Navigating Professional Development As A Women Of Colour
Republished with permission from Do Well Dress Well an Evio Community Partner
What do I do now? I’m sure that’s a question many of you have asked before – most likely several times! In this digital age, upward mobility should feel more attainable, but it often seems a far-reaching prospect. In an economy with high youth unemployment, fewer full-time opportunities and limited avenues to starting a career, we often find ourselves asking: where do I go from here?
The question should become, what can I do with this? By simply rewording your outlook, little habits like this can be impactful on setting your sights on your future career goals. Your outlook is imperative to your career development. I’ll be providing my best practices on how to best navigate professional development. My first recommendation is to get a firm understanding of what you can you do with your current situation and go from there. It all starts with your perspective.
As a young woman of colour as I navigate professional development with two degrees under my belt, I still feel uncertain about my prospect, which is natural. It doesn’t become much easier when I do recognize that there are elements of general business culture, I never became attuned to. Whether this is due to socio-economics or lack of culture capital, there is a culture gap felt. I’m willing to bet some women of colour reading this know exactly what I’m referring to. The key is not to go down this path of feeling disconnected, and pigeonholing yourself into feeling left out. This can negatively affect your future prospects.
Now You See Me Now You Don’t
What do I make of this? How do I leverage my competency and utilize my confidence to bridge this culture gap? You cannot get stuck in the position of playing a game of “now you see me now you don’t” with your identity and competency in your experiences. They can both go hand in hand. You should actively integrate aspects of your personality and identity into your work environment. By doing so, you will become more confident in your competencies and potential.
A great tip I had starting out was to be introspective and write out what your career interests are, what you think you’re good at, what you have experienced to demonstrate those attributes, and lastly what are you looking to develop. These pointers may seem obvious, but the easy questions, at times, are harder to answer than we imagine.
The next best practice I would recommend is to research and brainstorm how those strengths and experiences could foster possible next steps. For me this landed me a research opportunity with the UN, another internship and volunteering positions. Why and How? I was willing and open to learn from any experience.
Take on experiences to not only to build your resume but to help you get a feel for what works for you. I had the opportunity of going on exchange at the end of my graduate program earlier this year to Shanghai. After this experience I knew that putting myself in opportunities where I could learn, outside of the traditional academic learning setting, led to development. So whether it’s through volunteering, researching or working at a new job, search and take on as reasonably as you can, as many experiences that you can learn from.
However, remember to be a little selfish. A great colleague of mine always reminded me as a young professional “if you’re not gaining something from a job, you’re not doing it right”. She was right! Even when I’m volunteering, there is a sincerity that led me to the opportunity, but there is something to be gained. Whether it is new networks, a new skill or a deepened understanding, you have to set your eyes on gaining whatever you can from every opportunity.
Professional development is no easy task; it is a continuous feedback loop of believing in your potential. This can be hard when you acknowledge, as a woman of colour, that the institutions around you, were not made in mind for you. That’s just a matter of fact, but guess what: you are here! You are here to turn pages, to be innovative, to invest into your self-development and grow. To make the best of navigating your professional development you have to foster a desire to grow.