Wanting to connect, inspire, and empower professional women of color within her community, Toni H. Lowe founded the annual PowHER Moves Women Conference back in 2018. Each year, dozens of women gather in Dallas, TX, to hear from industry leaders, coaches, and experts about how to climb the corporate ladder and/or transition into entrepreneurship. The conference also focuses on advancing equality in the workplace through activating solutions for change, support, and partnerships.
“The more conferences and professional development programs I attended the more I realized how tone-deaf the content was to the nuances of being a woman of color in corporate America,” Lowe told BLACK ENTERPRISE in an email. “Since the inaugural PowHER Moves in 2018, my vision remains the same—to give voice and advance solutions to address workplace inequities for women of color.”
She added that the 2020 summit, which took place January 25, was a success based on the attendees’ intimate access to speakers, the connections they made, and the actionable advice they received. “I count success by every encouraging note, each alliance built and the careers forever changed.”
This year at the summit, 11 speakers shared career hacks and strategies on how to thrive and level up. Here are eight tips that were shared.
Imposter Syndrome Can Be A Good Thing
Many psychologists believe that high-achieving women and professionals from underrepresented communities are more inclined to suffer from imposter syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt about one’s merits, skills, and achievements. As a result, they often suffer from a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” However, according to life and leadership coach Nicole Smith, founder of Smitn, the condition could actually be an indicator that you’ve reached some level of success in your career.
“It affects high achievers more. So in order for you to even have imposter syndrome, chances are you’re doing everything right,” said Smith. “If you’re having a moment of imposter syndrome, just [say to yourself], ‘gosh, I kind of have to be awesome to even get here and even have that feeling.”
Be an asset, not a liability
When making new connections and networking with others, Alechia Reese, the chief brand strategist of 360 Gateway Brands, advised attendees to become a useful resource for the other person rather than presenting them with a list of your needs. “In a world filled with liabilities, you’ve got to figure out how do I become an asset, especially when you’re networking up,” said Reese.
She also suggested that if you connect with a potential mentor or sponsor, take advantage of social media to research their interests and hobbies to get an idea of how you can support their goals and bring value to their lives. “I always do my research and look to see what is it that they are in need of. You don’t always have to ask someone what they need. Listen, take context queues, read through their LinkedIn.”
Hard work isn’t enough
Unfortunately, being a hard worker isn’t always going to get you a promotion and opportunities you deserve. In order to advance within your organization, it’s important to be intentional about building strategic relationships with your colleagues, hiring managers, and superior — and winning them over to become your allies. Being vocal and visible at work can also help you stay top of mind when decisions are being made about who to promote or to manage certain projects. As a result, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to connect with your colleagues at happy hours, luncheons, and team-building events.
“Your hard work is not enough,” said Jacqueline M. Baker, principal consultant and founder of Scarlet Communications. “You need advocacy on top of that.”
Lowe, who is a former Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader and a founding partner for TCT Consulting Group, shared the advice her own career coach told her about using discretion and embracing the power of silence.
“She gave me this acronym and it was called W.A.I.T.: why am I talking?,” she said. “Ask yourself three questions: does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? And does it need to be changed by me?,” she continued. “That tip changed the game for me as someone who is expressive and an over-communicator.”
Don’t Devalue Yourself
Baker told attendees not to compare themselves to others or put people on a pedestal. Instead, remember that everyone has their own journey and timeline. She suggested that you remind yourself of who you are and your own accomplishments by journaling.
“I always look at it like, this person is a human just like I’m a human. I have value, just like they have value. I think when you go into situations like that, you’re not embarrassing yourself by saying stuff you really didn’t want to say,” said Baker.
Be Clear About Your Destination
In order to realize your dreams. you must first identify, envision, and be clear about what career success looks like before you can take action. “Have some sort of idea or vision or where you what to go,” advised Reese. “In order to be intentional, you need to know what destination to put in your GPS,” she said. “You can have a Bentley full of gas or a Maserati truck….with a Global Positioning System in the car [but] if you never put a destination in, you will sit that beautiful Maserati truck in the driveway and it will never go anywhere.”
Take Advantage of Your Company’s Employee Resource Group
Adrienne Trimble, the president of the National Minority Supplier Development, advised those in need of a mentor to start their search within their organization. “For those of you who are in corporate America and are looking for a mentor, the best place to start, at least for me, was in your employee resource groups, [which] gives you access to executives who participate and show up,” she said.
It may sound like a cliche, but minimizing yourself to appease others can be self-sabotaging. ‘”One of the biggest barriers is feeling like we have to compromise our authenticity to excel,” said certified executive coach Genena W. Armstrong. “You can still be yourself and still excel.” She suggested that you always bring a certain level of yourself to whatever environment you are in while still being cognizant and respectful to the protocol or decorum at hand.