8 Useful Graduation Gifts for the (Almost) Ph.D. in Your Life

celebrate- hoorayIt’s spring semester ya’ll, and for me, that means graduation season is almost upon us. If you’re like me, “Omg,” “fml,” “I’m so behind,” etc. will be screams heard ’round the world (and certainly from me) as we draw closer and closer to defense dates and final submission deadlines for the graduate school.

As I think back on my life, I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it this far. I’m a Black woman who spent all of my Black girlhood with working-class parents, at public schools where 100% of students received free and reduced lunch lunches, and in neighborhoods where gang violence and murder were the norms. And yet, somehow (we know how but for the sake of dramatics rock with me), here I am, several years and a slightly safer neighborhood later, writing my dissertation.

I’m currently analyzing, recoding, and collapsing codes so I also want to stab my eyeballs out. But every few minutes, I pause and begin to think about graduation because the idea that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel alone is what is sustaining me. Tonight, one of my former grads and friend, Nacho, agreed to look over some of my writing. Nacho, like so many other people, has been instrumental in my continuing forward on this dissertation. And as Nacho agreed to help, I started to think about ways that others could use their talent and gifts as a graduation gift– things that would be useful and helpful for the Ph.D. candidate in your life like they’d be useful in mine. This led me to compile a list of eight things I’d love–with the number eight as my go to because eight years is the average time to degree completion for a Ph.D. student.

SO, here goes– 8 useful gifts for the Ph.D. (or Ed.D. or M.A. etc.) in your life:

  1. Professional editing: If you are great at writing (hey Nacho), consider gifting your time and talent. If not, pay for X amount of hours or pages for editing for a friend who is pressing toward graduation. Gift it early, prior to final deadlines,  so that students can use it before graduation. Trust me, it would help a lot.
  2. Gift Cards: Every Ph.D. student finishing up is going to want to sit and do NOTHING for a few weeks after they’re done. You can help them with this by sending them grocery store, restaurant, airline, etc. gift cards that they can redeem to help them relax a little more.
  3. Spa Certificates: Grad school is sckressful. The amount of tension we carry in our bodies from the stress of the process is always noticeable. A trip to the spa to help recalibrate could make a world of difference.
  4. Dissertation Binding/ Booking: When I finish, I’ll be taking a well earned break from looking at my dissertation. However, it’d be cool to be able to hold a well-bound physical copy of this thing called hell dissertation I survived. Gifting services for binding a copy (or two) could be extra special for the grad in your life. Note: Some institutions have printing services available. Check with the institution your friend attends for more information.
  5. giphy- you look mighty fine and dapperRegalia: Okay, so I pulled out the big gun here. UGA’s regalia is so darn expensive that I’m going to have to take on a fourth job to purchase it. Grab some friends and go in together to gift the grad in your life the NICE, top of the line, regalia (which, at my school, is almost $1,000, but still not as much as the most expensive regalia available). This would def take a load off and make graduation prep less stressful. Also– everytime they wear it, they’ll think of you. (If everyone from #CiteASista gave me 1.00 I could afford mine, just saying.)
  6. Diploma Frame: Despite how much schools get you on the way in with fees (GRE/ Applications/ etc.) and throughout your time enrolled with all sorts of miscellaneous fees (special $400/semester institution fee at UGA, I see you!), it doesn’t let up on the way out. Not only is the regalia ridiculous, but so are the diploma frames. Degree frames allow your gift to be on display, surrounding the paper that represents an achievement (…and the blood, sweat, tears, and sleep deprived days and nights) that your friend worked super hard for.
  7. giphy- martin workout sceneGym/ Fitness/ Personal Trainer Memberships: Okay folks– this is NOT the time to tell someone “you’re getting fat.” *Staring at you Black family members.* However, the average graduate student gains much more than the Freshman 15  we’ve all come to associate with college. In my case? I’m staring at a 45-pound weight gain since I started my degree. The good news? The weight can come off. The bad news? It’s probably going to cost me more financially than the degree itself (eugh!). So, a gym or fitness membership, to a grad you know well enough not to offend, would make an amazing gift. Or maybe I’m speaking for myself– buy ME some personal training. Added bonus? Meal prep to get them through the end of the semester. #GiftGoals.
  8. Graduation Outfit Shopping: Okay, so some of these are way too practical. Perhaps you’re the fun friend/ aunt/ uncle/ etc. Then the number eight is for you. Take your grad shopping. For most of us, defense and graduation are big days. For me–my Ph.D. graduation day matters more than any potential wedding day I might have. This is it– the moment I’ve worked so tremendously hard for. So like most Black folks, an exorbitant amount of thought will go into getting this outfit ready. If you want to get the fun gift, go with your grad shopping and purchase part of the graduation outfit. Perhaps you could even volunteer (with a limit) to purchase an outfit for their graduation pictures. Either way, Black folks love to get dressed up and there’s no better moment to help your grad strut their stuff than this.Edi

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*Bonus*: Sanity. If you can find a way to gift it back, we’ll take it. H/T Chelsea Doub for the suggestion.

So that’s that. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments with your suggestions.


Editors note: Edited to add a bonus message.

Is “No” a Dirty Word: On our Culture of “Ghosting”

This morning on Facebook, I’d written a status asking about ghosting and the word no. The status said–

I have a question for Gen X/ Millennials… why is it so hard for people to say “no” in lieu of ghosting? Saying no is responsible. It shows you considered something but for whatever reason, it won’t work out at this moment. How is it that people will allow your email, questions, etc. about something they can tell is significant to you (and significant more broadly) to go unanswered and unreplied to on a consistent basis? Now, I’m emphasizing the consistent piece because I found an unanswered text last night, I simply did not see, to which I apologized for, answered, and moved on with yesterday’s business. But why have we as a culture normalized ignoring people when saying “no” is a simple answer? Has no become a dirty word?

I was prompted to write the status after sending several emails and texts to people about employment, educational support, fitness support groups, and even in hopes of getting together a team of people to visit the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.

I could not understand why the people I’d reached out to had failed to reply either saying no or acknowledging receipt of my message and suggesting they’d been away or needed more time.

As an overachiever and sometimes people pleaser, I know first hand the desire to do everything. I overextended myself so much the last few years and this past spring semester to the point that my body had finally had enough and I had to rest for 2.5 weeks due to illness and general exhaustion over the summer. I learned from that mistake. I said no to writing opportunities shared with me;  I said no to taking a course on data sets that, while not required, would be great for developing my skill set; I said no to additional conferences on top of the few that I have committed to at an earlier date. I. Said. No. 

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I realize that saying no is hard, but I genuinely believe it to be better than ghosting. What is ghosting you ask? When people agree or have the option to (dis) agree to something and rather than getting it done or saying no because they can’t  (or don’t want to) they fail to reply or acknowledge it at all. Ghosting is at an all-time high in both the dating and working worlds and I can’t believe I’m saying this– but it’s downright unprofessional to do to your colleagues and peers.

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I know professionalism is laced with specific connotations. I know that there are gender and racial disparities in who gets asked for what and how often. I know that some people feel like they HAVE to say yes because of their positionality. But hear me when I say this: ghosting might remove the temporary burden of having to say no or do something else, but it changes the way people view you.

Perhaps some of us don’t care. Perhaps a few people considering us unreliable is a cost we’re willing to pay. But for me? I refuse to do it to others and I refuse to accept its continuation to me. I’m at the point where ghosting is considered an answer and where I’m keeping track of how often people are unreliable to protect my peace of mind.

I am convinced that saying no is an alternative to non-response or ghosting… Are you? 

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Focus On School They Said, Everything Else Will Fall Into Place They Said…

“Don’t worry about all that… focus on school, don’t have no babies and when you’re done, everything else will fall into place.” People in my life

A decade later, things still seem like they haven’t fell in place. I will be the first to admit that I had plans to be married by 25, kids by 28, and living happily ever after.  Quiet as it’s kept, I would still love to have that (minus the age limits). That was honestly my plan when I was 19 and in undergrad, but as the years went by, that clearly wasn’t the case. So, here’s a short list of things I’ve heard as the years passed: the good, bad, and absolutely ridiculous.

giphy-2.gif*When I graduated from college* I’m so excited for you getting your degree and all, but you know, time is ticking. Now that you got that out of the way, you need to focus on your future with your man and hopefully your family. | Now let me be clear, I shut down completely anytime I hear “you need” or “you know what you need to do”. Beyond that, at the time, I felt that should have been the focus, but the pressure people can put on you can take over, if you let it. 

*Every time my unrealistic timelines passed*  Don’t worry about that. Keep focusing on you and your career. I promise you everything will fall in place. | I high key believed this one with all my heart, and I did just that. I continued to focus on my career.

*When I returned to school for my masters degree* That’s right girl! Get that degree and secure that career. You know everything else will come in due time. -AND- Dang you in school again?!?!? You must like being in school because you clearly ain’t looking for no man. I mean that’s what I was doing, but it felt like this was almost a pity comment. I completely ignored that looking-for-a-man comment because I knew that was their own issues and not mine. In the words of my kindred spirit Rihanna…

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*When I started my doctoral program *You know what? I don’t think you should tell a man about your degrees. No man wants a woman more achieved than him. It emasculates him. You want a man, right?! | This was the most confusing question I got because it unnecessarily called my sexuality into question (which is, again, more about the person making the statement’s sexuality security than my own). There were so many layers to this that the discussion and lessons I discussed could be a topic of it’s own. But I will leave it at this; people will try your entire life and some times you have to gather them right on up and send them on their way.

*At the end of my 30’s* Well you can always be that “fast” auntie who travels the world and simply live your best life. Just live sis. 

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This last one has stuck with me over the past decade, and that’s simply to just live. Do the questions stop coming? No. Will the unsolicited advice continue? Yes. But the one thing I have ownership over is what I do with my time and energy. I determine how I live the life I have, and I write the chapters in them. So, I’ll continue to live my best life (sans the timelines or pressure), full of memories and hearty laughs.

“I Expect You to do Well”: Diary of a High-Achieving Black Girl

After writing extensively for three weeks, waiting off and on for written results for another three weeks, and then anxiously counting down the days until the oral defense of my preliminary exams…it happened. I was FINALLY a Doctoral Candidate! It was by far the happiest moment that I have experienced since getting the call with my acceptance into my PhD program two years ago.

The process was generally nerve-wrecking and anxiety-producing, but I was determined to conquer my nerves and reach this next major milestone in my doctoral journey. I had been #ChasingCandidacy for what seemed like forever. I had set a strict schedule since January, accounting for 10 hour+ writing days, a full-time academic load, anxiety-induced heart palpitations with every submission to my committee, the mounting frustrations when I couldn’t get my words just right, and the day-to-day reminders to myself that this process wouldn’t last forever.

However, after standing in the hallway while my committee deliberated, I finally heard the words, “Congratulations, you PASSED!”. My advisor took pictures of me signing my official documentation for the graduate school, I thanked and hugged my committee, and then we took a group selfie in celebration. And I was over-the-moon. And grateful. And humbled. And relieved. And proud. Proud because I was exhausted and nervous and stressed and anxious…but I was finally a Doctoral Candidate! I persisted and endured and achieved; I could have lived in that moment forever.

Once I gathered my thoughts, I could only think of a few people whom I wanted to call and share my exciting news with, so I made my way down my contact list. I made FaceTime calls that weren’t answered, but I told myself that it was the middle of the day and adults were at work. Though disappointed, I continued calling those closest to me until I finally got an answer: “Good job! I expected you to do well”.

Just because you expect excellence from me, that doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard. I know that Queen Beyonce’ changed the game with, I woke up like this, but I worked hard for this. I am inherently brilliant, yes. I am more than capable, yes. AND I worked really, really, hard to accomplish this milestone.

As a high-achieving Black girl, I expect myself to do well. I hold myself to higher standards so that others don’t have to. And because of this, I have to work twice as hard to celebrate myself when something incredible happens. I have to intentionally and consciously remind myself that every accomplishment, whether big or small (to me), belongs to me and is worthy of celebration. The (my) truth is, when the world expects greatness from you, you have to work overtime to appreciate your struggle.

To all those who know and love #highachieving Black girls and women, be mindful of how you respond to our sharing of accomplishments with you. Stop qualifying your well-wishes with your (undue) expectations for our successes. Be proud. Be happy. Be enthusiastic. But please, don’t be dismissive. We EARNED this. Acknowledge that or don’t say anything at all.

Are you a high-achieving Black woman with a similar story? I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

How I Learned to Negotiate ​a Higher Salary

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“I’ve never asked for more money. I’ve always just been happy to have the job offer.”

A brilliant young woman of color, Nina, recently said this to me in a conversation about women in the workplace. I immediately began offering her some how-to tips that would help her get past being overjoyed at receiving a job offer and moving her to a place of asking for what she needed to live her best life. But as I began speaking, I was quickly reminded of all reasons I didn’t always negotiate for my own fair compensation, including for the reason Nina stated. Here’s how I eventually learned that as a woman, and especially as a Black woman, I must negotiate a higher salary.

I was just happy to have the offer.  When I landed my first salaried position, I thought I was living large! I had accepted a job that I was indeed happy to have. But I didn’t negotiate a higher salary. Eventually, I found myself routinely behind the 8-ball when it came to savings, retirement, etc. My bills were paid but building any sort of cushion was nearly impossible. Once I realized that it would take me about 2 years to save enough money to cover a single month of expenses, I knew something had to change. So, I did what any relatively evolved young woman does when she realizes something must change. I began by assessing myself.

I minimized my expenses. I really enjoyed preparing my own meals and dwelling in spaces that were styled to make me feel inspired and safe. I shopped at consignment stores learned the difference between clothing, furniture, and decor that was used and that which had outlived its usefulness. I DIY’ed everything from painting my apartment to refinishing much of my own furniture. In short, I was into minimalism before minimalism was a thing…and I loved it. Then I realized that although my mindset had changed to better manage the salary I did have, and I had learned to buy what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted, the one thing I still needed to live the joyous life I desired, was more income. Remembering that I previously convinced myself that I could make it work with the salary I had, I needed some validation that the salary I desired was indeed a possibility. So, I did what any millennial would do when they have a question.

I did some research to determine my value. A quick google search showed me that there was average wage data available for just about every job out there. I realized that some people with the same skill set as me, were receiving compensation well above that average and some were receiving salaries well below it. I was just to the left of that average. I eventually talked to peers who held similar positions, had similar skill sets, and similar levels of experience. I quickly realized that there were 3 key factors that differentiated me from my peers who made more than me for doing similar work. 1) They tended to be male. 2. They tended to be white. 3. They all negotiated the salary they wanted. My experience mimicked data that suggests Black women are paid 65 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. When I realized every job I ever applied for asked about my previous salary history to help determine what they would offer, it dawned on me that not negotiating for a higher salary as a young professional, could have a long-term effect on my finances for the rest of my working years. This single bit of knowledge inspired me to battle the fear that previously left me content with just having a job offer.

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I found the courage by focusing on the coins. The first time I negotiated for a higher salary, I was afraid. I was offered an exciting position that I was indeed happy to have. But this time, that just wasn’t enough. I knew what it was like to have I job I enjoyed but one that didn’t fairly compensate me for my time and talent. I was keenly aware of the emotional labor I performed in order make those around me more comfortable and to feel accepted and valued. I knew the average salary for the position I was offered and (perhaps more importantly) I knew what I needed to live at or above the threshold I set for my life. The initial offer I received was slightly below that threshold. So, I had to ask for more money.

I learned to ask for what I needed. After receiving the initial offer, I spoke with the hiring manager to present and justify my counter-offer, which included an increase in salary and a modest amount of funding for professional development. After a few days, I received a call. They rejected my offer but countered. I somehow had the presence of mind to say that I would think about it and get back to them in 24 hours. I really wanted to cry because, of course, I needed the job. Also by this point, my pride was wounded. I ran through all the possible reasons why I must not have been good enough and all the reasons I didn’t even deserve the job in the first place. Imposter syndrome was alive and well and speaking very loudly. The next day, to my surprise, they called me back with a new offer, slightly above their initial offer and slightly below my counter offer. I accepted.

In retrospect, my negotiating yielded only a small increase. But what I gained in confidence and negotiation experience was worth the small loss. I have since negotiated for more money with just about every position I’ve been offered. Sometimes I was not successful in increasing the bottom line. But most times, I walked away with considerably more money than I was initially offered, simply because I was willing to ask for compensation in relation to my value.

At the end of the day, that’s what the negotiation is about. Value. As Black women, we must ask ourselves if we deserve a higher salary. If the answer is ‘yes’, figure out why and say it out loud until there is no doubt in your mind. Then suddenly, asking for more money becomes the best next right move. And let’s be honest, the answer is almost always a resounding ‘yes’.

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! 😉

So You’re Interviewing for a Job?: Think About It

Heyyyyy Sistas! Happy It’s almost May which means summer is around the corner! As many college students prepare to graduate and enter the workplace and many other professionals scout out their next big move, I couldn’t help but reflect on some HORRIFYING interviews I’ve seen and experienced as both a candidate and interviewer for this month’s post.

The number of dumpster fire for an interview I have seen cannot be stressed enough in this post. Seriously. Because of this, I have chosen 5 areas of focus to prevent all of you from the same CRASH and BURN fate of those I’ve crossed paths with.

In my experience, people always say prepare for a job interview but never tell you how.  These 5 easy to remember concepts will prepare you to excel thus making you stand out against candidates displaying a lack of awareness in their job search process.

Five Strategies For #Winning In Your Next Interview

  1. Do your research

image1 (1).GIFMany candidates enter into interviews having done minimal research on the company they are interested in. Doing your research can allow for you as a candidate to learn more than what’s on the surface and to show this off in the interview. Not only are YOU being interviewed but you are interviewing the company. The more you know, the more you’re prepared to ask the right questions and to make sure you will be comfortable in your environment should you take on the position. Not only should you look on their website for information but look and see if they are in the news for any stories (good and bad), check their social media to see what they have going on and what the perception others have as it relates to the company’s image. Let’s face it, TRUST that these companies have done their research on you, it doesn’t hurt for you to return the favor.

  1. ALWAYS have insightful questions to have at the end of an interview

I said it above and I’ll say it again: remember you are interviewing the company as well. When conducting your research, write questions that will allow recruiters or company representatives to clarify for you. This is also a chance to dig deeper into areas you would like to receive more information on. Try to stay away from the typical cliché questions such as “Why do you like working here?” This is also a time where you want to make sure you do not ask questions that could have been answered if you simply did your homework and researched the company. Check out these strategies for asking solid interview questions.

Make a Statement+ Ask a Question

Make a StatementBring up something from your research about the company

E.g. “I saw in a press release that you all have launched a new initiative about____”

Pose a Question

E.g. “Could you provide me with more information about how this is being implemented, and if given the job what my direct role would be in the process?”

When it comes time for you to ask a question, use this formula to creatively ask insightful questions by placing the statement and question(s) together. This is a subtle way to show you have done your research but it also shows that you are interested in the things they currently have going on and want to know how you will fit into the plan.

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  1. Be okay with silence

Wimage3.GIFhen asked a question, do not always feel like you have to answer RIGHT AWAY. As someone who has interviewed many of people, I can always tell when someone is bulls**

Lemme write this one more time for the people in the back:

You. Do. Not. Have. To. Open. Your. Mouth. Immediately. 

As someone who has interviewed many a people, I can always tell when someone is bulls**tting me. The worse is when you know the candidate is qualified because you’ve looked at their résumé and social media stalked them, but when they get to the interview, the answers to the questions are rushed and not well thought out. Taking a pause is okay.  When you take your time, you show that you’re willing to think before you speak (this makes you less of a liability at any company/ organization) and that you can prepare to answer the question in its entirety.

  1. Make sure to send a follow-up handwritten thank you card or email.

After the interview, always send a follow-up thank you note to the interviewers. It’s okay to make it personal by bringing up things you discussed during small-talk or by including something that particular interviewer shared during your interview. What image4.GIFI like to do is ask the interviewers during my time for questions “If you could describe your experience in three words, what would they be?” I use those words in the thank you card and underline them for “special” attention. Sending a thank you card is an unspoken etiquette rule during interviews. Not sending one could, unfortunately, cost you the job if other candidates are interviewing for the same job, decide to do a follow-up. As unfair as it may seem, always remember there is a human on the other side of the table.

P.S. Don’t send one email to multiple people. Take time to personalize them enough in case those interviewing you trade notes!

5.It’s Ok To Be Your Most Authentic Professional Self

When people ask me what is one thing that you like about your job, I always explain to them that I can be myself. I say what I feel and mean EXACTLY what I say. During my job search, I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable enough to be ME in my work environment. Sometimes we feel like we have to put on white-skin and dabble in whiteness as property in order to appeal to an interviewer. I can say I was guilty of that until I realized that no matter what, I was still a Black woman in their eyes, no matter how much I enunciated my words. Honestly, I was tired of frontin’. Either you will accept these degreed thoughts ( and hands, cause I’m about that life) or I can take my talents elsewhere.I am BLACK. I am a WOMAN. I am LOUD. I am everything your people wish to be.  I don’t know how to be anything other than me and trying to be anything else is doing myself an injustice.

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As you prepare for your next interview, keep these things in mind. I’ll be back next month with advice on how NOT to play yourself in an interview. Think, Interviewing: Don’t Play Yourself.  I have stories for days, let’s make sure you’re not the next one.


Did you like this piece? Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know how you feel. Have a piece you want to share of your own? Submit to CiteASista@gmail.com with a bio, headshot, and your text/ photos.

Chasing Checks vs. Chasing Dreams

As a part of my professional development package with my current place of employment, I’m consistently catching flights to other parts of the country to attend conferences and workshops. As I traveled back from a recent gathering in Boston, I was fortunate enough to be seated next to an off-duty flight attendant. Ya’ll… My nerves are bad when flying, so I decided to strike up a conversation with him in order to ease my in-air anxiety. After introductions, our conversation took a turn to talking about our careers paths and how we’ve ended up where we are today. He explained to me that he had many careers before making the switch to become a flight attendant. As the Career Consultant I am, I inquired as to what made him make the switch.  He explained to me that in previous positions, he was in it for the money which caused him to forget about the things that were important to him.  He went on to explain that his continuous chasing checks hindered his ability to chase his dreams.

Now turn to your neighbor and say….Message!

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Hearing this made me reflect on how many of us chase dollar signs instead of going after what we really dream to be, in relation to our careers.  As Black women, when thinking about a job, we often first and foremost think about survival. How am I going to put food on the table, provide shelter and clothing for my family, buy books, pay my student loans, and get gas in addition to having a social life and of getting my hair done. #Amen

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For many of us, it sometimes feels like we are forced to chase the checks for the good of those who we care for. But what does this mean for our own dreams and aspirations? Do we neglect our responsibilities to become what we always wanted to be? What about when we feel pressure to provide for ourselves and those we are responsible for but end up losing ourselves in the process. Do we stop? This all begs the question, is it possible to lose sight of what we really could be by running after a check?

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I recently read a tweet that stated “your salary is NOT a bribe to forget your dreams. Your salary can help you FUND your dreams. Your job provides experience FOR your dreams”. I wholeheartedly believe this. Some may call this learning to finesse the system. I know for a fact that I do not want to stay at the level that I am and that, eventually, I want to have my own business or organization that helps with career development from elementary school (because the K-12 pipeline is real) into adulthood.

I also know that I do not have the funds nor the time to fully dedicate myself to this dream because I actually need somewhere to lay my head and need to support my livelihood.

What I can say is through my current position I am taking advantage of all the resources, networks and foundational knowledge available in order to prepare myself for my long-term dream. I’m getting paid while also doing something that I love, that will eventually set me up for what I see to be my win in life. Does this make me a bad employee or not committed to where I am currently? Some may say yes. But this brings me to the idea that “you have to be… twice as good as them to get half of what they have” (Thank you Papa Pope).

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We tend to feel guilty for neglecting or using our current place of employment as stepping stones to our career utopia as if our employers are not using us for goods and services. We feel that we have to go hard to be seen as professional or competent but what I have learned is that whatever opinion someone has of you will not change because you know how to correctly annunciate your words or are at the office before and after everyone else. There is something to be said about a woman savvy enough to do something she enjoys while also making her coin.

This all leads me to my main point: Never give up on what you want and believe in, even if it requires you to do something for the short term.

 

@ShaynaUGACareer

Get out of your experiences what you need from them but remember to start to create the blueprint for your own win. There is love in following your dreams no matter how much you have to sacrifice to achieve them!