By Shatriece Williams 3/11/2019
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees at work. The laws apply to all types of work situations. What the EEOC does not do is tell first generation managers of color how to move around the workplace once we actually get through the door left ever so slightly ajar. You’ve arrived, now what? Well, now you can use Equal Exposure & Communication, EE&C, to get in the room, get promoted, and get a raise.
What is Equal Exposure & Communication? EE&C is a 3-step system to manage your career. I went from Compton to corporate, making $250,000+ a year as Senior Director/acting AVP of a tech company in Santa Monica. As a Black Female in tech, my friends joke that I’m a unicorn. With equal exposure and communication, more people of color will undoubtedly fill high-rise meeting rooms.
First, begin with effective communication. You are always communicating, formally and informally. Communicating with your manager, for example, is only the beginning. Be sure to use any 1:1 meetings to establish credibility, identify priorities; and convey your goals strategically. Avoid using the word “you” (use ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘both’). Then, learn how to disagree with your manager constructively. Provide suggestions your manager can act on, not just objectives. Use data and client testimonials to clarify your point of view. Avoid using the words “I think” and use the phrase “it’s been my experience” instead; people can question what you think but they cannot argue with your experience. Finally, everyone reports to someone. Identify one person who reports to the same person that your boss reports to. Get to know that person’s goals by talking with people on their team at your similar level. After your boss starts to hear other teams mention your project or your ideas, then Congratulations! You are communicating effectively at work! I recommend the 20-minute read, Managing Up a Harvard Business Review Press.
Second, get exposure by connecting your work to the CEO’s strategy. You are working on a project. Do you know why that project is important? Do you know how to link your project directly to the organization’s goals? If you cannot answer the question “So, how’s it going?” during an elevator ride, then you are working for nothing – no exposure, no ____, zilch. When asked how you’re doing, don’t spend a ton of time talking about your travels or weekend adventures. Craft a 30-second elevator pitch about why your project exists. Be concise. In this example, the CEO strategy is to shorten implementation. Tanisha is the VP. “It’s going great. I’m working with Tanisha on Project Eradicate to decrease customer time-to-value. Clients using the 1-2-3-Live method go live with the software in only 14 days!” Connect your project to a greater mission or strategy, then practice that statement over and over again. Congratulations! You are getting exposure for your project and your brand at work.
Third, know your worth in equity. Equity means fair and equal dollars, stock, bonuses, vacation, international travel, or other perks of your peers in similar roles. Knowing your worth in equity comes with knowledge of the job market. Keep current on job skills by interviewing at least once every two-years. As you learn what skills competitors are seeking, you can bring them to your current role. A recruiter set up my interview for a VP role in Integration Services at another company. I ended up being a top two candidate although they selected from in-house talent. During the interview, I learned that the competitor used a platform-as-a-service tool to migrate data. That was the only skill I didn’t bring to the table. 18 months later, I lead a project with our VP of Ops to bring that same tool to my organization. A $400,000/year investment signed by the CEO to cut delivery time by 50%. I used that win to get additional stock shares given previously to my peers. In this case, I learned my worth through competitive interviewing and used that knowledge to get stock. Congratulations! You can use interviews to know your worth in the job market and know your worth in equity.
Use my 3-step system Equal Exposure & Communication (EE&C) to manage your career. Start now, it’s just in time. “Time is a mind construct. It’s not real.” – Prince.
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