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Catapulting Your Career as a Black Woman in Corporate America

As a Black woman in corporate America, it's hard not to notice all the stereotypes that attempt to castrate the intellect and confidence of black women. When Black women use their voices to defend their opinions or perspectives about work-related projects, the stigmatized “angry black women” persona, shields the truth and value of the message. As a result, Black women have been using the “code-switching” approach, to navigate their way up the corporate ladder. Harvard Business Review revealed that many women participate in code-switching, which involves embracing the dominant culture or vernacular among certain groups (like co-workers, for example) and switching to a more authentic self when around friends and family.

But honestly, how long can you operate at a high level without being your authentic self? Although, a better question may be, why should you have to?

In recent years, being authentic to yourself and others has not only benefited overall wellness, but has also been the preferred version of the customer marketplace. Being authentic sells! So, spending your best years in the corporate workplace, while building a financial future for your family, should not be a time for counterfeit personas.

Here are 4 tactics you can use to help catapult your career up the corporate ladder, without compromising your genuineness.

1. Take your seat at the table, it will not be given.

There is always a time to speak and a time for silence. It’s vital to understand the difference and when to do either one. As a Black woman in the corporate workforce, you must take your seat at the table. When you feel you can apply for that position, or ask for that increase, speak up. When you have ideas that could potentially result in you leading the efforts, bring it up at the next meeting. If you have a boss that you feel is stifling your growth, share your ideas with your sponsors and mentors in the company and get guidance on how you can get it executed. You oversee your own destiny. You can’t always depend on others to invite you to the table, sometimes you have to bring your own chair.

2. Read, learn, and grow without ceasing.

Knowledge is power. Learning is forever. As you grow your career, you can’t get complacent, nor believe the same expertise that got you here will get you there. Set personal growth goals to elevate your knowledge and soft skills. For example, dedicate to reading two books per month, financially invest in your professional development every quarter in order learn a new skill. Your manger may have budget that's allocated to professional development, so don't be afraid to ask. You’ll be surprised at how opportunities will come your way while climbing the corporate ladder when you are prepared. Having a diverse mindset will open doors where your co-workers may not be able to enter. Make learning your superpower.

3. Never shrink, be the unapologetic version of the intellectual you.

Many times, we tend to shrink ourselves in the face of our superiors in fear of their retaliation or rejection. Even though managers should uplift and trust the talent of their teams, this isn’t always the case. When we know more than our immediate team lead or manager, we tend to back down in fear of them thinking we will take their jobs. Well, it’s not your job to control their emotions, but it is your job to be the best version of you 24/7. So, you should be encouraged to be the unapologetic version of the intellectual you! Once you release that pressure of having to shrink, you will begin to soar in your career - inside and outside the office.

4. Negotiate your salary – you’re definitely worth every penny.

A survey done by revealed the following:

🙅🏾‍♀️ Most women simply do not negotiate at all. Only 16 percent of respondents always negotiate compensation when a job offer is made or during performance evaluations.

🙅🏾‍♀️ Women are not as good at negotiating for themselves as they are for others. Only 15 percent of the respondents strongly believed they are effective negotiators.

What was most interesting, they found that women equated their salary value to their personal value and their perceived value within their organization.

Take a moment to think about when the last time you’ve renegotiated your salary? You have to adjust your mindset by knowing the monetary value you feel you are worth, according to what you can bring to the table, then fight for that salary at your next interview. Chances are, the salary you come up with, is below what you’re worth. A mindset shift like this doesn’t come overnight, but take practice and exercise like any other muscle.

Use these tactics as you journey through the corporate workplace. You will see significant growth in your finances and overall well-being.

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