Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Empowering Women of Color in Their Career Journey: Insights from Jasmine Escalera

Jasmine Escalera

Jasmine Escalera

Career Coach

Key Takeaways

  • Networking as Empowerment: Women of color should view networking as a way to build a supportive community, opening up paths to opportunities and leadership positions.
  • Visibility and Recognition: Achievements should be made visible to key stakeholders to ensure work is recognized and valued, enhancing leadership opportunities.
  • Active Career Management: It’s crucial to actively manage one’s career by seeking mentors, documenting achievements, and advocating for oneself.
  • Professional Conflict Resolution: Address workplace conflicts with a focus on facts, direct communication, and seeking supportive resolution.
  • Self-Advocacy for Appreciation: Openly discuss contributions and seek fair recognition or growth opportunities with managers when feeling undervalued.
  • Work-Life Balance Strategies: Define personal work-life balance needs, utilize PTO effectively, and communicate needs for flexibility to manage stress.

Career Empowerment for Women of Color

Women of color face unique challenges in advancing their careers, often navigating a landscape with limited representation in leadership. Jasmine Escalera, career coach and founder of The Empowered Hire, steps in to address these issues, offering strategies for effective networking, increasing workplace visibility, and advocating for personal career growth. Her focused advice in this Q&A aims to empower women of color to break through barriers, leveraging community support and embracing their achievements. Jasmine’s guidance is a beacon for those seeking to assert their place in the professional world, providing a roadmap to career empowerment with clarity and confidence.

“Networking is more than a buzzword, especially for women of color that have a steep climb to leadership roles. Networking helps provide opportunities that might otherwise be invisible – be it a step-up role, professional development, or that well-deserved seat at the table. It’s not just challenging to access these opportunities, but without a supportive network, it’s like navigating without knowing the path.

I’ve seen many talented women hesitate to network because the professional world doesn’t support them. If they don’t see leaders who look like them, putting themselves out there feels like stepping out into the unknown with no guidance. Networking can seem transactional, even daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

The game-changer? A mindset shift. Viewing networking as community building transforms it from a chore to a shared journey of empowerment. It’s about championing each other’s accomplishments and forging a path together.

For women of color, a diversified network is crucial. It’s comfortable to connect with those who share your background, but branching out is where the growth happens. It means engaging with those in roles you aspire to, who may not look like you but can become allies, sponsors, and gateways to realms you’re eyeing.

Moreover, it’s a tool for financial empowerment. Through networking, women of color can gain insights into salaries and advocate for their worth, bridging the pay gap one conversation at a time.

In essence, networking for women of color is about building a community that amplifies access, champions progress, and fosters mentorship – it’s about not going at it alone but rising together.”

“Climbing the career ladder as a woman of color means mastering the art of visibility. Don’t just be a doer; make sure people recognize your work’s brilliance. It’s not enough to hope people will see your effort and recognize you for it. Shout out your achievements because being a silent workhorse won’t turn heads or open doors.

Ask yourself, “Who needs to know about the great things I’m doing?” Then, take the initiative. Schedule meetings, send updates, make your contributions known—highlight how your work benefits the company, whether it’s boosting efficiency, fostering growth, or increasing revenue.

And here’s a pro tip: Keep a record of your accomplishments. It’s easy to lose track amidst the hustle, but documenting your successes is a powerful tool for boosting your visibility. It’s not just about knowing your value; it’s about ensuring others see it too.

Remember, securing those opportunities and the growth you desire hinges on who knows about the dope work you do.”

“It’s crucial for women of color to be proactive in career development because the truth is no one will champion your growth as fiercely as you can. We might hope that our hard work alone would draw attention and support, but that’s not the reality. So ownership of your career falls squarely on your shoulders.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Find a Mentor and a Sponsor: Mentors craft your strategy, while sponsors within your organization vouch for you and your work.
  • Create Your Personal Board of Directors: Gather a diverse group of advisers who offer different perspectives and support you through various professional scenarios.
  • Be Your Own Advocate: Regularly document your wins, big or small. This isn’t just for visibility—it’s also for affirming your value and preparing you for those crucial conversations about advancement and compensation.
  • Talk Money: Get comfortable discussing finances. When you’ve documented your achievements, initiating conversations about raises or promotions becomes not just a possibility, but a necessity.”

Overcoming Workplace Challenges

“Navigating workplace conflicts professionally starts with a step back and processing the emotional impact. As someone who feels deeply, I’ve learned it’s crucial to separate feelings from facts before tackling the issue.

Here’s my go-to strategy:

  • Pause and Process: Before addressing the conflict, take a moment to process your emotions. This helps to approach the situation from a place of clarity, not clouded by emotion.
  • Face It Fearlessly: Conflicts are daunting, but they don’t dissipate when ignored. Approach them directly, armed with facts, and a calm, clear perspective on the situation.
  • Seek Support: You’re not in this alone. If the conflict involves a colleague, enlist a supervisor’s guidance. If it’s with your manager, turn to HR or a trusted coworker. Support can help steer the conversation toward a constructive resolution.”

“Feeling undervalued at work can stem from numerous causes. It’s imperative to pinpoint the ‘why’ to address the issue effectively. Are you the perpetual ‘yes’ person, stretched thin without fair compensation or recognition? Does your title reflect your actual workload? Gaining clarity on these questions is your starting point.

Once you understand the reasons behind your feelings, initiate an open dialogue with your manager. It’s not just about expressing dissatisfaction but inviting them to strategize solutions with you. Approach this as a collaborative effort, assuming they’re on your side and ready to support you.

After you’ve agreed on a course of action, it’s crucial to follow up. Hold your manager accountable for the agreed changes. If there’s no follow-through, provide updates and be prepared to steer the conversation back on track.

And if, after your best efforts, the situation remains static, it may be time to consider that this environment might not be the best fit for you. Recognizing this could be the nudge you need to seek opportunities where you’re truly valued.”

“To maintain a healthy work-life balance in high-stress jobs, start by pinpointing exactly what ‘balance’ means for you. In roles where stress is part of the landscape, figure out what conditions you need to thrive. Perhaps it’s the option to work remotely, or more flexible hours.

Key strategies include:

  • Delegation: Assess your tasks and consider if others on your team are better suited for them. Effective delegation can significantly reduce your stress.
  • Open Communication: Regularly discuss and prioritize your workload with your manager. If everything is a priority, and nothing changes despite your best efforts, it may signal a need for change.
  • Utilize PTO: Americans often underuse their paid time off. Don’t fall into this trap. Use your PTO for rest and activities that rejuvenate you.

Remember, self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, especially when your job demands a lot from you.”

Career Transition Strategies

“When considering a career change, particularly into a new industry or field, reflect deeply on what fulfillment means to you. It often lies at the crossroads of four elements:

  • Strengths: Recognize what you excel at. Working from your strengths not only bolsters your confidence but also ensures you feel energized and powerful in your role.
  • Passions: Identify what you love. Fulfillment comes when your job resonates with what ignites your enthusiasm and feels impactful to you.
  • Interests: Contemplate what you want to do more of. Engaging more with areas that interest you naturally heightens your engagement and satisfaction.
  • Growth: Determine what you want to learn. Feeling fulfilled is often tied to the growth opportunities a role offers, the new skills you can acquire, and the potential for personal development.”
  • Deep Dive into Transferable Skills: Begin by dissecting job descriptions in your target field to extract key skills that are in high demand. Understand the nuances of these skills and how they apply to the new industry. It’s not just about identifying these skills but fully grasping their relevance and applications.
  • Leverage AI for Insight: Use AI, like ChatGPT, as a powerful tool to bridge the gap between your past experience and your desired role. Feed it your resume and a job description, and ask it to draw parallels that bring out your transferable skills. This can provide a detailed analysis that might reveal connections you hadn’t considered.
  • Craft Your Narrative: When you have a list of transferable skills, sift through your career history for moments where you’ve used them. Construct a compelling story for each skill, focusing on specific instances that demonstrate your competency. For example, for project management, recall a time when you led a cross-functional team to success, outlining the impact and outcomes.
  • Revamp Your Professional Branding: Update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and any other professional materials to reflect these skills prominently. 
  • Interview Preparation: Develop anecdotes for each transferable skill that align with the PAR method (Problem, Action, Result). This ensures you’re ready to illustrate your skills with concrete examples during interviews. Practice delivering these stories confidently, highlighting how each skill has contributed to tangible results in your past positions.”

“In a career transition, comprehensive market research is pivotal. It’s like a business analyzing its market to find out what gaps its product can fill. Similarly, in your career transition, you’re the product, and you’re learning how to position your skills to solve a hiring manager’s problems, as outlined in their job description.

Here’s how to navigate this:

  • Conduct Market Research: Dive deep into understanding the industry you’re entering. What are the common challenges? What solutions are companies looking for? This knowledge enables you to align your narrative to the market’s needs.
  • Strategic Networking: Use networking as a research tool, not just a job-seeking tactic. Connect with professionals already in the role you desire or those who hire for it. Focus your discussions on understanding their daily problems and the solutions they seek.
  • Leverage LinkedIn: This platform is invaluable for finding and connecting with industry professionals. It’s a goldmine for market research, enabling you to engage with potential employers and peers in your desired field.
  • Utilize AI Tools: AI, like ChatGPT, can help you formulate the right questions for your market research interactions. It can guide you on what to ask to extract valuable insights that inform how you’ll present your skills and experiences.”

Overcoming Barriers to Advancement

“Navigating the workplace as a woman of color often means being extra vigilant about implicit biases that might place an unwanted barrier on your career path. If you’re on the job hunt, pay close attention to the company culture during interviews and interactions. Look for signs of diversity in leadership positions and listen to how they talk about inclusion—it’s actions and attitudes, not just policies, that make a workplace truly welcoming.

For those already in a company, it’s about keeping an eye out for patterns. Are certain groups consistently passed over for high-profile projects or promotions? Are there discrepancies in how feedback is given, or who gets recognized at meetings? These subtleties can signal an undercurrent of bias.

Combatting this isn’t about carrying the weight alone. It’s not your fault, and you don’t have to fix it single-handedly. Seek out allies and mentors within your network, join affinity groups where experiences are shared, or find a mentor who can provide guidance.”

“Receiving constructive feedback is a key part of professional development. View it as an opportunity for growth. Each piece of feedback is a stepping stone towards improving your performance and becoming a more accomplished version of yourself.

When you receive feedback, first reflect on what it tells you about your growth areas. Ask yourself how you can use this information to advance in your career. It’s all about using feedback as a tool for self-improvement to help you achieve your goals.

Next, consider your support network. Discuss the feedback with your mentors, sponsors, or trusted colleagues to gain additional perspectives. They can provide valuable advice on how to address any areas for development highlighted by the feedback.

Also, look into the resources available to you, such as company-provided training or professional development courses. These can be particularly useful in addressing any skill gaps and enhancing your capabilities.

Remember, the goal of feedback is to help you grow. By actively seeking it out, reflecting on its insights, and taking advantage of the support and resources available, you can improve your performance and increase your visibility in your role.”

“Setting and communicating your career goals with your supervisor is a critical step toward your professional advancement. It’s a proactive move that requires clarity and a strategic approach. Begin by envisioning where you want to be in the next year or five years—envision your ideal title, the responsibilities you want, and the achievements you aim to have under your belt.

This vision becomes the blueprint for your goal-setting. Break it down into actionable steps for the next six months: the skills you need to acquire, the support you’ll need, and the potential challenges to anticipate.

Once you have your goals outlined, it’s time for a candid conversation with your supervisor. Clearly express your career aspirations and discuss what you need from them and the team to succeed. It’s about partnership—aligning your professional growth with the organization’s objectives.

Regular check-ins are essential. Update your supervisor on your progress, the hurdles you encounter, and the successes you achieve. This ongoing dialogue allows for necessary adjustments and reaffirms your commitment to your goals.”

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