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How to Unapologetically Center Yourself in Your Career

On my various social media accounts, including this blog, I stress the importance of black women professionals centering themselves in their career. While I’ve been saying this, I realized I should provide more guidance as to HOW to do this.

In my years working in corporate America, I held roles ranging from customer service, to project management to, of course, human resources with a variety of managers ranging from those I deeply respect to those I would never want to see again in this life or the next (let’s be honest here). Even though I’ve come to see all my experiences; the good, the bad, and the ugly as necessary for my professional growth, I’ve now appreciated that to survive as a black woman in corporate America, I have to put myself FIRST in my career.

Yes, my philosophy evolved as I developed in my career and it was hard to shake off the old-school ways of thought my parents instilled in me when it came to work. For them, work was just that, work. It was a foreign language to them when it came to such things as aligning your work to your passions, requiring feedback and growth opportunities, or expecting your company to adhere to a moral code. In fact, when I talked to my parents about my revelation, they looked at me bewildered as if I told them I was going to live on the moon.

For them, I embodied what they couldn’t achieve themselves. I’m a first-generation college student with an advanced degree, a good paying job, and access to opportunities that. as a black woman, dealing with dual burdens of racism and patriarchy has created unique barriers other women especially white women have no clue about. So, to them, me talking about not finding passion in my work, wanting to explore other opportunities, and my disregard toward employer loyalty (aka “job hopping”) came across as me being ungrateful, pretentious, and out of touch.

This generational conflict between myself, my parents, and grandparents is a fact many black professionals can relate to and it’s not an easy subject to talk about. While our parents want us to do well, it's still important for black women in the corporate work to not assume we need to be grateful simply because our professional and education success result from “luck.” We aren’t lucky, we worked our asses off. This line of thinking undermines our hard work and the sacrifices we made to achieve our success by chalking it up to dumb luck, or worst, Affirmative Action. Unfortunately, it’s an assumption many black women deal, in and outside the workplace. As a result, these internalized ideas lead about one’s self-worth leads to many black women frustrated and confused about how to successfully build and advance their careers.

Until a few years ago, I found myself having these same concerns until I respected that it was okay to put yourself first.

Here is my step-by-step guide to unapologetically center yourself in your career: