You Tried It: What not to do during an interview

Hey, Sistas! So, I’m trash and have been absent from writing my posts, but I am back like a Lebron hairline!

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With the school year starting for students all across the U.S. and abroad, I wanted to take a moment to honor my commitment to providing feedback on what NOT to do in an interview. I have sat through my fair share of professional interviews (mock and real), and sis! I could write a novel on the horrors that come from interviewing. Since the interview experience can make or break you in the applicant process, which is whack, in my opinion, but to be honest some actions during an interview are worthy of dismissal, below find 4 tips on things to consider when interviewing for that dream job.

  1. Don’t take up too much space when conducting your interview

S/O to Auntie Maxine but the interview process is not the time to be “Reclaiming Your Time”!

 

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When answering interview questions, especially within a traditional setup, make sure you are concise while also providing enough information to present yourself in the best light. As an interviewer, there is nothing more annoying than a candidate spending more than two minutes talking in circles and providing information that really has nothing to do with the question asked. Also, if you are given the opportunity to spend time with those interviewing you in a different environment such as lunch or a mixture, don’t take up too much of the conversation trying to impress and show how much you know, they’ve seen your resume, cover letter, and probably have already stalked your social media, they know you’re brilliant. Contribute to the conversation, but don’t be that person. This may differ a little when given something like the STAR method, but that’s a whole different conversation.

  1. Don’t get too comfortable

When you’re interviewing, remember you are ALWAYS ON. I once saw a candidate become a little too comfortable with the team during the initial interactions that they shared, “No more questions, I’m questioned out”. I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

 

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As much as we want to think that there are times during the interviewing process that are more “informal” than others, don’t believe the hype. Remember these are humans we are dealing with and you are entering into an already established office culture. As much as they want to make sure you can do the job, they are trying to make sure you will fit into their office life as well. Getting too comfortable can cause one to appear less professional (despite how coded this is).  I’m not saying answer all of the questions like a robot or as formally as you did in the official interview portion but remember you do not have the job yet, so don’t get beside yourself. When you’re at lunch with prospective colleagues they are just that– these are not your friends, sis.

  1. Do not use the interview as a time to bring up what you think the office could be doing better (unless prompted to do so)

As a really opinionated Black woman, keeping my thoughts to myself often makes me feel some type of way. This is especially true when it is something I am passionate about (which is pretty much everything in my eyes. But then I recall an interview I sat in on where the candidate had the audacity to bring up our news letter (which had nothing to do with the question they were asked) and how “unnecessarily long” they thought it was. A candidate once shared in their interview what WE needed to do in order to improve an office service as if we asked them for their opinion about it. Y’all, I gave this candidate the infamous Shayna “you tried it” face because this person critiqued the office without knowing why it’s done this way, what was already in progress to change it, and who in the office worked on the project. Low and behold my office homegirl who actually compiles the news letter, was in the interview and did not take kindly to an outsider telling her she was not good at her job…

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It was all bad.  For some people on the hiring team, a dismissive and uninformed critical opinion was enough to remove the candidate from the applicant pool. Save your opinions about ways to enhance the job or services for AFTER you get the job.

  1. Don’t change who you are for these pilgrims

 Period.

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There’s a fine line between adapting to a work environment and becoming someone else. Figure out what that line is for you and realize this line may not be the same for everyone else in the room.

Go forth, sistas, and prosper! 😉

Mother, May I See You Heal?: Inter-generational Healing Among Black Women

I recently had the pleasure of working with a dynamic group of women to coordinate the Sacramento Black Women’s Health and Wellness Conference (SBWHWC). The event was attended by black women from all over the state of California and planning the event made my heart sing. But witnessing women of all ages, gathered in one room for the sole purpose of focusing on health and wellness was absolutely unreal! As I took a quick scan of the audience, I noticed a large number of women appearing 50+ years old in attendance.

I found myself thinking of all the wisdom that lived in the bones of those women…

My mind quickly shifted to my own mother, who throughout my life has blessed me by allowing me to bear witness to many of her hurts and much of her own healing. I’ve sat as she braided my hair and told me stories of new love and failed relationships. We’ve made holiday meals where she shared challenges she had with her own mother and fears she’s had as a result of simply parenting and protecting Black children in a world that didn’t always see Black children as needing protection. In general, I feel so fortunate to have the kind of access to my mom that builds strong legacies. I even find myself pouring the wisdom I received from her and grandmother into the younger women I’m fortunate enough to have in my circle.  But, over the years, I’ve been able to piece together stories my mother never told me, stories my respect for her never allowed me to ask. I’ve wondered about the generational lessons we miss out on when we don’t know our mother’s stories of healing.

In 2012, the illustrious Jada Pinkett Smith, sat down for a conversation with her daughter, Willow Smith, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones for an inter-generational conversation that sheds light on the ways mothers and daughters can connect an heal. During the Red Table Talk, Willow says that even though she has an amazing relationship with both her mother and grandmother independently, she rarely interacts with them together, creating a gap in her understanding of how her mother and grandmother interact, as well as a gap in her understanding of her distinct place in the lineage. At one point, Willow expressed a desire to know more about who her mother was before she became a mom. After learning a small bit about Jada’s life before parenthood, Willow said, “It makes feel like I can go off of what I know and make different choices… I think we need to talk more about who you were and who I want to be.” Willow was able to gain insight into her own possible future through a story her mom shared. For me, this is exactly what inter-generational healing is all about, harnessing the power of our mamas’ past to create our best possible future!

This sort of love shown across generations most certainly exists outside of the bonds shared between mothers and daughters, too. Indeed, sometimes our relationships with mentors and play grandmothers are among the healthiest relationships we have. In this clip, Oprah Winfrey shares a heart-warming story of sitting at the feet of Maya Angelou who reminded her that we learn as we move through the world. Our job is not to harshly judge our younger selves, but to simply do better once we know better. In strengthening generational bonds, we find those small but significant opportunities to pass on our lessons of ‘knowing better’ so that other women can ‘do better’.

In recent years, we’ve seen a necessary focus on the health and healing of Black women and this certainly needs to continue… But as we go about the business of loving ourselves a little better, let’s remember that younger women are watching. Let’s be intentional about what we demonstrate.  As Willow pointed out, sometimes they are seeking to create the best possible versions of themselves. As their models, let show them how healing looks in real life. And like my grandmother used to say, ‘A’int nothing new under the sun.’ Much of what we’re trying to do, the older women in our lives have done over and over again. To learn from them, we only need to ask and be willing to sit at their feet.

 

“You Are Built For This”: Countering Imposter Syndrome

Getting into a doctoral program was the most exciting part of my educational journey because there was a time when I felt that it was an unobtainable goal. After all, I was kicked out of school due to poor grades, and the president of the institution told me I wasn’t “college material” and that I should pick up a trade.Although potentially quite lucrative, picking up a trade would not have worked for me because nothing in trade school reflected my passion. I wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference in the lives of our youth with a specific focus on African American students who looked like me. I wanted to work with the ones that people passed off because they were “rough” and “not scholars”. I had a particular passion for the ones who came from neighborhoods like mine where the odds were against them before they were even given a chance to show what they’re made of. It’s my mission to change the narrative.

For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference in the lives of our youth–a goal that has a specific focus on African American students who looked like me. I wanted to work with the students that people passed off because they were “rough” or not seen as “scholars”. I have a particular passion, you see, for the students who come from neighborhoods like mine where the odds are stacked against them well before they were even given a chance to show the world what they’re made of. It’s my mission to change the narrative. 

I consider it my mission to change the narrative around these students because I am one.  

Wasalu Jaco and I attended the same high school:  Thornton Township High School in Harvey, IL. One of my favorite quotes he ever spoke was, “This ain’t a pen, it’s paintbrush and I intend to rearrange how they paint us”.  Perhaps you know Wasalu Jaco better by his stage name “Lupe Fiacso”, but when he penned those very lyrics, they resonated with me and have since become my mantra. 

So, I started my first week of school. I remember being so happy and excited to be on the road to Dr. Randolph, but as the weeks rolled by, I began to question if I was supposed to be there. I didn’t understand some of the words my classmates spoke, and I would, at times, ask for words to be repeated so I could write them down and look them up. The papers and writing expectations have grown longer, and there have been many times I have run out of words before reaching the page minimum.  As I have moved closer to doctoral completion, I have found myself questioning if I was built for this and began feeling like an imposter. Never mind the application process, interviews, writing sample and everything it took to get to this point; I felt I wasn’t worthy. 

So, how am I overcoming these feelings?  How can you if/when you find yourself faced with feelings like mine?

  1. Remind yourself that you are built for this. You’ve played a role in your success and there’s no way you could’ve made it this far by being an imposter.
  2. Lean on your friends, family, students, etc. There’s something energizing about how proud loved ones are of you.  My grandfather (called Hot Poppie, not Grandfather), to this day, answers the phone saying “Dr. Randolph!” whenever I talk to him, and it gives me a surge of excitement to hear how proud he is. He tells people “We have a Dr. in the family.” Loved ones (by blood or bond) will be your cheerleaders, accountability partners, and at times, will know when you need to just talk.
  3. Ask yourself what is making you feel like an imposter and write it down. There are always things we could work on to be better. For me, I noticed that I felt like an imposter because I wasn’t completing my assignments early and I had struggles. I faced it and asked members in my cohort for help and tips. Sometimes simply writing things out and taking action, if needed, can make self doubt disappear.
  4. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, your journey is YOURS and YOURS alone! It’s so easy to be in class and start comparing yourself to the person who knocked out that 30 page paper with ease and, in turn, it makes you feel you should be done too.  Focus on you, and stay on the path to your own journey to Dr.(insert name).

Overcoming imposter syndrome is a lifelong journey–in those moments where you feel alone, remember you have me and the rest of the Cite A Sista family in your corner. Happy fall 2017 graduate students, this year is yours for the taking!

Back to School: Mastering Organization

It’s time to get back to school. If you’re like me, you’ll probably wait until the last minute to prepare for the upcoming semester. I’ve learned that organization is key to make starting school a breeze. Getting organized for the upcoming school year could only take a few hours.  I recognize that being organized does not come naturally to everybody; it is a skill that can be learned and fostered.

Selecting a planner style is key component to becoming organized. You could buy a planner or use your calendar app on your phone. (I use both methods.) If you prefer paper/having something you can hold in your hand, I suggest buying a planner that allows you to add pages and insert items as needed. Michaels and Hobby Lobby have a great selection of  DIY and pre-made planners. I haven’t used a planner since undergrad, but this year I am giving planners a second chance. So, I recently purchased a Happy Planner and I love it.  The Happy Planner offers a variety of planner designs and functions. They have planners for the academic year, working professionals, fitness/nutrition, and DIY. My planner (Live Loud 2017-2018) is multifunctional; I use it for everything. To make it user-friendly for me, I purchased stickers and additional pages from the clearance section. Thus far, I’m really happy with this planner.

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If you are the type of person that is attached to your cell phone, then buying a planner may not be the best thing for you.  I love my calendar app because its syncs with all my email accounts and information can be changed and updated whenever I need it. There are thousands of calendar and planner apps in the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Android Store. Now, once you get the syllabus from your classes, you can add deadlines and important dates to your planner. Although I use a planner, I also add assignment deadlines, meetings, and etc. to my Calendar app to make sure I do not forget anything or procrastinate.

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Also, don’t forget your school supplies. Prepping school supplies for graduate school is simple. Because I take notes on my computer, my school supply list is short. My school supply list includes my computer, planner, a pen, and notepad. Prior to beginning the semester, I usually “tidy up” my computer, by organizing assignments into folders and erasing documents I no longer need. It helps me create space for the new clutter of assignments I will have in the upcoming semester. Pack a notepad and pen in case you have to quickly jot down information.

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Don’t stress starting about starting the semester. Enjoy the last moments of summer and don’t over think starting the Fall 2017 semester.

What The Health: A Perspective

I did a happy dance when I saw that another health-related movie was trending on Netflix. I saved What The Health in my queue so I could watch it when I had time to really focus. The film received rave reviews on social media so when I crawled underneath my favorite blanket to watch it, I was excited.

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I was only a few minutes into the documentary when I thought, “This is weird”. But, since it was the latest ‘must-see’, I ignored the inner voice telling me to switch to Highway to Heaven and instead, continued to watch. I got through the comparison of eating meat to smoking cigarettes. I watched through the conversation about diabetes being caused by fat. I even got past the part where the film-maker seemed disappointed when the person who answered the phone at the American Cancer Society, presumably an administrative assistant, could not answer his complex questions about the correlation between meat and cancer, as if the person answering the phone should be able to answer such related to job duty they aren’t hired to perform.

It quickly became clear to me that the film’s sole purpose is to use fear to promote veganism.

In some ways, this is a noble endeavor as it’s generally accepted that a diet high in the consumption of meat and animal products is highly correlated with the diseases such as obesity, cancer, and heart disease. However, this knowledge has yet to be enough to encourage most Americans to completely eliminate meat from the menu. This begs the question if we know that veganism is among the most nutritionally sound, why doesn’t everyone adopt it?

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Everyone doesn’t embrace veganism because people make food choices based on many, many factors…not just nutrition. In fact, the frustration and confusion of trying to make sure your diet aligns with veganism, or any highly restrictive diet, can create unnecessary stress. This stress is itself harmful to health. So, I’d like to offer a perspective that I hope will help free us from some of the frustration and stress of healthy eating and give us permission to see food as something more than just fuel and to see health as determined by more than our food choices.

What if we make food choices based on what you want for your lives, not solely out of fear of what you don’t want?

One of the frustrating things about What The Health is how it presents veganism as the only option for people who want to avoid chronic diseases. It attempts to scare people out of moderation and into a single dietary choice. In addition to mounds of evidence indicating that animal products, in moderation, can be a part of a healthy diet, it discounts that value of the myriad other factors that are correlated with health.

What is more helpful, I think, is to make dietary decisions based on your whole life. The truth is that if we look at diet as a choice to be made by a whole person…

…a person who lives within a culture

…a person who is socially assigned a race/gender

…a person who lives within certain financial parameters

…a person who has time/energy limits

…a person who’s government subsidizes some foods more than others

…a person who lives in a specific region of the nation

…a person who lives among certain environmental risks

…a person who has varying taste preferences

…a person who operates in certain social circles

…a person who has family ties, all of which affect food choices and many of which affect disease risk, it becomes clear that what works for one person’s life won’t necessarily be ideal for another.

Am I suggesting that we choose food that provides pleasure over food that supports health? No. I’m suggesting our health is determined by many factors, and it may be more important to find a sense of harmony among the factors you have some control over, including diet, than it is to enact restrictions that may be challenging to meet or maintain. Truthfully, you have options in terms of embracing a diet that helps you live the whole life you desire.  Veganism is one of those options. It is not the only option.

If you’re watching this film, want to watch it, watched it, and had immediate thoughts of panic, fret not. I would encourage you to not get so steeped in fear of diseases related to diet that you forget that you are a whole person with a whole life to live. Sure, diet is part of that life but it’s not the whole thing. That’s just my perspective.