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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

This post is a reaction to Black Enterprise’s recent article on the state of African American women’s apparent inability to get the corner office in corporate America. The resource is a study from the Executive Leadership Council and the Executive Leadership Foundation.

I suggest you read the article first before you read my post so that you can get a better sense of the content.

In not so subtle ways the findings don’t say anything that I didn’t already know – but what really annoys me is how these findings don’t provide any meaningful insight into how Black women can push through the corporate America log jam…if they so choose.

Find a White Guy

According to BE, Black women severely lack “strategic” relationships in their relationship arsenal. Such relationships are defined as connections with senior level officers most different from themselves. 

In other words, they don’t hang out with enough white men. BE tiptoes around the idea that Black women are probably not aligning themselves with enough of them (or anybody who matters) to make a difference in their career.

And, depending on where you are in the corporate food chain – you’re so far removed from them, your best bet is to hope they trip over you at the next all-staff meeting.

Get a Cheerleader

The first point was about finding a specific mentor. This second point is more about finding someone who can:

  • Give you feed back
  • Understand your strengths
  • Scream your holy praises right through the glass ceiling

Essentially, existing in a professional vacuum is not ideal. Duh. We get that. Do the white men get to wear cheerleading skirts?

Hire a house manager – or find a house husband

Aiming for a cushy senior level position may demand that your strong black motherhood  (or attempts at it) go out the window (I guess Michelle Obama is the only exception to this?).

I’m not sure what ELC means by this since college educated and professional Black women are already marrying and having children later in life (compared to their white counterparts). 

Avoid the secretary route at all costs

I’m cheating a little bit here because this “strategy” (and the next one) come from an interview Workforce Magazine did with Carl Brooks, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. I couldn’t get the link for it, so here is a portion of the interview: 

WM:

Another problem for African American women is a misunderstanding of their capabilities. How do the jobs they hold influence that perception?

Brooks:

The advice in this research is that if you seek an operational position at the top level, you need to stay focused on that and not move so easily to staff or administrative positions in corporate America.

Your network already sucks

I’m sure Penelope Trunk would love this one. Brooks states that a Black woman’s network is highly social versus professionally strategic. Because this is so, Black women lack the options for opportunistic entry into valuable and professionally strategic relationships.

WM:

What is holding back African American women?

Brooks:

The networks for African American females were considered social than strategic. They know each other , they know the family makeup of each other, they socialize together. But they didn’t have the strategic ingredient that would allow them to advance and ask each other for support and endorsements. Without that, no one moves to senior levels in any corporation.

In short, your momma’s church friends, cousins, girlfriends at old jobs and your lunch buddy can’t do crap for you, jobwise that is.

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Photo Credit: julsatmidnight @Flickr

Photo Credit: julsatmidnight @Flickr

Choosing industry over a certain type of job

If your career is important to you – you won’t fence yourself in by rigidly sticking to industries (advertising, marketing, finance, etc.).

Pay attention to the the type of job (and the skills it demands) and worry less about what industry it is in.

You show more flexibility and value when you can maintain relevance – no matter what the professional discipline.

A good example is someone who takes their skills and can apply them equally across the board –  Desiree Rogers.

The woman went from the Illinois Lottery to the gas company and then to insurance – now she plans the social and events calendar for the First Lady. 

Food for thought: Specialize in skills – not industry 

Use the online job hunt against itself

Online job seeking is like a bad joke. Monster and Careerbuilder aim to have you mindlessly apply to the glut of “open” positions with seductive lures that employers  will actually get your resume. All you have to do is wait for a phone call.

Puh-leez.

Use your network to get your resume in the hands of people who are hiring at these places. Online job hunting at best is a referencing tool.  You’d be more productive hunting down companies that are not “actively” recruiting  (read: the hidden job market).

Pitchfork Mob Mantra: Monster must DIE! Monster must DIE!  note: flaming torch optional

You’re not doing a non-job thing – like temping… or working for free

It may not be ideal, but temping can lead to larger opportunities – like (temporarily) keeping you financially afloat. Or, if you have time (and you do have time) – create projects that will develop a shift in your resume.

For instance, I’ve become the project lead for a new exhibit focusing on the drug addiction and treatment of women and children in Afghanistan (side note: I’ve never done anything like this before).

I will have to dust off my rusty research skills, find funding and develop advocacy connections. But, I’ll be creating a project from start to finish. And, I’ll be doing something I’ve always wanted to do: using artistic methods to raise political awareness and ignite action

New motto: Your resume is not just a piece of paper

Go virtual

You don’t need to be in an office to get work done (and be paid for it). Places like Elance provide opportunities for would-be workers to hone (and maintain) their skills in cyberspace. Jobs range from web and graphic design to freelance writing.

Anything goes – you can be a ghost blogger or virtual assistant.

Nudge: Cyberspace is your friend…really

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Photo Credit: Lutz-R. Frank @Flickr

Photo Credit: Lutz-R. Frank @Flickr

Creating complexity, meaning and autonomy in your professional life is not done through the 1-2-3 step process. For the best results, steps 1 and 2 may occur simultaneously while step 3 may not be readily achieved until you finish a part of step 4.

Generally, if you are interested in gaining meaningful employment, you will have to do more than utilize brains and talent. Additionally, you will have to create work for yourself that is beyond your usual 9 to 5 job.

Develop a Curriculum

This means that even though you are no longer in a classroom (or…maybe you are), you are not exempt from teaching yourself new skills or honing present ones. There are several ways to touch upon your desired area of expertise.

One way to get an idea on what an industry is studying (or learning) is check out trade magazines and professional associations. Decide what area you want to concentrate on (Research? Sales? Development?).

This doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school formally – but you do need to develop self-discipline (especially if you find yourself in a career rut). Libraries and public lectures are other great ways to connect with (free) learning.

Upside: You get to pick and choose what subjects interest you and focus on learning them

Downside: Reading, listening, learning – rinse, repeat.

The proof is in the pudding

Do work that naturally attracts your interests. This can range from performing projects outside your scope of responsibility at your present job to extensive volunteer work.  Career multiplicity is about juggling the interests with the ideas – don’t be too caught up in specific roles (for example, only wanting to concentrate on marketing or only performing “management” type work).

Set projects up for yourself that reflect what you want to learn and do.  As a result, you’ll have a distinguishable set of work that is tangible to prospective employers and shows evidence of your (extremely marketable) skills.

To begin, develop a Project/Skill Wish List. Essentially, divide your skills and talents into two categories – things you want to create and things you want to learn.

For example, you may want to create a community garden in your neighborhood (project) and want to learn about grant writing and research (skill). Keep writing out ideas (don’t worry about how ridiculous or prosaic they seem). Sort out the ones that seem relevant to your immediate interests -start working on those first.

Upside: You’ll get in the thick of things by creating goals

Downside: Deciding between workable skills and doable projects

Find a Sponsor

You don’t have to create a start-up if you don’t want to (or, aren’t ready). On a smaller scale, if you have an idea that you want to test out – but need financial backing, research opportunities through entrepreneurial incubators.

Also, sponsorship doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of money – it can be in the form of providing space (a venue/facility), time (mentoring/networking connections) or materials (donating goods/services that will help promote or develop your idea).

Upside: Connecting your work with others  (sometimes on your terms)

Downside: Running into naysayers (who won’t connect with your work no matter what)

Critique Thought Leaders

Emerging fields, old stand-bys and everything in between all have thought leaders. You won’t get far (in your own intellectual thinking) if you nod your head in agreement with every last one of them. Challenge yourself by instigating an alternative viewpoint.

The easiest way to express those ideas? Blog it. And, while you are at it – create a community that can rally around your ideas.

Upside: Becoming a thought leader

Downside: Pissing off a thought leader

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The Importance of Serendipity

Photo Credit: babelita @Flickr

Photo Credit: babelita @Flickr

During open gallery hours, L is talking to a woman about the Congo Women project. She came in after seeing a sign detailing our exhibit in one of the space’s windows.

L is telling her about all the other work she hopes to fund, specifically, our forced labor initiative. 

The woman calls L a few days later. Over the phone, she tells her that someone is interested in funding the work needed to produce the case studies and the photography. It turns out that the woman is a donor advisor to an anonymous family.

Now, as a result of learning about AWP, the family will donate $50,000 to our Human Trafficking project.

Will $50,000 finish the work?

No.

But, it will give us a great start.

At tonight’s meeting, L says the bank called her to confirm the address of our organization. So, it’s real. Really real. No applications, no forms or LOI’s to muddle through.

Earlier on the phone with the donor advisor, L asks, “Just like that?”

Yep. Just like that.

No knock on wood. No crossed fingers. Not one piggy flying in the sky. In a world where balance sheets can dwindle to zero in the blink of an eye, it’s more than miraculous to believe that money can fall out of nowhere… and right into your lap.

Opportunities arrive when you most need them or when least expected.  So, just to keep yourself sane, hold out a little expectation for serendipity as well. And when that happens, you can feel a lot better about what luck truly means.

Just like that.

Update: Our Human Trafficking Project (recently renamed “At what price…?”) got additional funding from the International Labor Organization – so we are fully funded to pursue and finish the case studies and photography. I’ll keep you updated on what happens next…

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Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Narrowing your scope – keeping your eyes on the (stupid) prize

Instead of broadening your vision for the future, you’re worrying (a bit too much) about finding your next job. Obviously, if you have bills to pay and mouths to feed – your sense of urgency is more immediate.

Yet, even with (or without) those things, the unemployed rigidly stick to making it next to the hurdle. Remember: it’s only during the breaks and stop gaps that we get to recoup, reinvent and restabilize where our career and life are heading.

In the end, a job is what you want – but that narrow focus can cause you to miss other opportunities that may not present themselves again. The problem is not finding a job – it is keeping yourself sane (and satisfied) while you look for one.

The trick: Remembering what you like to do when you actually had this much time on your hands

Expecting more of the same (over and over again)

In other words, your Plan A is also your Plan B, and C and so on. As a seasoned job hopper, I’ve always been able to bounce back. I’m not going to blame the economy or my (lack of) willpower (OK, maybe just a little).  Instead, the disease of my indifference to job hopping  can be a suitable scapegoat for this scenario.

Job hopping is not always hopping up – sometimes you need to slip a rung or two if you want to add to your skill arsenal. If you jump from one professional venture to the other without much forethought, you may doom yourself to unrealistic expectations of the job market (and your place in it).

This is tricky territory because job hopping has a mixed bag of positives and negatives. In this case, if you have been job hopping within an industry in a downturn –  reasonably tweak your expectations. If you are looking for a career change, be prepared to make broad exceptions.

Question to answer: Is it time for career change, industry change or a change altogether?

Embracing Agoraphobia – in a big way

Some of the (un)expected side effects of joblessness is the amount of freedom and time that is suddenly thrust upon you. Nonetheless, you haven’t left the house in days. Maybe, like most job seekers, you are patrolling Internet job sites, mass emailing potential employers, contacts and God-knows-who else.

You’re glued to your computer looking for opportunities that might not be there. Yet, a lot of this activity is solitary in nature and only compounds the reality that you are not in an office or surrounded by other people. 

Life becomes radically different when the usual 8 hours is not dictated by someone else. It feels liberating… at first. Yet, for some, the sheer velocity of trying to maintain and create a centered routine can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the task of being active outside your home as well as within it.

If you go somewhere as prosaic as a coffee shop and read The Onion – that’s fine. Immerse yourself in an environment where there will be people, voices, noise and activity.

If you are introverted (like me) you’ll only leave as soon as you get there to relieve yourself of the stress of being in a crowded environment. Don’t. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with the world outside your home.

Don’t sequester yourself from it.

Today’s Task: Leave the house. Immediately.

You aren’t working for free

Unemployment doesn’t mean unproductive. When given 8 hours to do whatever we see fit – the monkeys start to escape from the cages.  Volunteering while you are out of work can be your saving grace. You already know that the best job development comes at the highest price: your time.

So, don’t waste hours in front of a Monster job board when you could be learning something you always wanted.

Or, if you find the right opportunity, you’re developing the “defining moments” of your career. Usually, this means giving yourself the incentive to move on to something else while working on something new.

Semantics vs. Perspective: Think of it as a job sabbatical

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gift1Bad News: Massive Layoffs have pushed Unemployment to 6.7%
Good News: 93.3 % of us still have jobs

Are you helping anybody else find one?

The news of additional job layoffs is especially disheartening around the holidays.

Spread some goodwill by keeping on the lookout for jobs in your industry or company and connecting them to others in need of employment.

When we work to help others, we inevitably help ourselves. This is no time to be selfish, hunker down and hope to ride out the storm unscathed.

Link others with opportunities so you strengthen your connection to the investment pool of goodwill. In doing so, you’ll discover the ROI will be tenfold.

And besides, at this time of year – the best gift is the one that keeps on giving.

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???My name has two realities. In one, I am a lawyer living in Chicago who specializes in commercial litigation. In another, I’m a writer living in Chicago who enjoys blogging.

The two realities are separate and real – I find it eerie all the same.

While still in high school, I applied to get my state ID and was forced to bring my mother and a yearbook to verify my identity.

It seems that the other Raven Moore’s picture was mistakenly connected with my information.

So, instead of my information popping up in the system, some “other” Raven Moore would pop up with my personal information attached to their picture.

Another time, a few years ago, I went to my alma mater’s yearly alumni event. A fellow alumni noticed my nametag and commented that he worked with a “Raven Moore” – but thought it was funny I wasn’t actually her.

“Small world,” he says.

Is it really a small world when someone else has the same name as you?

When I make appointments at my salon, they have to ask me which Raven Moore I am. They have several.

Another time, while working with a Chicago literacy program, I received an email detailing a list of volunteers and members. The email asked to make sure name spellings and bio information were correct.

I complained that my information was wrong – hey, I’m not a lawyer!

In reality, the aforementioned attorney Raven Moore, was a member of the organization as well – they forget to put the other Raven Moore (me) on the list.

Weird.

And annoying as hell, too.

Besides feeling like my life is occasionally re-enacting that weird X-Files episode where Kathy Griffin played a psychotic twin, I don’t really have any interest in differentiating my name.

I think it would just get even more confusing: R. Moore, Raven A. Moore, Raven A.M. Moore (yes, I have two middle names) – it’ll just make things unnecessarily complicated.

Briefly, I thought about changing my name to a symbol like that guy Prince, but even he got wise to how stupid that seemed.

And, what’s even more disturbing is when I Googled my name last year, the first few sites that popped up linked to a porn star and kindergarten beauty pageant queen.

What were my parent’s thinking?! This takes hating my name to a whole new level.

Despite otherwise, I do like my name. It suits me. It’s also memorable, easy to spell and poetic.

I haven’t thought much about the other Raven Moores in Chicago who get confused for me (if ever).

It’s enough trouble trying to keep my hairdresser from dying my hair blond because the other Raven Moore liked it so much.

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