Sunday, October 8, 2017

How to Get Away with Bad Grades

On-campus interview season can be a daunting period. Interviews heighten competition and insecurity that many students already experience. Taking a break from the murder coverups and sex scenes, HTGAWM devoted a good portion of last week's episode to the on-campus interview experience of law students. One recurring issue throughout the episode was grades. It appears that the Murder Crew's escapades caught up with them in the form of low GPAs and class rank.

Let's talk grades.

1. Take your grades seriously. Grades are very important. Grades are not a reflection of how smart you are, they are a reflection of how dedicated, disciplined and prepared you are. Many factors can affect grades, including poor health, family drama, relationship drama, ineffective studying and learning disabilities. Get to the source of your bad grades and start working through the issue as soon as you identify the problem.

2. Don't count yourself out because your numbers are low. Yes, grades are very important, but low grades should not stop you from applying to jobs or showing up to interviews. Even when you show up, you could still be counting yourself out mentally by exhibiting low confidence or embarrassment. A grade is not a measure of your value. You should be just as confident and willing to put yourself forward with straight A's or straight C's. The only difference is how you prepare to discuss your grades during the interview.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Personal Devices, Privacy and Your Office

If you have work emails on your phone, your phone is not your own (not exclusively). You are in possession of company proprietary information and you have additional responsibilities. Also, many companies install software with terms that give them the right to collect data from the device or wipe the device in the event of thief. Know the terms.

I first came to this realization when my job upgraded the email software on my phone. All employees were required to make their phone passwords longer and more complicated. At this point something clicked, I was sending and receiving sensitive client information on the same device I was using to post selfies on IG and screenshot memes. 

My solution: I now have a separate work phone and personal phone. 

This solution is not practical or efficient for everyone, but I'll explain why it works for me.
  1. Colleagues often ask for my cell phone number in order to contact me while I'm traveling. Now, if my work phone rings, I know it's work related and can better screen the calls.
  2. My job no longer has to regularly install and update programming on my personal phone which contains my private information. (I always wondered if the IT folks scroll through people's pictures and text messages when they got bored.)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Corporate Vacations: Best Practices

Vacations in Corporate America can be difficult to navigate. Even in more casual settings, corporate culture is very hierarchical and more senior professionals are going to get priority when it comes to scheduling adjustments. 

Effectively taking a vacation starts with your work product and your work brand. The first is a matter of doing good work and working hard. The second is a matter of being known as a hard worker who does good work.  

Once you are known to be a hard worker, the vacation will seem "earned" or "deserved". 

The next step is providing notice. I notify my team about my vacation days by email in 3 month blocks, i.e. "These are my days for August, September, and October." These days include anything from long weekends to full length trips abroad.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Black, Corporate and Greek: Part 2 (Networking)

The Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO) network is as much a professional network as it is a social network. First and foremost, the brothers or sisters of your organization are potential mentors, colleagues, recommenders and clients. Then there is the larger Black Greek community whose members may serve the same functions. In the corporate world, there are so few of "us" that we look out for each other, especially amongst fellows BGLO members.

**Those petty differences that we chant about on the yard do not matter in the office.**

So how do you get connected?

1. Join an alumni/ae chapter. "Join" means show up to chapter meetings, pay dues, and support a few programs. We're not in college anymore. Family and careers come first, but chapter involvement may be a good career move as well as fulfilling the pledge you made when joining.

2. Wear your sorority/fraternity pin to networking events. It's an easy conversation starter and much more subtle than wearing a line jacket. The pin should fit the occasion and pair well with the outfit you are wearing.

3. Bring your BGLO up in conversation. Let's be clear, this should only be done if it is on topic and highlights your leadership or service experience. Randomly dropping your BGLO out of context without anything to further the conversation will be unhelpful and awkward.

4. Go to Convention/Clave/Cave (whatever they're calling it). Go to the national and regional meetings of your organization and make an effort to meet new people while you are there. These trips are often expensive and time consuming, but they are also fertile ground for professional networking.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Black, Corporate and Greek: Part 1 (The Resume)

Membership in professional and social organizations can be a great way to network, scout out new career opportunities, and to actually make meaningful connections with other people within your industry and across industries. These organizations can be cause-related, general society groups or industry-specific. This post is the first of a series which specifically takes a look at Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) and Black Corporate culture. These are sororities and fraternities whose memberships consist primarily of college-educated Black people, mostly professionals and many Black Corporates.


My sorority is on my resume. When I was in grad school, my career adviser, a black woman, suggested that I remove it. I heard her explanation and considered her advice, but I decided that in my relationship-based profession, it was it more useful than harmful. The below describes some of the pros and cons of including a BGLO on a resume and best practices for including it.

Reasons to include your Greek Affiliation
  • Create a connection with your resume reviewer: If your reviewer has a positive association with BGLOs, the reviewer may view your resume more favorably or better remember your resume. The odds are more in your favor that this will be the case give the numbers of political leaders, scholars and artists who are members of BGLOs and the impact that many chapters have on their local communities.
  • Emphasize Community Service: Good corporate citizenship is en vogue. Companies want to hire good people who do good work. Community service signals selflessness, compassion and dedication to a cause.
  • Highlight Involvement and Leadership: Most companies want a team player who is willing to be involved and committed beyond business hours. By showing involvement and leadership outside of your academic and professional pursuits, you show a willingness to contribute. You signal to potential employers that you are more likely to join and even lead company committees and initiatives. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Making Friends At Cocktail Parties - Taking the "Work" out of "Networking"

Networking events are often awful experiences because people are there "working," not having fun and making new friends. You should be at these events to make friends, because in the long run we help out our friends, not strangers with business cards. Here are a few tips to make new friends at events:

Adversity creates the best bonding moments.

Overcoming even the most minor obstacles can create a "bonding moment" between you and a stranger:

1.  Running to catch the elevator
2.  Searching for the coatcheck
3.  Being the first few to arrive or last few to leave
4.  Arriving late and waiting out in the hall for the opportune moment to enter a room
5.  Waiting your turn to speak to a panelist after a discussion

These anxiety producing moments are great moments to make friends. A well placed joke or even a simple introduction and handshake can alleviate anxiety for you and your new friend. Especially when this moment happens early in the evening, you'll have someone in the room you "know" to follow up with later.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Getting "Paid" during an Unpaid Internship

Unpaid internships can be a great way to gain experience in a field that is hard to otherwise break into and to learn valuable skills for full-time, paid employment.  However, just because they don't pay you, doesn't mean they can play you.  There are both federal and, in many cases, local guidelines as to the responsibility of your employer in implementing an unpaid internship program.  In addition to legal requirements, there are some reasonable and practical criteria you should have for your unpaid internship.  You are not simply a source of free labor to be used for undesirable work.

What should you be getting paid:

Unpaid interns are not free replacements for full-time, paid employees.  As an intern, you should be receiving substantive training.  An unpaid internship is really supposed to be an educational experience for the intern.

You should be supervised in your work.  There should be someone available for questions and problem solving if any issues should arise.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

When keeping it real goes wrong: Lessons from Insecure's Rasheeda the Intern

Issa Rae and HBO have a new show featuring a set of accomplished Black Corporates.  They could certainly be added to our Watch Me Work post.

Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) is a 3rd year associate at a corporate law firm and doing well for herself. She is also one of the few Black attorneys we see at her job.

Enter Rasheeda the Intern (Gail Bean), a new Black law intern who comes through the door keeping it a little too real and feeling herself a little too much.  Clearly she did not read our post Soft Skills for Summer Interns.  She's loud, boisterous and goes by "Da-Da".  She also repeatedly refers to Molly as "gurl," despite not knowing her well enough for such a causal manner of address.  When Molly tries to delicately broach the subject of Da-Da switching up a little in the office, Rasheeda gets an attitude and tells Molly that her behavior has gotten her where she is so far, so she doesn't need to change for anyone.  Rasheeda references not having to "switch it up" for her interview or when she became editor of the law review.