Being Black in America is one thing, let alone being black in Corporate America. But once you add being young and Black to that analogy, it becomes an entirely different story.
Black millennials are a completely different bracket of extraordinary. We’re opinionated, fearless, and have the idea that success will happen on our own time and not when our boss decides to make that decision. All of these qualities are exceptional for one to succeed. Especially if you look like the typical person in Corporate America that would easily achieve success – if you know what I mean. However, it’s important that we as Black millennials understand that we do not look like that. Nevertheless, this does not stop us from accomplishing the goals we have set forth for ourselves. But there are a few qualities I think we can add to our “brand” or “portfolio” that will help us open doors a little quicker without us feeling like a sellout or that we are getting the short end of the stick.
The first lesson I learned is always remain 100% professional while at work. This does not stop you from being the fun trendsetter you more than likely are, young millennial. Your boss will still come to you when it’s time to create the PowerPoint that won’t have everyone in the room snoring during the office meetings or picking the theme for the holiday events because they know you are probably going to go viral on LinkedIn for your contemporary choices, more than anyone else in the office. But being 100% professional at all times will prevent your boss from ever calling you in his/her office about the slang used in the breakroom between you and your work bestie because someone overheard you say, “Kim a whole stallion for real” or that “I really be breaking these men down like enamel” and was offended. We have to remember that black lingo is like no other. And most of the colloquialism used, we can’t even explain. Imagine that same conversation with your boss, and you’re trying to explain that Kim being a stallion means that “she got body” and not that she looks like a horse. Either way, you’re now in the dog house at work. Save your idiomatic speech for happy hour, young black millennial. This also includes your facial expressions too. You’ll thank me later.
In the book, 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, there is a chapter on concealing our intentions. Meaning, holding back our true desires to appear as though we are appeasing all of those people around us.
How does this relate to you, you ask?
Well, you never want to appear too smart or at least smarter than your boss. Because when you are young and black, that same intelligence can be perceived as arrogance. I remember a time that I was sent to help out another site and train their new employees on the best practices to implement for the company I work for. Now, clearly I must know my stuff to be sent to another site in another state to help out. So, I went, I trained, I enjoyed my time meeting the new team, and I came home. But simply because I never asked for help by the site leaders (because I didn’t need help, I could’ve actually showed them a thing or two), I was made out to be an arrogant, know it all.
This was baffling to me because even though I am confident in the work I produce, I would never call it arrogance. This is also a term I never had used to describe me in my almost 24 years of life on this earth but then I had to remember I never had to train older white men from New England until now. If I could change one thing about that ordeal, I would probably have them think they were actually showing me something and acted as surprised as a mother watching her toddler do the same somersault they’ve been doing all week. This does not make you a sell-out either, everyone knows you are probably one of the smartest people in the office, but others want to also feel like they are aiding to the plan as well. Even if they truly aren’t, just make the ones you work with feel like they have some form of purpose, no matter how inadequate or pitiful it is.
Lastly, find you an older black mentor who can help you at times when you feel like giving up, because this feeling is inevitable. No matter how hard we work, we will face times that make us feel like everything we did to achieve success was all for nothing. And no matter how hard we keep pushing, we are being dragged further away from our dreams. An older black mentor has been there. They’ll recommend the best options to choose from in your situation and they will help push you back on the right path of success. They will look at you more like kin than a mentee and do everything in their power to help you cope with your situational depression because they too will know how it feels to have dreams bigger than what the world pictures for you. They will be just as opinionated and fearless as you and have no problem telling you when you are wrong either. Just make sure you pick the right mentor, it must be someone who is always attempting to strive towards success on their own terms.
Maneuvering Corporate America will never be easy for you, young black millennial. America itself isn’t easy on you, so don’t expect anything better from Corporate America. Just remember to always be a young professional, who doesn’t rub elbows with others because they feel like you are trying to outsmart them. And keep a mentor with your best interest in heart by your side. The ability to maneuver Corporate America will help you one day take on the world as a boss of your own. Corporate America is a lot like New York City, if you can make here, you can make it anywhere. Just try to make it without going insane, or losing yourself in the process.