Fake It Till You Make It

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about when it is okay to “Fake it”.  My philosophy is when I know I’m the minority (whether it is race, gender or age), it’s important that I am always one of the best – if not the best at what I do.  I must admit, sometimes that means I have to “fake it till I make it”.  You may be wondering what I mean by the term “fake it till I make it”, well here are a few key rules I stand by:

  1. If I am in a meeting and we are discussing something in my expertise and I’m not familiar with it.  I don’t ask questions in the meeting, I always wait until after the meeting and ask a trusted colleague and/or research the topic myself.
  2. When I am speaking and someone asks a question that is not in my field of expertise and I don’t have the answer.  I articulate clearly that is not my functional area, which is why I don’t have the answer and I point the individual in the right direction.
  3. If I am assigned a stretch project that I need assistance with I always reach out to a trusted colleague and/or friend in my functional expertise for assistance.

I was surprised when I realized the amount of knowledge I have compared to alot of people that have more years of experience than me.  I attribute alot of that to my ability to “fake it till I make it”.  Even if I don’t know how to do something or I’m not familiar with a specific concept.  I always find the resources to learn, rather then taking the stand of “I don’t know” or “I can’t do that”.

Many professionals “act” like they know alot but I have found the more I learned through school and on the job training, I know more than most of the people around me with significantly more experience.

I am not a perfectionist but I do like to be the best! As a minority, I am aware that I am always going to be a target.  Therefore, I try to be 110% prepared at all times and if I do get blindsided by anything – I “Fake it Till I Make It”!

What do you do?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

What Part of Me Don’t You Like?

three women silhoutteI recently had a conversation with a friend and colleague in the Organization Development field about bias and discrimination I’ve experienced as a female.  As I began to give examples of times when I have felt discriminated against, I realized that I never know what part of me people don’t like.  I consider myself a triple threat, black, female and young.  In a professional environment, any one of these elements can cause people to feel threatened.  As the conversation continued, it occurred to me that throughout my career and my personal life I never really feel like I’m being discriminated against because of my gender.  I always assume it’s due to my age or race. Now I really do wonder, which part of who I am today is more threatening, my age, gender or race?

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Personal Development, Self Awareness, Storytelling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are People Intimidated By Me?

I am passionate about my work and find it important to express that passion when working with my clients. I recently had an interaction with a client where I felt very strongly that the client was not setting up their team for success. As an Organization Development consultant this is the nature of my work, I work at the system, team and individual level to support development, increase performance, and build more cohesive and effective teams. I struggle a lot on when to be passive and when to be aggressive. This is a challenge because I am very aware how I show up as a young, woman of color. Being aggressive at work as a female, tends to get you the “bitch” label. Can you be really successful if you aren’t aggressive? Can nice girls really get the corner office?

Strong Black WOman

I pride myself on being a “logical” and strategic thinker. I expect my logic and sense of understanding the current situation to give me the insight into my interactions. I do believe it can be detrimental as a female, especially a female of color to be seen as “too” aggressive. For me, there is a delicate balance between expressing my passion, beliefs and values while not hindering my career development.

The question becomes as a woman of color can you be vocal about your passions and opinions and still get the corner office? Thoughts?

Posted in Career Development, Intimidation, Professional | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Help

 Spoiler Alert

I recently saw The Help and really enjoyed it.  I never read the book, so I was entering into the movie fairly blind.  As I was watching the movie I began thinking about how the movie so eloquently speaks to my vision for starting this blog.  The Help is about a group of black maids that are just trying to make it in a world that doesn’t see them as equal or adding value.  These maids spend their days cooking, cleaning and taking care of other women’s children.  They are disrespected, devalued, ridiculed and humiliated.

The main character, Aibileen Clark, is presented with an opportunity to make a change in a small but impactful way by putting her imprint on the civil rights movement.  Her voice needed to be heard, and she needed a little push to take the risk.  The risk is not only for her but for all the women that witnessed her stepping outside of her comfort zone to move closer to her purpose in life.  One by one others come to join her in this endeavor; they begin to share their stories and teach other black women that their voice and their story can make a difference.

These women not only tell stories about their lives as maids, but they recognize the power of sharing their stories.  The experience of sharing is what attracts more women to step outside of their comfort zones.  The keys to storytelling are the 5 W’s and an H:  who, what, where, when, why and how.  (I’m sure many of you remember this from primary school.)  If these six things are clearly addressed it allows the reader the opportunity to really learn from the story.

Storytelling is what 6by30 is all about. The topics are meant to spur conversation for you, the reader, so you can share your own stories and provide advice.  This is how we inspire each other.  When is the last time you told your story?  If you’re thinking, “What story?”  I’m talking about the story that is pivotal to understanding how you became who you are today.  Remember, when I talked about The Johari Window?  Is this story in your “hidden” window, something that only you know about.  If so, have you thought of how powerful it would be for you to share?

Follow in Aibileen’s footsteps and share your story by commenting!

Posted in Personal, Personal Development, Risk Taking, Self Awareness, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Introverts or Extraverts more successful?

“Success” has a very personal measure. One person’s measure of success may be monetary, while another’s is doing something they love.  However, it is important to know and be aware of your personality type.

There are tools that can aid you in this self-discovery, such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  Both introverts and extraverts have strengths and opportunities.  As a functioning extravert, I enjoy partnering with introverts because it allows me the opportunity to think aloud and receive meaningful feedback.  This may be why I ended up marrying an introvert.  I’m not sure if introverts enjoy partnering with me, but I definitely leverage their tools to actively listen and articulate succinctly.

For example, when I choose colleagues to brainstorm with I include both introverts and extraverts.  This diversity allows for a level of thoughtfulness I’m not always able to give and don’t always receive from extraverts.  This perspective is very helpful and valuable for me.  It normally takes me longer to get to that thoughtful place than individuals that innately focus from an internal perspective.

It is important for introverts and extraverts to have the ability to switch when necessary and appropriate.  If an introvert has the ability to function as an extrovert, this provides them a great tool.  They can operate as an extravert and speak at a moment when needed but still pull together thoughtful responses.  The same goes for an extravert, if an extravert has the ability to focus on their internal world versus the external environment, it provides them additional flexibility and growth as a person.

I demonstrate this a lot, my first inclination is to put my thoughts and ideas into the room.  However, I have learned fairly skillfully to contain this when needed.  There are times when it’s important to actively listen and take in your external environment.  For instance, I am skilled at modeling after experts and turning their expertise into my own original skill.  In a previous role years ago, I facilitated several enterprise-wide strategic sessions for a large corporation, which at the time was a stretch assignment.  I ended up becoming an expert because I took the time to listen and model after subject matter experts and then used my verbal communication skills to deploy my learning’s.  This was an invaluable tool that I’ve learned to use in all aspects of my life.

Now, I can revert to introversion when I feel like I’m not being heard, which is not a good technique. If I am in a room and I put out a thought and it’s not heard for whatever reason (gender, age, race, etc) I tend to shut down my extraversion and begin to internalize more.  This is not a constructive way to leverage using this type to my advantage.  Knowing when to move between the two types is key, especially for women.  Putting our voice in the room and being heard is important in our personal and professional lives. As a woman, knowing if we are an introvert or extravert and how to leverage it is extremely important for our journey to reach our ultimate destination.

How have you leveraged your introversion or extraversion?

Posted in Personal, Professional, Self Awareness | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Playing “The Game”

How do you play the game as a black woman in the workplace?  First, you must identify what the game is—every career has a different game.  Are you competing with the white men or women on your team?  Is your boss intimidated by you?  Are you competing with your more tenured colleagues?  As women of color, we are always fighting to stay in the forefront of our careers, and it can be draining.

Croquet

The Game of Croquet

Playing the game with minimal effort and maximum impact is like mastering the game of croquet.  Very few people do it but those who do are extremely good at it.  Let’s take some well-known black women who have mastered and won their games: Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Beyonce, and Michelle Obama.  No matter what you personally think of these women, they know the game and have mastered playing it like a well oiled machine.

What I’ve learned about “playing the game” in my short seven years in the workforce is first to be self-aware.  This starts with your personal brand (<-click here).  I believe this is a necessity to excel in any career, you need to know how others experience you in order to use your full set of skills to your advantage. Secondly, be competent.  Being competent in your area of expertise is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, many times we, as black women, need to be even more competent and knowledgeable than our white counterparts.  Thirdly, everyone doesn’t need to know everything.  Sometimes we can be too trusting; everyone doesn’t need to know what you know and how you know it.  Fourth, perfect your communication skills.  This is key! I’ve learned that I can talk myself into and out of anything!  It worked for me throughout my entire academic career and has continued to work in my professional career.  Lastly, set clear goals.  If you are clear on your end goal, it’s a lot easier to stay on path and prevent road blocks.

Sometimes we feel like we don’t want to be a part of the “rat race” or “the game”.  No matter what we say or what our careers are, we are all playing the game.  It’s a balancing act – how to reach our ultimate goals (whether that’s raising your kids or becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 company).  The game is just a scary term for knowing how to navigate the system (whatever the system is).  It’s being clear on who you are, making the appropriate relationships (always have a champion and mentor), knowing what to say and what not to say, understanding how to effectively balance work and your personal life, and finally always doing your best at everything you do!

How have you learned to play the game?

Posted in Career Development, Personal, Professional, Self Awareness | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Your Personal Brand?

As a woman in today’s workforce, my personal brand is what drives me and is the first thing people think about me.  My personal brand encompasses everything about me from my personality, the way I work, think, even down to my online presence (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).  Personal brand extends far beyond what I do in the workplace.  It is how I am everyday and every moment of my life.

We are always shaping our personal brands and the important thing to remember is to market our brand.  There are many aspects about ourselves that we take for granted, not realizing these are unique traits that shape our brand.  For example, one of my strengths is adapting to difficult situations.  It took me moving half-way around the world to discover this (more to come in future posts).  This is a unique trait, as not many people have the ability or skills to tackle it.  It took awhile for me to realize that was part of my “brand”, and as I started looking for new opportunities both professionally and personally I was able to successfully sell that as part of my brand.

A wise woman and friend, Martha Haile, told me that everyone should have a personal mission, vision and goals–the same as a successful company–and I fully agree.  What is your purpose both personally and professionally?  Clarify that as your mission.  If you could achieve your most outrageous destiny, what would it be?  That is your vision.  Next, think about where you are now, and start to map tangible steps you can achieve to reach your vision.  These are your goals or objectives.

My Definitions:
Mission – A summary of your purpose and values in life
Vision – Describes a desirable state that you want to obtain sometime in the future; may seem unreachable now but it’s your ultimate goal
Goals (Objectives) – These are specific milestones set within a pre-determined period of time (annually, quarterly, or monthly) that help you reach your vision.  Your goals should be updated when necessary.

Ladder of Inference

Ladder of Inference

I realized my values, beliefs and ideals are the foundation of my personal brand.  I show up in the world based on my core beliefs, which affect my thoughts, my ideas and my actions.  It’s similar to Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference (on left).  We all observe data (experiences), decide what data to take in (normally based on our beliefs), add meaning based on our experiences, make assumptions (normally based on our values, beliefs and ideals), draw conclusions, adopt beliefs about how the world is and how we need to show up, and finally take action.

Sometimes the need for self-reflection and requesting candid, open feedback from trusting people is important to gain insight into how you show up.  This is essential in shaping your personal brand.  It’s imperative that we are aware of our strengths, development areas and blind spots.  See the Johari Window (below) for a framework to identify your blind spots.

Johari's Window

The Johari Window

We all have these four panes in our window:

  1. What I know about myself and others know about me
  2. What others know about me that I don’t know about myself
  3. What is not known to me or others about myself
  4. What I know about myself and others don’t

I bring up these tools because it is critical for us as women to be deliberate in creating and selling our brand.  These tools can help us understand our true strengths, especially those strengths we are not fully aware of.

We all have blind spots and see the world in a certain way because of who we are at the core.  I have to continually remind myself that this all plays into my personal brand which is a consistent challenge and learning experience for me to grow.

How have you developed your personal brand?  What questions do you have?

Posted in Mentoring, Personal, Professional, Self Awareness | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Important Is Your Job Title?

What’s more important: Your job title or your scope of responsibility?

As people, especially women, move up their career ladder, is it more important to land a job with a privileged title or a larger scope of responsibility?  As a young woman of color in Corporate America, I would have to go with the latter.  Throughout my career, I have always focused on what experience I can get out of my positions.

My first position was in a leadership development program with a large defense contractor.  This was the perfect position to jump-start my career because it allowed me to rotate through several core areas within my discipline.  I had the title “leadership development participant” for two years.  During my time in the program, it allowed me not to worry about my job title but solely on the experience I would gain from each position.  This was important because emerging from the program, no one was concerned with my title but instead the experience I received.

This became a challenge because I found myself being thrown into departments that were not considered core areas within my discipline.  When I looked at my fellow leadership development participants it was grossly evident that the white men got the most sought after rotations. Next came men of color and white women, and last came women of color (specifically black women).  I fought for each of my rotations and was lucky enough to have mentors that supported my development and growth.  By fighting for experience rather than a job title, I had the opportunity to gain an unimaginable amount of experience and knowledge in a short period of time.

I have always been more focused on finding a job with growing responsibility versus a “sweet” title.  It has worked for me so far.  I have never had a manager title but I have had the responsibility of managing people both directly and indirectly.  I am able to market myself as an influential leader, a leader that not only leads by positional power but also by influence.  My job title didn’t provide me that ability, I obtained it because I found jobs that gave me those opportunities.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Career Development, Professional | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Welcome to Six By Thirty!

Welcome to “Six By Thirty – A Black Female’s Guide to Career Success“!  A concept based on the idea of making six figures by the age of thirty. This blog is not about ranting on how hard it is to be a black woman in today’s workforce but to offer an outlet to discuss, share stories, offer tools and provide inspiration to others.  As a new generation emerges in the workforce, it’s important to give back to other women of color.  This blog gives back in the form of storytelling, lessons learned, advice and inspiration to reach our goals.  Your goal may not be “6 (Figures) By 30” and that’s the beauty of sharing – our goals may differ but in each story is a lesson of perseverance, knowledge gained, barriers overcome and dreams reached.  Life is a journey, not a destination….this blog is for us to share our journey’s and help each other down the paths to our ultimate destination.

Posted in Intoduction | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments