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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

How to Avoid the Double-Edged Sword of Access

Do you believe the corporate landscape has improved for Black and Brown women in this past year?

No? You’re not alone: 84% of people in my LinkedIn Poll agree.

Why? The double-edged sword of access. Take President Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Most esteemed lawyers WISH they had her credentials, but people jumped to call her “a lesser Black woman” because Biden said he’d only consider a woman of color. Then there’s the other side — the one you may be struggling with right now: being denied promotions because your experience and credentials don’t check enough boxes.

How can you avoid the double-edged sword of access, so you can get your seat at the table (and ENJOY it)? Take these 3 steps.

3 Steps to Create Access for Yourself (& Control the Narrative)

Although the corporate world is shifting and more opportunities are opening up for Black and Brown career women, you will still encounter roadblocks. Maybe management will deny you that promotion. Or a workplace shark will criticize you. But the truth is…

…They don’t CONTROL your career. YOU do. You have to do the work to get what (& where) you want.

Step 1: Get a Mentor in Your Corner

You’re not born knowing everything about navigating the corporate world. And you won’t learn it in college either. Partner up with someone older and wiser, so they can show you the ropes. Trust me, I wouldn’t be the Vice President of a global technology firm today if it weren’t for the guidance of my mentors (past and present).

If your company has a mentorship program already, choose someone you have chemistry with because your mentor must have a vested interest in you.

Don’t have a mentorship program? Join forces with other women in the organization to create one. I’ve seen plenty of women do this. And I’m happy to connect you with them if you need help getting started. Of course, you don’t have to stay within your company; you can find a mentor outside of it too.

However you go about it, get a mentor — so you can receive valuable feedback, grow your network, and find your sponsor.

Step 2: Leverage Feedback to Improve

“You’re really good at what you do, Linda. You work extremely hard, and you are going to keep working extremely hard and be right where you are.”

First feedback that changed the trajectory of my career. The second?

“We know you’re gonna knock down all the pins. Just make sure they like you.”

Hard work alone won’t take you to the next level. That’s what I learned from this critical feedback early in my career. And I’m so grateful to the individual who gave it to me.

I encourage you to treat feedback like knowledge (not criticism). Seek it out. Learn from it. Grow. And, please, please… give honest feedback to women who come to you seeking advice and support. We’re in this together.

Step 3: Build Authentic Relationships at Work

Let’s pretend you’re the hiring manager at your company. Now, think of the colleagues you know well — your friends at work. Then think of the coworkers you never even talk to. Who would you promote?

See my point?

People have to know and like you to trust you enough to tap your shoulder for that big project or promotion. If they KNOW YOU, they’ll have your back when office bullies spread rumors about you. And when you finally get your seat at the table? They’ll trust that you EARNED it. That’s how you control the narrative.

Remove Subtle Roadblocks to Access

You WILL encounter closed doors in your career. That’s a given. But you don’t have to wait for someone to open them for you. You can open them, as long as you’re willing to do the work.

Sometimes that work is an inside job: squashing the negative self-talk (NST) making you believe you’re not worthy of what’s on the other side of those closed doors — whether a raise or promotion or overseas leadership opportunity.

If that’s the case, book your 1-on-1 with me. Let’s remove those subtle (yet powerful) roadblocks, so you’re ready to stride through any door with confidence.

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