“There’s a work-life balance that comes into that–to be home with the family and children or at a bar drinking with some guys after work,” says Edmonson. “You don’t have to do it every night, but you need to build it into y
our program and make sure it’s effective. So you need to plan it just as you would plan a meeting. Make sure the right people are going to be there.”
Kirk draws up a schedule and sets aside money for networking. “I actually have a little budget that I set up for myself that says, ‘Every month I want to try to do at least this many lunches,’” she says.
Develop an internal network. One of the reasons black professionals often have a hard time with inter-office networking is because there is no clear set of blueprints on how it is done, says Jylla Moore Foster, chief executive officer of leadership training and executive coaching company Crystal Stairs Inc. and author of Due North! Strengthen Your Leadership Assets (Crystal Stairs Inc.; $24.95). That’s why, according to Giscombe, “Mentoring is the number one factor for success.”
Edmonson credits his mentor with suggesting that he get his M.B.A. so he would feel more comfortable networking with the upper-level executives in corporate America. “One of the things I didn’t do is I didn’t speak the language of business. I spoke the language of the technical guys in the organization. They were going nowhere just like I was going nowhere,” he says.
His mentor, a white, male executive, pointed that out to him and also introduced him to people in the industry that could open doors in his career. It was then that his career began to take off.
But while acknowledging the importance of having a mentor, Edmonson also notes that “Effective mentors really select people they think have potential. Not everyone who wants a mentor has potential and the mentors–especially if they are executives–have limited time and want to make sure that the people they’re working with have potential to actually climb the ladder.”
Be a success enabler, suggests Watson. Aligning your goals with those of your manager and helping him achieve them will increase your status. “The things that are important to your boss should be important to you,” he says. “They want to reward those who make them successful.”
KEEPING YOUR PROFESSIONAL STOCK HIGH
Once you’ve secured a position, or if you’ve been fortunate to have tenure with a company, you should never be secure enough to exhale, feeling overly confident in your standing. Stay uncomfortable, say the experts. “In comfort lies complacency,” explains Joe Watson, president and CEO of StrategicHire. And complacency, he believes, begets a number of professional ills: inactivity, arrogance, and weakened competitiveness.
There’s also a corporate component. “Almost all companies go through a process of qualifying who to lay off because they want to minimize lawsuits,” offers human resources consultant Ron Mason. “They put scores to it, and based on your score, you become a candidate [for being laid off]. Further to