By Ellen McGirt
May 31, 2017

A terrific short piece from Essence crossed my feeds, and I wanted to be sure to pass it along so you can share it on yours. It reminded me of how a little well-timed advice can go a long way.

While 10 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Career sounds like standard fare for women’s magazines – it’s a list of ten ways you might be accidentally sabotaging your career – it actually does triple duty.

First, it elevates the voices of local experts who need the validation this type of media exposure can bring. All of them are women, with plenty of women of color in the mix. Second, the stock photos of diverse black women in the workplace are a delight. They normalize diversity at work in all its routine glory, including diversity of hair, if you get my drift.

But while the piece offers necessary coaching to young employees of color without making race an explicit issue, the theme of race always hangs in the air. Why? For young leaders and first-time contributors, the cost of sabotage can be so high. Number six reminds us to not skip the office parties, for example. Friendly, straightforward advice until you consider that employees of color, who may already be operating under a wage and bias deficit, need to be more mindful of networking opportunities. Number eight cautions against overcommitting to assignments as a way to earn favor. Burn-out is bad, but failing to highlight your own strengths is worse. “Instead of diving into a task merely because you’re uncertain about saying no, offer to help find the best resource while stating your desire to tackle something else that’s more suited to your skill set and career aspirations,” the article advises. If you’re working in an environment that may not be prepared to see your full potential, it’s important to keep your own development top of mind.

Also, don’t be the annoying “read-receipts” e-mail person, whatever color you are. Really.

These are the kinds of tactics that can smooth career paths and soothe frazzled nerves. They also make for great micro-mentoring opportunities on LinkedIn feeds and over office coffees. Share and add your own self-sabotage avoidance tips to the list. Mine? Make sure you know what your “listening face” looks like. Trust me, it’s probably not what you think.


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