Success Tips for Minority Professionals
(and Everyone Else For That Matter)
corporate world still largely controlled by anglo men, women and
minorities often feel stymied and unappreciated, even if they work
harder than their white male colleagues, because getting ahead demands
more than superior performance. Making one's way up the corporate
ladder also requires alliances with key people who can serve an career
mentors and facilitators. Unfortunately most women and minorities are
not privy to the "old boy" network that many anglo men take for granted.
are some stellar performers within these disadvantaged groups who
achieve tremendous success and approbation through their hard work and
understanding of how to nurture important relationships. The women
below, who have graciously offered to share their secrets of success,
are among this very special cadre of down-to-earth superwomen.
Barbara S. Cambridge, PhD, A.C.S.W. is an associate professor in
the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She is actively involved in her
community, especially in the arena of children's issues.
Catalina Garcia is an anesthesiologist in private practice, who
also serves on her state's Board of Medical Examiners. She is a
highly respected volunteer who concentrates her formidable talents
on school reform and hispanic issues.
Regina Montoya, formerly a partner with a major law firm and
Assistant to President Clinton, is Vice President of Westcott
Communications and President of Jay Hawk, Inc. She also serves on
the Board of Directors of Sallie Mae.
Young was an executive with Digital before she started
Innovations, a cutting edge diversity training and management
consulting firm. She is very active in her local chapter of the
National Association of Women Business Owners and is currently
spearheading its efforts to mentor owners of emerging businesses.
these imprsessive women have travelled different paths on their road to
success, their answers to the question, "If you could choose three
keys reasons why you have been successful, what would they be?" were
remarkably similar. Below is a summary of the ten key principles which
comprise their combined philosophies.
Create and maintain a strong personal, social and professional
resource bank. From plumbers to professional friends, know who
to go to for help and advice.
Use your family as a continual resource for support, encouragement,
new ideas, and feedback. You may think your parents and siblings
can't relate to your situation, but they understand it better than
you think. Take pride in your family's can do tradition and use it
to your advantage.
Meet with close friends and mentors, person-to-person every two or
three month. Share experiences, exchange ideas, be a mutual
admiration society for one another.
and maintain personal clarity. Know who you are, what you want,
and what you have to offer. Become intimately familiar with your
most valuable skills and personality traits. Frame a belief system
that will serve as your lifelong personal and professional
When you are a woman or a minority, you may be the only one of your
sex or color in the room. If you don't have the self confidence to
believe you belong there, you won't have the courage to state and
defend your position.
Sometimes goals, quotas, etc., seem beyond your reach and the fear
of failure threatens to overwhelm you. If you call upon the
within you, you'll relish this new challenge and interpret it as
just another mountain in a string of steep, slippery, conquests.
yourself a mentor. Be prepared to hunt for one yourself. Don't
wait to be discovered.
Look for someone who has already walked a similar path to yours. A
mentor doesn't have to be your direct supervisor. He or she can be
a manager from another department. In fact, it is sometimes helpful
to consult with a veteran who knows the ropes and isn't too close to
your situation. If your organization has very few women or
minorities in high positions, find yourself an enlightened anglo
male, or look beyond your company. Just be sure you choose someone
who understands your political realities and can help you avoid
disastrous, career damaging mistakes.
a concerted effort to be visible in your company and your
community. Gaining access to people both similar and different
from you will build your visibility and your appreciation for
Join a professional organization related to your career, industry,
or community. Become actively involved in a committee or board of
directors. Support your local Hispanic, Black, or Asian Chamber of
Commerce, Women's Network or Battered Women's Shelter. Volunteer to
be the department or area coordinator for your company's United Way
Campaign or Adopt-A-School program. These activities give you
recognition and a network of trusted colleagues and provide you with
the opportunity to hone high level leadership skills much faster
than a typical for-profit organization. (By the way, your being
active in professional and community organizations is one of the
fastest ways for headhunters to find out about you.)
Unto whom much is given, much is required. Fair or not, like it
or not, women and minorities who occupy professional and managerial
positions are the standard bearers for others of their sex and
ethnicity. Their managers, peers, subordinates and clients watch
them carefully to form opinions which often reflect upon others
following in their footsteps. Gifted individuals carry the burden
of representing their sisters and brothers proudly and serving as
their mentors and cheerleaders.
Accept this responsibility gladly. Enrich yourself and your
proteges by looking for opportunities to help those younger and less
fortunate than you.
Develop a long term strategy. Decide where you
want to be, then mentally back through the steps to get there.
Give yourself a "career checkup" once each year to determine if you
are on the right track. Choose two to four goals for the next
twelve months that will increase your skills, give you more
visibility, and maintain or boost your momentum.
decide your career has derailed or you want to move to a different
track, change your strategy, amend your plans, and put yourself back
in the running. Remember, "If you don't know where you're going,
you"ll probably end up somewhere else."
leave your destiny in the hands of someone else. Be proactive
about showing people your potential.
If you have more talent than your current job requires, volunteer
for some new projects that will increase your skills and introduce
you to new people and situations. Corporate task forces, company
wide events, and United Way campaigns are just a few of the vehicles
you can use to broaden your horizons.
Rather than develop tunnel vision by concentrating all your
attention on your particular job and department, research other
opportunities within your organization that would make better use of
your time and talents. Internal networking appointments or a
discussion with your manager or savvy HR professional may reveal
some possibilities you never knew existed.
Keep your external network viable and growing. With rampant
downsizings, hostile takeovers, and myriad mergers continuing to
shrink the number of employees at many companies, you must be
prepared to implement your plan B at a moment's notice.
Asking for a little help from your outside friends and colleagues
will make your transition/job search must more productive and a
great deal easier.
Remain flexible and open to new possibilities and opportunities.
Sometimes opportunity knocks at inopportune moments, offering a
tantalizing glimpse of an exciting new direction. If you set rigid
goals, bury yourself in your current assignment, or close your mind
to the activity swirling around you, glorious good fortune may pass
Seek wisdom; learning is perpetual. In the words of Auntie Mame,
"Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."
Every day we have the opportunity to feast on an incredible amount
of new and fascinating information. Going to bed hungry just
doesn't make any sense.
us come from families who recently immigrated because of a heartfelt
conviction that America is the land of opportunity. We must continue to
believe this vision, just as we must always believe in ourselves. We
can do anything we choose, if we believe we can." Catalina Garcia