Friday, December 2, 2016

Young, Black and Corporate: The Sell Out Myth

Working in Corporate America does not make you a "Sell Out"....You have to earn that title.

Corporate culture has been shaped and modified over hundreds of years into the form it takes today. Very few people of any race or gender can participate in corporate culture without having to adopt some of the customs, language and dress. The notion of the Black, "sell out" assimilationist makes no sense. Everyone who wants to participate in corporate culture "assimilates" in the true definition of the word (not the loaded, judgmental definition). Trading your jeans and T-shirt for a suit and tie is no different than a doctor wearing a white coat or a firefighter wearing a uniform. It doesn't mean you've sold yourself because you prefer jeans, but that you realize the suit is more appropriate for the work.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Weight is Over (Update)

This is an update to: The Weight Is Over pt. 1

Things are going well, but going slowly. Changing my diet has changed my work experience. I'm more energetic, more optimistic and able to work longer without becoming fatigued. I still have a bad snacking habit, but I've replace the snacks in my office with lower calorie, higher fiber options. I'll also make myself go out and buy a fresh piece of fruit, which increases activity and discourages snacking.

I still occasionally have my midday crashes, but a short walk and some cold water have been great substitutes for cookies.

One unintended consequence of my increased physical activity is restlessness when at my desk. Moving more through walking and working out has made me want to move even more. I have to take more frequent breaks to walk around or stretch. While this can be distracting, I think once I start working out more in a structured and consistent way, I'll be able to channel that energy constructively. 

More updates to come!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Corporate Goodbyes: Coping with Departures in the Workplace

I started this post over a year ago, but I wasn't ready to finish it. The sting of my friend and mentor departing from the company was still too fresh.

It usually starts with a closed door and a whisper. "I'm leaving." "I've only told a few people." Of course, at this point, everyone in the office knows. These things never stay quiet for long.

How to Respond:

1.  Be optimistic. People leave for a lot of reasons. Congratulations may not always be in order. Stick with well wishes and good luck.

2. Ask appropriate questions. While I'd never ask someone why they are leaving or if they have been let go, I typically take the opportunity to ask questions about their experience at the company and any advice they may have. Each person and each relationship is different, so it is best to gauge the situation to determine if these types of questions are appropriate at the time.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Weight Is Over pt. 1: Gaining and Losing Work Weight

I didn't get the freshmen 15 when I went to college, but I definitely got the first year 15 when I started my full-time job in Corporate America. That first year 15 became a second year 20.

The sedentary lifestyle common in most corporate offices has compromised my health from fatigue, to more frequent colds to weight gain.

Being in a client facing industry, especially as a woman, image matters. I know we wish that it didn't or believe that it shouldn't, but it does. I've written before about my trouble finding appropriate work wear that fits my size. My weight gain has only made it harder. More booty, more boobs, more belly, more problems. No, your waist does not have to be a certain size to get ahead, but weight fluctuations can cause a lot of problems if, like myself, you find it hard to keep your wardrobe updated. Whether the clothes are too tight or too baggy, the result can take away from your overall presentation of professionalism.

The weight is over for me. It's time for me to reclaim my health and my body.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Retaining Yourself in Corporate America

The question of diversity in Corporate America has historically been approached from a model of getting more diverse candidates in the door. Recently, retention has taken on a larger role in diversity programming, though many companies still struggle to retain diverse talent beyond the junior ranks.

I often ask my more senior intra-organizational mentors what they like or dislike about their positions, mainly because I'm trying to figure out if I want the job one day. What many companies miss when asking the retention question about us is that retention starts with providing clear information about what it means to be retained. If they see a future for us, then they should show us the vision early and often. Further, the present lack of diversity in the upper levels of many  companies makes it even harder for young, Black Corporates to see themselves in those ranks.

Ellen McGirt recently published an article on about the retention of African-American executives. The article highlights the research of Dr. Lawrence James, Jr., "a Chicago-based clinical psychologist-turned-leadership-consultant." In his white paper Journey to the Top, Dr. James explores the key elements to career advancement for African-Americans on the executive track, which include relationship building, business acumen and self-insight.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Corporate Drinking Politics - 5 Unspoken Rules

Corporate culture is a drinking culture.  Boozy business lunches and dinners abound. Not to mention the "networking" cocktail parties and receptions.  When and how much to drink seems to be some unspoken code that corporate types just know.  This article puts some of those rules in writing.

Rule #1   Follow your host.  If the person who invited you orders a drink, it is safe to have one yourself.  In a client setting, wait to see if the client orders a drink. If the client is drinking, order a drink other than water so that the client is not drinking alone.  This drink can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.  Joining in an alcoholic beverage with the client may be considered more polite in some situations, but courtesy drinking is ill-advised if it would result in some other embarrassment.

Rule #2   Don't order liquor at lunch if you have to go back to work.  A single glass of wine with lunch is advisable if you drink at lunch at all.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Soft Skills for Summer Interns

The most common word I hear from interns and about interns is "awkward". Here are a few corporate internship do's, don'ts and "do you's" that you won't learn in training:

1.  Do be polite to the support staff and assistants.  They will make your life so much easier. Learn their names.  Ask them about their weekends.  Not only are they valuable members of the company too, but they've probably been there a long time and can give you additional information about the company.  An internship is a long job interview.  You should continue to assess whether the company is a good fit for you and the staff is a great resource. 

2.  Don't talk about anything sensitive or confidential on the elevator.  Many companies share the building with other companies.  There could also be a visitor or client on board heading to a meeting.  Same rule applies to restaurants.

3.   Don't check your cell phone during meetings or meals.  If you have an emergency project you are working on and need to be on call, politely decline the invitation. You are an intern. If the full-time professionals can carve out an hour for a meeting, so can you.  In their minds, you are not that busy. It doesn't matter if you see them check their phones every 10 seconds. Resist.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Around the Web: BE Assembles Your Mentoring Dream Team

Black Enterprise's Kandia Johnson recently presented her list of must-have mentors in #SquadGoals: 5 Types of Mentors Everyone Needs to Succeed:

"When it comes to achieving success, sometimes we’re too quick to give up. We can allow things like setbacks, fear, loneliness, ego, and false expectations stop us from reaching our goals. But, with the right mentors—a squad comprised of coaches, supporters, and disruptors—we can get ahead in our careers and get through this thing called life.

Here are five types of mentors everyone needs to succeed.

Mentor 1: The Challenger

Taking constructive criticism is hard, but it’s necessary for career advancement. The Challenger is a straight shooter—the one who doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, but tells you what you need to hear. They’re visionaries who embrace disruption, so they’ll challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk. And, they won’t tolerate too many excuses.

 Mentor 2: The Industry Insider

When it comes to your chosen field, the Insider knows about the good, the bad, and the ugly. They can help you strategize on ways to navigate the culture, and position you for success."

Check out the full article: 5 Types of Mentors Everyone Needs to Succeed

Lex Reflects:

I really enjoyed this article. I think it is important to remember that a good mentor can serve more than one of these roles, but you also don't want to exhaust that person's capacity to be a resource to you. My mentoring style is definitely that of a challenger. I love pushing my mentees beyond the assumptions, expectations and doubts that they sometimes have. I think my biggest mentoring struggle is the role of cheerleader. I seek constructive criticism, but shy away from positive feedback. As a result, it is also hard for me to be a cheerleader for others. I am proud and excited when my mentees succeed, but I struggle to convey those feelings.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday's Best is NOT Monday Dress: Church Clothes vs. Work Clothes

Many young Black professionals in Corporate America find a network, a support system and a morale boost by frequenting Sunday houses of worship. In more traditional church settings suits, ties, dresses and satellite-dish-sculptured hats are common attire.

Church styles are often inappropriate for the corporate office. Despite the recent evolution of corporate fashion, bright colored suits, wide lapels, frilly tops, and satin ties are still deal breakers.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Missing the Super Bowl May Have Cost You a Promotion...

The Super Bowl is a popular American entertainment event watched by millions. Those millions probably include your colleagues, clients and your boss. Catching the Super Bowl (or at the very least knowing who is playing and who wins) is important for your corporate career. Those seemingly trivial social interactions about the big game are the stepping stones to a promotion. Often, young Black Corporates miss opportunities to engage colleagues and clients on a personal level by missing out on popular cultural events.

Here are few other popular events to put on your calendar:

Grammys, February 15
Check the blogs or gossip sites for winners.

Academy Awards, February 28
These awards are not by us nor for us. I get it. However, your co-workers will likely be in awe of the gowns and tearjerking reminders of when American was "great." No, this is not the time to bring up the lack of racial diversity in the office. Mention so and so's dress and whoever won best picture.

March Vacation, Mid-March
Those wealthy private schools your co-workers send their kids to have something called "March Vacation." They will use their kids being out of school as an excuse to take a vacation. Your workload will double. Be prepared to step up and cover. Ask them how the trip was when they get back.

NCAA Championships, April 4
You'll hear a lot about the Final Four. Just catch the championship and know where the schools are located. Bonus points if you join the office pool.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Don't Quit Your Job (Yet)

Entrepreneurship and alternative, non-corporate careers have become the hot new trend among young professionals. Articles abound featuring 20- and 30-somethings quitting their jobs and starting companies or going to work for a friend's startup. Not that there aren't exceptions to what I'm about to say, but it needs to be said: The path to Black success is different from White success and this affects the way you should think about your career and quitting.

Let's start with a simple question: Do your clients or customers at your Corporate job look like you?

Mine don't.