Managing Your Career Diversity Style

Barack Obama in the White House! Sonya Sotomayer on the Supreme Court! Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House! Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox!

Each one of these milestones will go down in the history books as a first. These type accomplishments should give all diverse people hope that the sky is the limit. Statistics and projections show that by 2011 there will be more non-white births for the first time in history. These notations will have serious effects for not only the demographics of this country but also for every business and corporation in this country.

Marketing will have its work cut out for itself. Cultural diversity in our workforce and in our supplier base enriches every organization and is a strategic business imperative as companies seek to enhance their competitive position in increasingly multicultural markets. The simple question is how are companies going to market to this fragmented marketplace. Marketing for one will have to develop multiple skill sets.

As a diverse executive, I too have pondered what this change would mean to my son and daughter. Will their path up the corporate ladder be a lot easier for them than it was for me? Will they learn the techniques to navigate this terrain? I recall a conversation that I had with my son the day that I found out that I had been promoted to VP. He was excited and told me how proud he was. I immediately told him that I am 45 years old and while I know that I earned it, there are VP’s here in their 30′s. I said that my wish is that you and your sister will make this level a lot younger than I did.

Now the question is how you climb that ladder, how do you take those steps up the staircase? How do we connect and prove to the powers that, yes, I can do this. These techniques are in many ways no different from what has been used in the past. If you can prove that you can bring value to the company, it will happen. That is why I love sports in the way that they treat talent. If you are perceived as being able to do the job, you will get the opportunity. Eventually business will work the same way. The economic turmoil of the past few years will do more to equalize this than any other. If you can prove your worth, you will move up the ladder, if not take that ladder to another company and begin the accent there.

These are the steps that you must always be aware of:

  • Network, Network. Work every day in building your network and I mean every day. So many people start this process either when they are sensing that they will be losing their job or they have just lost their job.
  • Diverse Network. How many folks do you know that look like you are connected? Here in NYC, we have developed an informal network throughout the city. It is not specifically by industry but spans the marketplace, from attorneys, investment bankers to marketing and editors.
  • What is your brand. If you were a product, how would you be marketed? What key words would be used to describe you? Have your performance reviews been above average. Do you stand out amongst your peers? Are you viewed as a key player at your level? Are you viewed as a problem solver or a problem carrier?
  • Know the key players. Do you know who they are and do they know you? Key players would be the executive team. Although this may be a few layers above your current level, you should begin the process of being known. Are you known by the levels above you as an enterprising person and someone who can get the job done? Are you viewed as a positive force?
  • Industry knowledge. What is going on in your industry? Where is it headed? What are your thoughts re: your industry? You must know where your business is going. Better still do you understand your business? Do you have concrete ideas about where the business is going?
  • Do you have a mentor and whom are you mentoring. Yes, it works both ways. Always reach out to help promising people with your time and advice. Remember in order to achieve your dream; you must help someone achieve his or hers.
  • Social Media. You must have a footprint on the internet. If you Google your name and nothing stares back at you, you need to get busy. Are you on LINKEDIN? Are you on Twitter? Are you on Facebook? On all these sites keep it business related, the mission is to become noticed in your industry.

During the recent Masters Golf tournament, one of the announcers mentioned a quote from Bobby Jones, who was a famous golfer from the past. His quote” Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears“. I mention this because the GAME OF LIFE is the same.

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