A colleague of mine, at least once a week says to me "Breathe Woman!" She means this in both the literal and figurative senses. On any given day something happens in either my personal or professional life that makes me… hold my breath.
Holding your breath is holding you back!
In the literal sense, I inhale and then fail to exhale. In the figurative sense, I hold on to something and don’t let it go. The exhale in this case is needed to relax. To relax my mind, body, and spirit so that I can stay focused. The letting go is needed for release, especially the release of the frustration and negativity that holds me back, keeps me from being productive, and prevents me from moving in a positive direction.
What happens when we literally hold our breath?
We all know that if we are deprived of oxygen for long enough, we die. It’s really that serious! Whether it’s fast or slow, when we fail to breathe, we fail to live. Here’s what happens when we hold our breath;
Anatomy tells us that breathing assists with expelling toxins from our bodies. When we hold our breath, we allow these toxins to remain, circulate throughout our bodies, and ultimately manifest. Research has also shown that failing to expel toxins from the body can decrease energy, make us age faster, and keep you in ill health.
Breathing and Releasing
Many of the same side effects of holding our breath occur when we fail to release negativity. When we engage in negative thinking, stay around negative people, or allow negative energy to invade our space, we deprive ourselves of forward movement.
When we hold on to negativity…
When we release the negativity from our lives, we free ourselves from the bondages of stagnation and mediocrity. It is stagnation and mediocrity that often prevents us from being able to see possibilities and make the necessary changes that allow us to move upward and in a direction that creates opportunity
Exhaling and Letting GO!
Science says that when you maximize your breathing you release unwanted toxins to improve your health. Health includes that which is of the mind, body, and spirit. Exhaling rids the body of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product. Letting go rids the mind of negativity, which is just a plain old waste. We need to get into the habit of seeing things for what they are and identifying whether or not those things, or people, or situations will benefit our health and wellbeing. And, when it its shown that there is no benefit, we have to learn how to remove those things from our thoughts, from our space, and not act upon or react to them.
When we can breathe and let go, we can remove the barriers that hold us back from making progress. We can be creative, we can be productive, we can be happy, we can be healthy. It is all of these that keeps us motivated and innovative.
If it hasn’t already been made clear, networking is something near and dear to me. Beyond the fascination of what can come from knowledge sharing and collaboration, being able to connect with others, and doing so effectively, as I have mentioned previously, has been a personal challenge.
In “Networking: How Men and Women do it Differently” I talked about differences in the networking behaviors of men and women, and touched on items like network size, utilization, and strategies. I also talked about access; specifically pointing out to the fact that access to the right people and networks plays a major role in receiving employment, mentoring, and career advancement.
In this post we will discuss race as a factor in networking behavior, with a focus on women of color. Women overall as we have seen, have less access to networking opportunities, often have smaller networks, and generally are not strategic in their approach to networking. This is especially the case for women of color.
Networking Access and Utilization
In understanding gender differences, it is just as or even more important to identify the racial factors that play a role in engaging in networking behaviors. Research has shown that people of color are at a disadvantage when it comes to networking for two main reasons (1) lack of access to, and (2) underutilization of professional networks.
When considering people of color who do participate in professional networks, most people of color, almost exclusively network with their own race. In studies that examined the differences in social capital from a racial perspective, it was revealed that people of color not only face inequalities in social capital externally with other races such as whites, but also internally within their own race.
From and external perspective, as a group, people of color almost exclusively use the social approach to networking. Their networks, while in some cases may be large, tend to be informal and include family, friends, and people within their community, e.g. churches and social clubs. Within these informal networks, there are hierarchies, which further prevents access to opportunity. Specifically, within a particular “community” or social group, those in the lower class have an even more difficult time attaining access. In more restricted groups, access is much harder, and more often than not, it is membership in these restricted groups that people of color need to obtain in order to be in a position to advance professionally.
The Disadvantages Women of Color Face
Women of color are especially vulnerable to being held back from career advancement because of the compounding factors of race and gender. The duality of race and gender, commonly termed “intersectionalty” has implications on not only networking, but the work environment as a whole. Research has shown that women of color in general, and in particular Africa American women, are most likely to be perceived as facing more unfair treatment in the workplace in relation to promotion and opportunities for training.
When you consider the challenges that women of color face simply by being a part of the workforce, thinking about networking from a strategic perspective becomes inconsequential. More often than not, the social approach to networking becomes the go to. There is a constant need for moral support to help deal with the obstacles faced in everyday work life.
Comparatively, women of color are the most disadvantaged when it comes to upward mobility, which we know can be facilitated with the right networking. Being given the opportunity to participate in more than just networking activities however, is required for career advancement. Before one can consider engaging in activities that will help them grow professionally they must first feel secure as professionals in their given organizations.
Creating Access and Equal Opportunity
Opportunities for women of color must be given across the board. This goes beyond networking to include training and development, mentoring, visible work assignments, and sponsorship. The unfortunate truth is, that in many cases, women of color forgo activities that will allow them to thrive because they are constantly trying to figure out how to survive.
Access is the key to opportunity. When one is given access, they are exposed, and exposure creates options, which in turn creates opportunity. The core of networking is collective collaboration, and successful collaboration requires inclusiveness. As leaders, we must foster environments that support the development of all of our colleagues.
We can help create access and opportunity by being open to connecting, collaborating, and creating valuable relationships. If you are in a position to mentor, mentor a woman of color. If you know of opportunities for personal or professional development, share them. If you are a decision maker within your organization and you know a woman of color with high potential, sponsor her. Be a part of helping develop someone. I guarantee that in doing so, you will grow too.
In my last post, I discussed the differences in networking between men and women, and strategies women (and men) can employ to network better. Finding the article insightful, a reader asked me to write a follow-up on networking strategies for those out of work looking to get back into the job market. For the most part, the core strategies remain the same. The difference is in how you use those strategies.
When seeking employment, your approach to connecting with new people and reconnecting with former colleagues and associates, has to be targeted. Because you are networking for career advancement, the strategic approach to networking will be your best bet. The social approach will help with coping with job loss or the stress of looking for work, but use your time wisely. Your energy should be put into connecting with those who can give you leads, or help you get a job, e.g. former colleagues or connections in the field you want to enter, advisors (these include mentors and former sponsors), and friends (only those who are employed).
Below are a few tips you may find beneficial as you embark on your networking journey.
1. Take advantage of EVERY opportunity that can connect you with the right people. In order to do this, you have to see an opportunity for what it is. YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION!!!
Let me tell you a story…
Not too long ago I was collecting data for my dissertation research. My research focused on identifying the self-limiting factors that prevent leadership emergence of women of color. Part of the data collection required soliciting participants for a survey. In trying to determine how to reach the greatest amount to people, I went to my professional network (LinkedIn) to ask my female colleagues for their help. I sent out a communication asking for 10 minutes of their time to participate in something that would not only help me, but in the long term, may prove to be beneficial to them as well. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Most responded by saying “Wow this is great, I would love to participate”, “I will definitely take the survey", "I can’t wait to see the results”. Then I received this response… “I don’t have time to take a survey, I need to find a job”. I will admit, for a brief moment, my feelings were hurt. But then I thought to myself… “Well if she needs a job, it might be beneficial to her if she helps me, since I'm in a position to help her. I work in Human Resources. I can probably help her find a job, or at least connect her with HR colleagues in my network.”
I imagine that had she taken the survey (seen the opportunity to connect with someone who could help her), we could have developed a stronger relationship, and I could have either helped her with her job search, or connected her with people who could.
Sometimes it is difficult to see opportunities for what they are. You can get caught up in the emotions and stress of being unemployed, that if an opportunity is not an actual job, you might not be open to it.
2. When an opportunity comes to pass... Show up!
When you enlist the help of people in your network, you are not only asking for a lead, you are asking for an endorsement. You are asking others to put their reputation on the line for you. The moment they say, my colleague, my mentee, my friend, is looking for a job, they are associating you with them.
I personally don’t believe in taking a job that you cannot see as a pathway to a career. When you do not see longevity in a job or role that you have, you will not give it 100%. Giving that 100% is what gets you noticed (most of the time), and can lead to career growth. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for income, but don’t go into food service if you know eventually you want to get back into financial management. Look for a “gateway” job, like an office assistant, bookkeeper, or accounting clerk.
Be upfront about what you are looking for. You don’t want a job that you will end up quitting because it’s not what you want to do. It makes you look bad, and it makes your connection look bad. Remember, your network is helping you so return the favor, show up, and do your best. If those in your network truly mean to help you, they will not steer you in the wrong direction.
3. Be prepared to make an investment so that you can get a return.
Just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean you stop engaging in professional activities, stop your membership to professional networks, or stop participating in communities of practice (CoP’s). Remember, these groups are where the people you need to network with will be.
Yes, there will be a cost associated with these activities, one that you might think you can’t afford, but you are investing in your future. The return could be connecting with someone who can help you find a job or kick-start your career. Investing in yourself and your own development shows that you are serious about taking the necessary steps to get back into the workforce. Others will see this and be more willing to help you get there. If you give the impression that you are hopeless, you will be treated as such, and you could potentially lose connections.
Remember, engaging in the five key behaviors of successful networking will prove to be the best thing you can do to get back in the game. Continue (1) engaging in professional activities. Join (2) communities of practice. Attending networking events will (3) increase your visibility. Get out there and (4) socialize. (5) Maintain contacts… they will come in handy!
In a previous article, we defined networking, identified important networking behaviors to engage in, and discussed why networking is important. In this post, we will focus on factors that impact networking behaviors which, according to some research may include gender, race, socio-economic background, personality traits like extroversion and self-esteem, and general attitudes toward workplace politics.
Specifically, this article will focus on gender through an examination of how men and women differ in their networking behaviors, as well as provide some advice on ways women (and men) may be able to improve the value they get out of networking.
Research has shown that women face significantly more barriers to networking than men. This is important to take note of because access to networking plays a major role in receiving employment, mentoring, and upward mobility. In addition to differences in access, another major difference includes the size of networks. Men generally have larger networks than women and are often comprised of colleagues, advisors, and friends. Conversely, women’s networks tend to be comprised of familial and community relationships.
The most significant difference is the difference in how men and women use their networks. It has often been found that men more frequently use networks for career promotion, while women use networks for social support. These two approaches to networking are referred to as the strategic approach and social approach respectively.
Strategic Approach vs. Social Approach
The strategic approach to networking is just that. This approach employs a strategy with the specific end goal of gaining something that will improve your employment situation. Whether you are already employed and looking to advance or are unemployed and are looking for an opportunity to gain employment, a networking strategy will help get you where you want to go.
The social approach to networking is when you seek a group of individuals simply to connect with. There is no specific goal other than to get to know people to perhaps share ideas, stories or talk about common passions. The social approach is generally the first step in networking.
Let’s not assume that the social approach to networking is a bad thing because it is not. However, if your goal for networking is career promotion and advancement (which as growing professionals it should be), you need to take a strategic approach. Women often tend to have difficulties moving out of the social aspect of networking. If you consider the difficulties women have with accessing the necessary people to network with for career advancement in the first place, you can understand the difficulties in taking steps toward a strategic approach.
Taking Steps Toward a Strategic Approach
Keep in mind that the strategic approach should be employed both outside and inside of your organization. For women who are already employed and looking to move up within their company, focusing your strategy inside of your organization should be your goal.
Strategic networking inside your organization provides many benefits. When you network within the organization you are more likely to receive information you would not otherwise be privy to. Take note… you might have to network with colleagues you wouldn’t necessarily care to connect with outside of the office. Have lunch with them, go to a happy hour, use the social approach to networking as a strategy! Let people get to know who you are (professionally), so that they can know who you are. Increase your internal visibility!
Being a part of the conversation will give you access; especially access to those who have influence within the organization.
For those who are looking to make moves outside of their organization focus your strategy there. Engage in professional activities. Join an industry group or participate in a Community of Practice (CoP). Research movers and shakers in areas that you want to move into. They will often be special guests or speakers at events… go to those events. Introduce yourself, socialize with them and the people around them, exchange information, and don’t forget… Maintain Contact!
Networking as a concept and phenomenon, and why it is important has always fascinated me. This is partly because of my own struggles with it. This fascination even grew to a point where I decided to conduct my own research study on the topic. While my study focused on self-limiting factors that prevent early career women of color from engaging in networking behaviors, the results revealed a certain level of relevance to all professionals. Because individuals at all stages in their careers are impacted by how effective or ineffective they are at networking, the more knowledge they have, the better equipped they will be to get out there and network.
What is Networking?
Networking, or professional networking, can be defined as behaviors aimed at building and maintaining relationships for the benefit of advancing one’s career. Research has shown that there are several beneficial aspects for an individual when networking including, improved learning, knowledge acquisition, and career success.
Career success can be viewed both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, career success can be in the form of observable accomplishments such as pay and promotion. Subjectively, it can be viewed in terms of a self-appraisal of success. For example, have you met the goals you have set for yourself? Are you where you expected to be at this point in your career?
Engaging in Networking Behaviors
In order to reap the benefits of networking, one has to engage in networking behaviors. There are a multitude of behaviors, however these five activities are key.
So…Why is networking important?
Networking is important because not only does it expose you to people, places and experiences that will develop you as a professional, it also…
- increases opportunities to learn,
- helps with your forward and upward career movement,
- connects you with people who have shared passions,
- provides opportunities for knowledge sharing, and
- positions you for a potential pay increase or promotion!
Always keep in mind that relationships are mutually beneficial. Never go into a professional relationship with the sole purpose of seeking ways where only you will benefit. Go in knowing what you can bring to the table, and make sure you are able to express how the other person will benefit from connecting with you.
Now go network!
Most of us have heard of the term “Human Capital”. And, for the most part, use of the term has received a bad rep. Viewing humans as commodities is a big NO NO! However, most people really don’t understand what Human Capital is.
WHAT IS HUMAN CAPITAL?
In layman’s terms, human capital is your combined Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other characteristics (KSAOs) that give you value in the job marketplace. It is these combined KSAO’s that inform you of what to ask for when negotiating salary (we should all know our value), and what helps employers determine how much to offer. Truth be told, there are some employers who will try and low ball us which is why you should know how much you are worth.
YOU ARE A HOT COMMODITY!
Think of it in economic terms. Supply and Demand. The more unique the KSAOs the lower the supply. Most times when there is low supply of something great, there is going to be greater demand, and people will be willing to pay for it. If you are in high demand, you will be worth more, and you will be in a better position to ask for more!
WantedAnalytics.com in early 2015 published an article identifying the most high demand jobs with the lowest amount of available talent (Click Here). In most cases where there is a high demand and a low supply of talent, organizations will be willing to pay more to get you in the door.
So…What are they, and HOW YOU CAN LEVERAGE YOUR KSAOs TO GET AHEAD.
Knowledge- This is what you know. It can be what you’ve learned through education or from the experiences you have had in life or the workplace.
Skills-The ability to do something, and do something well. We acquire skills through various means. Some of us have more or better skills than others. Skills can be technical, artistic, cognitive, etc.
Abilities- possessing the means or skill to do something… e.g. you have the ability to build a social media platform because you have the technical skills and knowledge of coding, etc.
Other characteristics- this is what is unique about you…what makes you different, what makes YOU the best candidate for the job!
HOW CAN YOU LEVERAGE YOUR KSAOs?
Increase and diversify your knowledge. While formal education isn’t for everyone, there are other ways of increasing your knowledge. For example, you can learn a trade, or get certification, take a course or a class that will add value to your knowledge base. Hone your current skills and learn new ones. What do you do well? How can you do it better?
Another way to think of this is…
“Practice Makes Perfect”- Practice your skills so that you become the best. Take advantage of resources available to you that will give you the ability to do what you want to do. Identify what makes you unique and learn how to articulate it.
So let’s break it down.
Capital- Something that is used to generate wealth through investment.
If we invest in ourselves whether it is our Knowledge, Skills, Abilities or Other characteristics, we are bound to generate a return- Wealth!