The Competitive Advantage To Being Black

How your ethnicity can advance your career

candidates realize ethnicity is not the single determining factor for hires or promotions. “You still have to deliver results, and expect to deliver at a higher level. You still have to know that your mistakes will be magnified relative to the mistakes of others. You still must be vigilant in your social interactions in the workplace,” Watson says. “But if you are all those things, then for the first time in a long, long time, your ethnicity will be your advantage.”

Experts agree that the psychological weight black professionals carry about how they are perceived in an organization is probably the biggest obstacle to why many don’t use ethnicity to their advantage. Here are several ways it can be leveraged:

Stop hiding it on your resumé. “We were trained at one time to sanitize our biographies, to remove any trace of ethnicity for fear that we would be removed from the process,” says Watson. But today, your resumé should provide a full and total picture of who you are and what you represent. “If you’re a member of a certain sorority or fraternity, list it. If you are the president of the black student union, list it. Don’t make it hard for people to find you. You can assist recruiters by self-identifying.”

Don’t be a silent participant. Roldan says many minorities walk into an organization feeling disadvantaged, wondering how they will be treated and regarded, and underestimating the wealth of knowledge and experience they offer simply because of who they are ethnically and culturally. They should not be afraid to engage colleagues in cultural issues, topics, and concerns that relate to clients, customers, or new markets, or even to further the diversity efforts of the company by mentoring other blacks and bringing in people of color, says Roldan. Watson concurs: “If somebody is from the West Coast and the company is looking at expanding to the West Coast, they usually look at that person and ask ‘What do you think?’ It’s only around race where we don’t do that. So people need to stop moving away from providing their expertise relative to markets that they know intimately for fear of being typecast or pigeonholed as ‘the black person.’”

Learn the culture. “We have to understand the rules of a corporation, the rules of engagement, early on,” explains Roldan. “Those who have been successful have been able to retain their own identity and learn how to play within the confines of that specific corporate entity — and each corporation is different.” Knowing the culture helps employees clearly determine the expectations and values, as well as how to form the most beneficial alliances and how to get recognized for accomplishments. “You have to know corporate politics,” continues Roldan. “So if you’re a high performer, [you know how] to go about tooting your own horn or have others toot it for you.”
Reporting by Chauntelle Folds

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