimes I go voluntarily.

·       Free  Convenient food
·      Face-time with higher-ups
·      Learn about new projects or upcoming events

·      Takes time away from the work I should be doing
·      Can be boring
·      Working through lunch instead of actually taking a break

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Hips Won't Hide

Not all Black women are curvy, thick, round (whatever we’re calling it)…but some are. I am somewhere between a pear and an hourglass (see above). At school this was fine: sweat pants, maxi dresses, stretchy jeans and flowy tops… I could wear what I wanted, no matter how ill-fitting or misguided the choice.

Now, I work in Corporate America. My office is business casual, but even that can be complicated.  My big, Black body is just not corporate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tips for Applying to Jobs Electronically

Now more than ever, job applications are submitted electronically either via e-mail or directly on the company’s website. While this method may seem easier or less formal, it comes with a new set of considerations. Here are a few tips for applying to jobs electronically.

1.     Follow the instructions. Read all of the requirements and criteria and delivery what the company is asking for.

2.     Label any files you are uploading in a clear and detailed manner.
First Name_Last Name_Type of Document (Year or Date)
Example:  Jane_Doe_Resume (2015)

3.     For e-mail submissions, your e-mail is not a cover letter, but it is a first impression. Write a short statement of (1) your name, (2) the purpose of the email, (3) a list of attachments, and (4) include your contact information beneath the signature. Make sure your subject line is direct and don’t forget the attachments. Note, some companies will tell you what the subject line should say.

4.     Keep your font style, font size, color and s p a c i n g standard for both the e-mail and the documents. Black font in Times New Roman size 12 or 11 is commonly used.

5.     Ask for help. If you run into technical difficulties, it’s alright to call or e-mail and ask for help or an alternative form of submission, but don’t try to turn a tech phone call into an interview. State your purpose and your problem and offer solutions e.g. “Is there an e-mail address I could use instead?” “Could I mail my application? And to whom should I address the attention?”

Photo Credit: Google Images

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Office Holiday Party: Dancing while Black

This past December, we had our office holiday party. It was great! Seeing people from different backgrounds, departments and pay grades come together to break bread and drink was an experience in itself. I had an assignment to finish, so I showed up late. The festivities were in full swing, and I was completely uptight and uncomfortable. The calculus of workplace social interactions began churning away in my head. Not only was I the newest and youngest associate, I was also one of few Black associates. Yes, my race comes to work with me. 

Like most corporate institutions, the people who look like me dominated the support staff and secretarial roles and the people in leadership roles don’t look like me at all. There I was, in my associateness and my blackness, trying to decide whether I would dance at the holiday party. I love dancing at parties. Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but I faced an internal conflict on how I should comport myself.

It started off as a two-step. Harmless. Unassuming. Nothing to write home about. Then I was singing songs at the top of my lungs and full motions took over my body. It was awkward. My inhibitions were at the bottom of my second tumbler. I was on display. I felt my blackness being judged by my dancing prowess and mastery of 90’s RnB lyrics. Would my Black co-workers think I was “white-washed”? Would my White co-workers think I was “so Black”? Those were the irrational fears that an otherwise fun and festive gathering generated. This is a story about the real-time thoughts and feelings of a young, Black associate at a predominately white firm. 

Photo Credit: