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The Standard #50

 

The wise gentleman recognizes that success is never a perpetual certainty, as the unpleasant experience of failure is an inevitable reality. Trust, disappointment is but one of many catalysts for personal growth and development. No one is immune to letdowns and adversity. To be certain, born of failure and disappointment, one’s professional character is forged with steeled resolve and resilience. Acceptance of one’s shortcoming, and then courageously demonstrating the required perseverance to secure success; this is the first crucial step in one’s professional maturation. Trust, it is a challenging and painful process – without a shadow of doubt. The emotional and mental investment is substantial. Anger. Fear. Doubt. Mistrust.

These emotions can be turned outward, inward, or both simultaneously. If success is the desired outcome for the gentleman, harnessing said emotions to positively drive toward his goals is paramount. These feelings, albeit perfectly natural, can be debilitating if left unchecked. Accomplishing one’s professional objectives is never an easy journey, but it is a journey nonetheless – replete with unexpected and sometimes crushing setbacks. A gentleman should never make that journey more difficult than it has to be or give up on it entirely. Instead, embrace it, stand back and objectively view your circumstances with unbiased eyes. What were some takeaways from the situation? What can you do differently going forward? What did you learn about yourself? The answers to these questions will set up a proper approach to effectively and rationally handle disappointment while positioning yourself to capture personal victory.

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The Standard #49

 

The professional gentleman understands that success within the workplace is owed not only to an impeccable work ethic, but also to an even-keeled temperament that marries well with fellow colleagues. A colleague that contributes nothing more than a negative disposition and unpleasant attitude can corrupt the morale and atmosphere within the workplace. Now, if you count yourself among the working class community, you understand that a sizable portion of your day is shared with your coworkers, most likely comparable to time shared with your family. Therefore, it would be in the best interest of everyone to make the work environment friendly and collaborative. Trust, no one wants to share close quarters and interact with a malcontent throughout the weekday.

Negative energy is an exhaustive drain on the team, and productivity can be impacted due to time exhausted dealing with said negative energy. The professional gentleman understands that his communication requires active listening, disagreements are treated with civility, and criticism is not offered absent constructive alternatives or meaningful feedback. Employing these methods can surely help foster a positive work environment that leads to better attitudes, willful collaboration, and substantive ideas. You will definitely be the colleague that coworkers enjoy working with and management wants to promote.

Listen Up, I Have a Story to Tell – How to Create a Winning Narrative for a Job Interview

To be absolutely certain, the most prolific hip hop artists in history display the innate ability to tell vivid stories – the art of storytelling as many call it. The Notorious B.I.G. Nas. Scarface. These artists were able to lyrically weave a tapestry of detail throughout tracks that transported the listener directly into the song. Undoubtedly, the experience leaves an indelible mark on the listener’s memory. Effectively describing the most minute facets and capturing the emotion of a situation; artful storytelling is a powerful tool that engenders engagement. That being stated, communicating an engaging story is not only a useful device in songwriting, it can also elevate a job interview above a fellow job seeker. When I have sought job opportunities, my interview style is conversational, detailed, and personal. I want the interviewer fully invested in my answers and my narrative.

And that is exactly what a candidate should be constructing – a compelling narrative; something not easily forgotten. Now, I cannot assign a hard number to the amount of job interviews that I have conducted or been involved in, but well into the hundreds is not unlikely. I have noted, over the course of many years and varying interviews, there are two distinct areas in an individual’s interview that tend to be flawed: the interviewer’s questions are not directly answered and the level of detail is severely lacking. The result is a bland, underwhelming experience that renders the interview forgettable, or alternatively, memorable due to the overall awful performance. Today, I want to offer some simple advice that may prove to be helpful while improving how you execute your interview.

6 Essential Tips for a Winning Interview

  • Without a doubt, the daily grind of employment will grant the gentleman a wealth of material for proper utilization during an interview. It is this information gathering that will lay the foundation for your interview preparedness. The gentleman would be wise to document specific work events that highlight teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, and leadership. Microsoft OneNote is an excellent choice of software to gather and store this type of pertinent information. A manila folder, an electronic folder on your desktop, or Word document – whatever your choice for information tracking; ensure you are saving your notes.
  • Now that you have gathered all relevant information that demonstrates why you deserve the position, it is time for the next step in your job preparedness. A gentleman must now organize his thoughts, commit those selected work events to memory, and practice his delivery to an audience. I am a strong proponent of employing the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This technique allows the job candidate to provide structure to thoughts and articulate them in an organized fashion. Responding to an interview question that is intended to assess job viability; the candidate will first describe the situation at hand, what task or objective was proper for the situation, the action that taken to achieve the objective, and the concluding result. Bonus: A candidate can add another R for reflection, which basically captures what the candidate learned and how they matured professionally from the experience.
  • The job candidate must ensure that the emotion of the situation is addressed and articulated. Now, keep in mind, this is not the time to be overly dramatic and theatrical. Your heart doesn’t have to race faster than a cheetah across the African wilderness hunting prey. Rather, it was a tense situation and you were slightly anxious as you addressed the pressing issue. A candidate should clearly represent the stakes at hand so the gravity of the situation is completely understood.
  • As a candidate is describing a certain event in detail, it is paramount that the story contains specifics. Be sure to take advantage of adjectives and proper nouns. Again, please note, now is not the time to break out the thesaurus. However, the addition of a few small details can allow one candidate to shine brighter than another. Please see example below and note the differences.
      1. One night, I had to place an overnight order right before cut-off time for delivery. There were a lot of items on the purchase order that I had to place, but I was able to successfully get the order in with the vendor.
      2. One late evening, approximately 30 minutes before Medtronic’s cut-off time for shipping, I had to place an order for 100 items for overnight delivery. Given the large amount of items that had to be ordered, I asked the customer service representative if I could fax or e-mail the order to the vendor. Unfortunately, the order could only be placed verbally over the phone. That news was a little disappointing and stressing, but it had to get done. Therefore, I had to place the order accurately and efficiently with the CS rep to beat the cut-off time. So, item by item, I read off the manufacturer number to the CS rep and in turn she read it back for confirmation. To save time, she would only notify me of any back-ordered items after the order was loaded into the system. In the end, we were able to get all but 5 items placed for overnight delivery, and I notified the hospital regarding the 5 items on back-order with their release date. I also provided their sales representative’s contact information for a follow-up if a substitute item was required.
    • A candidate should ask thoughtful questions. Yes – salary, benefits, and shift are all credible inquiries. However, a candidate with a genuine interest regarding a position should ask questions that put the interviewers back on their heels. What challenges are they facing as a department or company? Do they promote a culture that rewards and retains its quality employees? Do they promote growth and development within the workforce? Of course, your questions will be tailored to suit your company of choice. For example, I applied for a position a few years ago, and I posed a question somewhat like this: With the Affordable Care Act reducing the rates of reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid; how aggressive are your standardization projects for med. surg. products to help offset that potential monetary loss for the organization? I did my due diligence researching the position I wanted. Serious, thoughtful questions illustrate an honest curiosity that will surely garner respect and appreciation.
    • As a job candidate, it is vitally important that you provide a brief summation of your qualifications and attributes as a future employee. You must present yourself as an asset that adds value to the company. This is your closing statement. At this point, the company’s mission statement and vision should be intimately familiar. Definitely, you should fully understand the role and responsibilities of the open position being sought after. Now it is time to deftly connect your best qualities to those areas and confidently argue why you are the best candidate. I highly suggest identifying 4-5 adjectives that best describe you professionally. Be thoughtful, sincere, and open. Remember: Craft an engaging narrative that answers questions directly while displaying critical thinking and showcasing your best traits.

Well, there you have it; just a few key pointers that I have extracted from experience over the years. I hope the information will be beneficial to job seekers reading this post. Good luck!

Striving While Black – Navigating the Corporate World as a Gentleman of Color

I’ve been in this game for years, corporate life is an animal, it’s rules to the game, so I wrote me a manual. It’s a step by step e-booklet for you to get your job on track – not your career pushed back. Yes, the corporate world can present quite the challenge for anyone, but for the gentleman of color, this world can be an entirely different animal. And for the uninitiated, the wrong moves can render a career stuck in neutral, or worst yet, gifted a box of your belongings and shown the exit.

Trust, there will be landmines that must be expertly navigated if career success is the objective. Your patience and resolve will be tested. There are so many times you can be confused with the other black guy in the office before it starts to wear on your nerves. You can only hear black slang from 1985 resurrected in 2018 as if it is brand new so many times before you want to scream. You can only hear the expressed fear from your non-melaninated colleagues about venturing into an urban area (which they never visit anyway) before your eyes roll out of the sockets. Never mind that you go to work everyday where a mass shooting could pop off at any moment by a disgruntled, middle-aged white male. Oh yes, I’ve had active shooter training, and law enforcement confirmed the standard profile of said gunman. You bite your tongue. You grind your teeth. But I digress, to survive the corporate office, you have to learn how the game is played. And then you must play it effectively.

I’ve checked in with some of my black brethren in the corporate hemisphere and solicited some opinions and guidance. Far too often, we sit in isolation and suffer in silence with no outlet. There is a generation of men of color entering the workforce for the first time with absolutely no idea what to expect or how to conduct themselves. This list is far from exhaustive, but there are some good directives that could prove to be helpful to someone. I have 20+ years in the workplace, and I have learned through trial and error. So, let’s get to it. So, first off…

  • Allow me to point out the obvious, as you are reading through this post, you may think these points are applicable to any ethnicity. And that is possibly true. However, in some circumstances, there is a racial double standard pervading the corporate world. You will not be afforded the benefit of any doubt my friend. The hypocrisy is thick. Most folk just don’t want to acknowledge it. How do I know? Look at it on a grand scale. Politics aside, the current president carries himself in a, well, ungentlemanly manner. His supporters largely ignore his flaws in decorum and etiquette. However, President Obama caught hell for wearing a tan suit and kicking his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. Yes, the outrage was pretty damn ridiculous. So, there is a mighty good chance you are going to run into those same people in the office. Be cognizant of that fact.
  • Don’t be astonished when your colleagues are astonished. I was assigned a task by a doctor. He was so surprised by the quick turnaround time, he literally looked at me and stated he didn’t expect such efficiency. I once got a promotion and a fellow colleague expressed his surprise that someone else didn’t get the position I got – then he congratulated me. Well, thanks.
  • Hey, superman lover – yes, I’m talking to you. Stop being a player around the office. You are asking for trouble. Best case scenario: You get shut down, your feelings get hurt, and your image is branded as a hound dog or dirty old man. Worst case scenario: You get fired and find yourself a part of a hash tag movement.
  • To be sure, there are varying social and professional constructs that a gentleman must properly evaluate and then conduct himself accordingly. Your behavior outside of the corporate environment may not have a smooth transition to your office or cubicle. For example, I hold an affinity for classic hip-hop, and I can even recite the lyrics for Ice Cube’s Gangsta, Gangsta seamlessly. However, common sense dictates I would not recite said gangsta lyrics in front of my young children. Your place of employment is no different. There is a time and place for everything; business is business and the streets are the streets. A misguided attempt to “keep it real” in corporate America can go woefully awry – you’ve seen the Dave Chappelle skits.
  • However, a gentleman of color must remain “real” to his identity. Now, this statement may appear as a direct contradiction to the statement above, so allow me to explain. While it is paramount for a gentleman to embrace and understand the culture of his company – and every company has a particular culture – a gentleman should not adopt an unnatural façade that compromises his integrity and comfort level. There is an episode from HBO’s television series Insecure where a character, Molly Carter, tries to join the “boy’s club” at her firm in an attempt to blend in. The results are unfavorable, as she is still socially excluded from the unofficial club. I don’t pretend at work. I don’t pretend to like or dislike things just to fit in. A gentleman should not go along just to get along.
  • If you begin a statement with – I cannot because I am black – you’ve already defeated yourself all by yourself. Don’t be a cynic. Sure, the road may be paved with setback and disappointment, but you have to believe in the possibility of success with hard work and discipline.
  • Contrary to some prevailing assumptions, everything is not a conspiracy against the black race. Does racism and prejudice exist in the workplace – of course, absolutely. However, every single uncomfortable circumstance or general unfavorable topic does not have to fall back on racial inequality. Seriously, it really does not. Under-representation of minorities in the workplace could be a result of the dearth of qualified applicants. Perhaps a certain promotion was not attained due to a better candidate also applied. A gentleman cannot fight every battle. Trying to achieve success in your field is exhausting by itself; a gentleman will burn himself out mentally & physically by taking on additional battles. Sometimes you have to take a moment to educate and other times you have to walk away.
  • However, sometimes circumstances does fall back on racial inequality in the workplace. In those circumstances, the best course of action is to contact human resources or the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Best practice: document, document, document any events that pertain to the matter at hand. Given the grave nature of this circumstance, this is not a matter one should address alone. Present your issues and concerns to the appropriate personnel. If you are a witness to racial injustice in the office, your voice must be a tool of measured reason and truth. And don’t engage in office banter regarding the matter; not everyone needs to be privy to your business.
  • And speaking of office banter – please keep it clean and professional. It is important your conversations are based on merit and facts. Gossip and conjecture has no place in the office, but sure enough, every office has some form of gossip. It’s best you avoid it altogether and get to the matter at hand – work. Because, when it is all said and done, you will be thrown under the bus.
  • Because, as much as many individuals will deny it, prejudice and racism is as American as apple pie. It is tightly woven into the fabric of this nation, and some people will demonstrate their actions consciously or subconsciously. So, entering the workplace, a gentleman of color will probably have to work twice as hard as his Caucasian counterpart. Why? Stereotypes. Stereotypes that middle America is continuously exposed to via news and entertainment, and has been since the inception of this country. So, as a black man enters into the corporate world, you bear the weight of every historical, black caricature steeped in America’s racist past – primarily: the brute (angry, dangerous), the coon (lazy, buffoonish), or the Tom (docile, submissive). Sure, we can complain about the system, but these are the cards that have been dealt, so the game has to be played deftly and intelligently. We have to dispel every myth and stereotype just to prove we are on the same level. And even then, you will accused of preferential treatment because you’ve been deemed as “safe” by white management. Haters will hate, but you have to be your own champion and tout your accomplishments and work ethic – haters be damned.
  • Therefore, don’t be surprised by some backlash from other people of color in the office. You’ve worked hard to attain your achievements. You are recognized by white peers and upper management. Congratulations – you can officially be perceived as an Uncle Tom or sell-out. If you dress with elegance, articulate oneself in a professional manner, and exude a measured demeanor; you can possibly be categorized as a “safe” choice that has been elevated as a token. This assumption confuses me, as some of our greatest civil rights leaders possessed the aforementioned characteristics, yet no one would dare label Malcolm X as a Tom. People will formulate opinions about you, but they will never understand how hard you’ve worked to attain your status. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel inferior. And never feel ashamed of your position within the company.
  • And when you attain that status, it is incumbent upon you to give back to minorities entering the workplace behind you. To walk into an office and see no one that resembles you can be intimidating and quite sobering. People are tribal by nature. People will gravitate to those people that they share similar interests and culture. Don’t act brand new. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Reach out and help someone.
  • However, don’t be surprised if your welcome is rebuffed. I’ve tried to make eye contact and execute the “bro nod”, only to be straight up passed by in the hallway, as if I was as inconsequential as paint on the wall. Lesson: Not every black male will feel the need to join your “tribe”. As much as you want to greet that man with some “Wakanada Forever” dap, he may not reciprocate the same love. Everyone has their own origin story, so don’t take it personal.
  • Loyalty is valued within the black community. However, don’t be afraid to place distance between yourself and someone who has established a reputation as a malcontent. Establish a network of like-minded individuals that are the best in their field so you can learn and grow.
  • If you deem that your current professional environment is not conducive to your growth & development, it may be time to execute an executive decision and move on to another position or company, or maybe even venture out into the world of entrepreneurship. Severing ties with a company where career advancement is not a plausible possibility or the atmosphere is racially insensitive could be beneficial for you mentally and physically.

Do you have a story or tip to share? Please share in the comment section.

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