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Archive for the tag “women in the workplace”

It’s All Practice

The longer we live and the more experiences we gain, we should start noticing some patterns if we are smart.

Over and over, I keep finding that EVERYTHING, every moment, every experience, every success, failure and mistake is essential to our growth and essential to our preparation for the “What’s Next” moment that’s going to show up.

It’s funny how we (I include myself in this) are always looking for the next big thing. We’re looking for the next relationship if we’re single (I hope you aren’t if you are married, lol), we’re thinking about the next job, the next promotion and we are thinking about all of the steps it’s going to take to get there. Then we get to there, and we’re looking for the next.

It’s sad and ridiculous all at the same time, but it keeps life interesting and it makes sense. As long as we’re breathing, we have the capacity to learn something new, do something new, change something we don’t like about ourselves, make a new friend or get rid of trifling folks who don’t add any value. We’re always rebuilding new cells, and shedding hair. Our nails grow, so it’s natural to always be in some kind of transition because our bodies are doing this every single day too. We’re healing ourselves even if it’s from a cold we caught, to pain someone may have caused us when we were a kid.

So ok, we’re always going to be looking for the next thing.

But just as we grow hair, shed dead skin, the things we are doing daily are kind of like those unglamorous changes we go through each day, there are unglamorous tasks we are doing consciously and subconsciously in an effort to move us forward and prepare us for whatever the new “next” is.

There are times especially professionally or in our love lives where we don’t see what’s at work, even in the small things we do each day.

I’m learning to examine those things and try to see new opportunities in everything.

I was recently bothered at work by how it seemed like the really talented people get overlooked or seen as a threat, meanwhile others boast and brag about mediocre things, or they talk to hear themselves talk, or create more problems so they can “solve” them and make themselves look better.

I’ve found that some people would rather create their own problems they can swoop in and solve to keep a job because they fear that actually solving the problem means there’s no need for them anymore.

That kind of thinking is operating in fear. There will always be new problems even after you solve the old ones. Have faith that people will be so impressed with how you handled the first problem that it’s a no-brainer that they’ll need you for the next.

And have faith you’ll have the skills to meet the new “next” head on.

I’ve been learning that the difficult people you are dealing with today are probably slightly more difficult than the most difficult person you’ve ever dealt with or slightly less difficult than the most difficult person you’ve ever dealt with.

That first person is your new lesson because you’re about to have to deal with someone much worse. You’ll need those skills and new ones to defeat the new beast. The last person is a reminder that you’ve dealt with worse and can deal.

Any opportunity you have to present or be in front of an office or lead a meeting take it and take it seriously. Be organized.

I learned this lesson this week when all of a sudden an informal meeting I was leading started to grow larger and larger when my supervisor noticed that I was organized and that people were engaged, expected to be ready to contribute and actually looking forward to it.

I turned around and started seeing that he extended invites to the project manager and people outside of my team who really had nothing to do with what this meeting was about.

This was my opportunity to put on a clinic. If there were things that I didn’t like about how meetings were run, well, this was my meeting. Instead of bitching about it, I had the power to show them how it’s done. And it took a very successful friend to point this out to me.

“As much as you say they are haters, he invited hater number one, two and three to your meeting. I work with idiots all of the time, and there are some smart idiot managers. The smart idiot managers tend to want to learn from people who they’ve identified as smart and organized. They may take all of the credit, but they know they need you and you can stack the deck in your favor. You can always stack the deck in your favor once you know this.”

So I’ve also decided that how I execute this meeting isn’t about the haters. It’s about me preparing myself. If I’ve said that I want to go back to the White House someday to talk about health disparities or before Congress, there are going to be far more important people who may not like me or what I have to say and the stakes will be much higher. So why not practice right now for that moment with this one little meeting with just a handful of haters…

Women, Negotiation and the $10,000 Rule

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s a monster out here in terms of the job market and finding the right gig.

I read a disappointing, and yet truthful article this morning about how the way folks work and do business has shifted and that we basically will never see the days of staying with companies for 20 years, pensions, retirement and such.

As the world gets smaller, thanks to technology, only the hustlers and entrepreneurs will survive. Period. You’ve got to get your own hustle and work it to death and stack your money on your own terms.

It’s interesting that after reading this article with my breakfast, later I found myself  talking to a young woman at work, who I just love and want to see her do well. She has the same apprehensions I had as a young woman around 25, 26.

Her jaw dropped when I told her with a serious and straight face that I always ask for $10,000 more than my current salary for any new job.

A male I was dating, years ago gave me that successful gem, and I’ve never backed down from it. These days, I have dropped to as low as $8,000, but I simply cannot afford to go lower.

That’s bad business for my brand.

I am a single woman living in the DC area. It ain’t cheap. I gotta eat, pay rent alone and just live. Period.

And with my years of experience and what I’m bringing to the table, any move I make, I’m not doing it for less than $8-10,000 above my current salary. Period.

The young lady was shocked. She said in these times no one can afford to be so commanding.

I told her in these times, I can’t afford to work for less than what I am worth. I am a woman, I am automatically paid less than men. I am a woman of color, I’m often already paid less than my white, female counterparts.

The young lady I was talking to is a latina. I told her, asking for that amount is simply trying to break even. It’s basic math.

With time, you do build confidence. I explained to her, if I hadn’t asked for more money during various periods, the company would have never given it to me.

The second year with my company, I presented the evidence and I got an 8 percent increase to go along with the incremental increases we got annually. But at rates of 1 or 2 percent for those annual increases– if there aren’t any freezes that year– you still aren’t gaining much ground.

Closed mouths don’t get fed.

If I didn’t get the bump I got in the spring, If I never asked for the increase I got a few years ago, the pay cut we had to take in the fall would have been catastrophic.

Women, if you are putting in the work, and you have proven your worth you have to ask for the compensation.

You just have to.

You can’t be afraid. They can tell you no, but at least they know where your head is at and that if you do leave, they can’t be surprised because you did ask them for more money.

I’m not saying march up to your bosses’ office and demand a raise during crazy times, after a bunch of layoffs. No.

You have to read the climate of the economy and where the company is financially, before you have that serious talk with your boss.

Even in low times, it doesn’t hurt to remind folks that you have weathered the storm, contributed greatly and you want to be remembered for your dedication and service when times are good and the company has rebounded a bit.

Companies are always about their bottom line.

Women, we need to be about ours too. We cannot be martyrs.

Men have a tendency to not have a problem with feeling like they deserve more money than what they are getting. They’ll tell everyone so. Including their bosses.

There was a young man on my job, who had only been around for six months and was actually insulted by the 2 percent bump folks automatically got around review time.

Don’t be delusional, but don’t be a fool by not at least asking for what you deserve and what is an appropriate salary for your position and the region in which you live. Folks need to come correct at least in those areas, if nothing else.

And in my opinion, my male friend was right. $10,000 is the magic number.

By the time you are excited about a $5,000 raise, unless you are working at your dream job and most of your daily stresses have been completely removed, taxes have sucked out a good $2,000 and you’ll hardly feel it.

So tell me, am I nuts for thinking folks should tell a potential new job to shove it if they aren’t offering an increase of at least $8-10,000?

Isn’t the point of a new job/promotion to advance?

Are women getting better at the art of negotiation? Or are we still trying to keep the peace?

And I hate that. How is asking for what you deserve rocking the boat? I hate when women say, they don’t want to rock the boat or cause trouble because they had the nerve to ask for more money. Trust me, companies are counting on you not to speak up.  Once again, folks need to know where you stand and that you are aware of what you bring to the table, and that you know that they know you may not be getting properly compensated.

I’m just saying…

As Beyonce says, “Eff you, pay me.”

*Sidenote. Please have proof that you are killing it in the work place. Write down your accomplishments, save emails from superiors who praise successful tasks, bring back info from conferences… etc. If you are a lazy, unproductive bum, do not march your raggedy self anywhere asking for more money. Please have a seat.

On Office Mentorship: Be A Good Example First

Oh to be young and early in your career.

I think I’ve stressed many other times in this blog that when you are a young person in the office, you have to seek out allies and people to vent to in a safe environment. You need people who can speak a good word about you and increase your interoffice PR, and eventually you need somebody who will be an awesome non-direct supervisor reference (but still can vouch for your current work abilities) for the day you finally want to leave.

It’s been happening slowly, but a young woman on my job has been dropping by for some nuggets on how to navigate the culture of our office.

It’s wild because I’ve been so busy going to my office rock and getting advice and support from her. I love, love, love that woman. She is a great listener and so supportive. She pumps me up and tells me how wonderful I am even when I feel like I’m the biggest loser on earth going nowhere fast, destined to shrivel up and just die unfulfilled and unappreciated.

I didn’t notice it at first when the young woman would just ask a question here and there or my opinion on a situation.

I recently talked to her about her growing responsibilities and how when I was a younger person in the newsroom, I just expected to be told what to do and to do what I was told because well, I was taught to respect my elders and older people and surely they knew what was best because, they were older and they were the editors. And I was happy to just have a job in the field I studied. I would do anything to stay. I feel horrible for today’s recent graduates. It’s even worse.

After a lot of heartache and drama, I had to learn that I wasn’t hired to be anyone’s whipping post. I was hired because I had talent and a brain, and that it was my right to remind people what I was hired for, tell them my limitations and think of creative and efficient ways to get the additional things done, while improving my regular responsibilities and growing as a reporter and writer.

When you get hired for a job, you should feel like you are a partner and not a workhorse who has no say. But you have to present yourself that way and speak up when your workload is too heavy, or you’ve just been put in a situation that’s way over your head. You won’t look weak, in fact you will be organized and set a precedent for your superiors that you are honest, rational, and will speak up on things. People respect that. You can say, “I appreciate this opportunity and your faith in me, but I would like to adjust this a bit so you can get better performance from me. Let’s work on a solution together.”

So it felt good to share the knowledge that I’ve gained professionally over the years. I think she walked away feeling more empowered, and I felt good for helping her feel that way. I hope I’m saving her years of nonsense if she applies what I said. There are a number of women who have nurtured me and I really would be lost without them. Some have even stepped in the line of fire, even when they didn’t have to and in one case, even saved my job.

It’s odd, because another young woman who I really admire who used to work with me says to people all the time how I should write a book about office politics. She said, my example saved her work life. She said she used to get too personal with people and tried to make friends with everyone. She said she watched me carefully. I never ended up in any gossip, and no one had anything negative to say about me. They just knew I worked hard. I would speak to people and exchange pleasantries, but I wouldn’t go too deep. I wasn’t stern,  but I was serious. You knew I was in there meaning business.

She told me she applied some of my tactics to her new job and hasn’t been happier. I was shocked. In my mind, this woman was too brilliant for our company anyway and I was glad to see her soar in her latest opportunities. And this person credited little ol me with how she handles herself professionally. Wow.

These exchanges remind me of my passion for empowering women in the workplace and anyplace. We lift one another up and even in having someone come to me for advice, that really lifted my spirits and reminded me that people are watching. On my good days, and on my bad days, how am I handling myself? Others can see how people respond to me. What am I putting out there?

Burnt Out @ 30? Hell Yes. Forbes Says I’m Not Alone

Ambro/Freedigitalphotos.net

There are certain days where it seems your Facebook feed is just giving you exactly what you need on a day you need it most.

Yesterday, I got soaked in the rain, running to an assignment at the U.S. Capitol, only to be told the venue where a forum was being held had to be evacuated and I couldn’t get to where I needed to be (me thinks they were still trying to hunt down the man who was shooting at the White House, because he was hanging out on the Natl Mall).

In addition, I was trying to figure out how to scrape pennies together to go home to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and a package of samples for the new business I’m trying to start was being held in limbo three days beyond my supposed arrival date. I needed those samples to validate me and push me forward. Why couldn’t they have just arrived when they were supposed to? Now, because of the hours at the post office and my work schedule and commute, I have to wait to pick them up Saturday. Boo. I also came home to an unexpected misunderstanding with my rental office in the form of a letter I didn’t like, and I was just funky.

But good ol Facebook. The first message of hope came in the form of a post from a close friend who works with at-risk teens. He mentioned a 13-year-old girl came to his class with a tee shirt that said “Show me your money and I’ll be your girlfriend.” The business I am starting involves young women and positive messages and I was reminded then and there, sans my fabulous samples, I need to keep on keeping on with my project. I instantly told my friend to remember that child, because when my project is ready, I want to involve her.

The next post came in the form of a fabulous article from Forbes magazine. “Why Millenial Women Are Burning Out At Work by 30

I couldn’t help but read it.

I was wondering if I was going crazy or if I was ungrateful for being frustrated with the course of my life and how hard I was working and not really being rewarded at an equal level, the way my hard-working baby boomer parents told me things would turn out.

I was wondering if I was going crazy because I was willing and even ready to learn a new business after putting so much time, effort and a degree in a business I’d been working in in the last decade. It was scary.

It wasn’t supposed to work this way. I was supposed to become a fabulous columnist at a large newspaper and teach at a local university by 40. However, the way the media industry has been going these days, the same fabulous columnists I idolized are on the unemployment line themselves and wanting MY job. Gone are the days of working someplace for 40 years. Babyboomers are now being kicked to the curb and having their retirement funds drained by companies they were  so fiercely loyal to, who in turn, they believed would be loyal to them too.

Back to Forbes. I’m burned out. This article was so on point, and it made me feel a bit better that I wasn’t some ungrateful, little punk. Thank you Larissa Faw for saying it! A friend commented on my Facebook page that she was glad someone finally addressed this too. In closing, I’d like to share my response, which in my opinion sums up nicely how I feel about the whole thing:

See, ok. We are going to have to catch up real soon for real. There are moments where I’m like, shouldn’t I be more grateful? I should right? Then I’m like no, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more and being tired of killing myself everyday for whatever it is we are all working towards. Because of course, we all have to be striving towards something all the time, right? Something has got to give. I’m already worn out. I don’t care what anyone says. Women in our generation have a much more complicated situation than the women before us. Even though we have more wealth, education and independence, it comes at a serious cost. Not saying previous generations had it better, but where exactly are we headed? Will we even have the mental and emotional stability to enjoy whatever it is we have worked to achieve?

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