I hate to break it to you, but some of the things you’ve learned about how to be successful are simply outdated. And the biggest one is that you need to “work harder and longer to be successful.”
So, what’s the golden ticket to being successful, you ask? Great question. You have to learn to work smarter or, as I like to say, work some PPE into your day (and no, I’m not talking about personal protective equipment). What I’m talking about is preparedness, prioritization, and execution.
“In all your working, make sure your work is working.” ~ Regan Donofrio
Now that you’ve got the acronym part down, here’s how you put it into action:
1. Prepare – the last thing you want to do is let emails or calls hijack your morning before your coffee has even kicked in. That’s why preparation is critical when it comes to planning out your day the night before, but preparation doesn’t just apply in the short term. You can benefit significantly from long-term preparedness by reading up on a field you want to pursue in 6 months or training for a marathon you want to run in a year.
2. Prioritize – if you’re tired of feeling overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overworked, you’ve got to get over the hump and learn to ruthlessly prioritize what’s most important. Prioritization starts with accepting that you have a limited amount of time to do an unlimited amount of things. Thus, you’ve got to constantly and consistently push yourself to do the most important and impactful thing FIRST.
3. Execute – you can prepare and prioritize all you want, but none of it matters without effective execution. So, what separates effective execution from plain ‘ol execution? Four things to be exact; staying organized/being clear on who’s doing what, setting deadlines, providing positive feedback, and resolving team conflicts.
Did you notice what’s not a part of PPE? Working harder and longer hours to be successful. Sure, pulling a late-nighter to get that thing done for your boss may get you a few extra compliments in the short term; however, it’s not a sustainable or efficient way to do your best work in the long run.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lena Horne
There’s a good chance this kind of working style will only zap your energy and lead you straight to burnout. And if you’re like most people during quarantine these days, you’ll need that extra energy when you’re trying to juggle working from home with your other full-time job of super parenting or super streaming the latest show in your sweats.
The bottom line? It’s time to retire the idea of “working harder and longer to be successful” once and for all and start embracing a new way of working when you put preparedness, prioritization, and execution into play. Seriously, think about it! You’ve got nothing to lose (besides feeling overwhelmed and overworked, of course) and everything to gain.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about navigating uncertainty from the economic recession in ‘08, it’s this: we have the power to thrive in trying times. Let me say that again, we have the power to thrive in trying times.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein.
And, there’s no better lesson to remember as we enter the great economic lockdown recession. With millions filing for unemployment during a global pandemic, it’s safe to say the sky can feel like it’s falling. But that doesn’t mean your dreams and career still can’t take off.
I know, I know, right about now you’re probably thinking…come on B., how can I thrive when I’m not sure I can even survive? Well, if I did it back in ’08 using the 5 tips below (without tech advantages like Zoom at my fingertips), I’ve got no doubt in my mind that you can too:
1. Take action – while you can’t control the job market, you can control how you react to it by what action you take. And by action, I don’t mean waiting for companies or organizations to bail you out. Instead, take matters into your own hands and do SOMETHING your future self will thank you for. Start a regimen to keep yourself motivated and make it part of your routine to research, seek out and connect with companies that are still hiring during this time – even if that means you might not get to work for the company you’ve always dreamed of after college.
2. Take a hard look at your skills – and I’m not just talking about your strengths. Seriously, write them all down…your weaknesses, threats, and opportunities too. Then, see how you can leverage your strengths, improve upon your weaknesses, and take advantage of your opportunities. You might just unlock the superpower that will pave the way to your ultimate success.
3. Learn new skills – use your time wisely to not only sharpen existing skills but learn new skills that will be useful in the future by utilizing online programs like edX, where you can take FREE (yes, really) courses from Harvard and MIT to name a few.
4. Make the most of your connections – whether it’s your LinkedIn profile or your Facebook page, chances are there’s already somebody in your network that’s doing the work you want to do. Don’t be shy and say hi. Then set up 1:1s so you can better understand their role and how to best focus your preparation efforts.
5. Find ways to give back to your community – giving back is not only a great way to lift your spirits, but also a great way to build upon your skillset and meet people that can open doors to new opportunities. Some of my first leadership development opportunities actually evolved from participating in community service. So, get to know your community and figure out how you can best apply your skills to make the most significant impact.
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ― Margaret Drabble
While there’s no telling how long this virus or economic crisis will last, never forget that you always have the power to do more than survive, but thrive in trying times. And the sooner you realize this, the faster your dreams and career can take off.
As someone that identifies as a black, lesbian, trans nonbinary, female, I’m no stranger to allies. But for every great example of allyship I’ve witnessed, it’s safe to say I’ve seen just as many (if not more) bad examples of allyship or as I like to call it, being an “ally for show” a.k.a. performative allyship.
But first, let’s define allyship. In a nutshell, allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. It’s important to note that this isn’t self-defined work or efforts, but rather the kind of work and efforts that are recognized by those that you’re seeking to ally with. On the flip side, performative allyship is when an individual from a majority or privileged group professes their support with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people for showmanship and credit without actually doing anything to provide value or support. In other words, it’s the difference between someone actually standing up for the LGBTQ community during a heated discussion or taking part in a protest vs. keeping quiet in the moments that matter, but tweeting out “love is love” during LGBTQ Month in October for more likes.
So if you want to take part in allyship that actually makes a difference for marginalized individuals and/or groups of people, here are 5 ways to ensure you go about it the right way:
- Take time to really listen – no genuine understanding or true allyship can occur without the act of listening to the diverse voices you’re an ally for. So do yourself a favor and simply listen without the need to comment, ask questions or get credit for the act of listening itself.
- Remember it’s not about you – if at any point you find yourself seeking praise or justifying that you’re an ally, what you’re really doing is putting the spotlight on yourself and away from the real issues, actions and needs of the individuals and groups at hand. After all, allyship is not an identity, but an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group. So don’t make the mistake of making it about you instead.
- Do the work – whether it’s attending protests, donating money to relevant organizations or simply speaking up when and where it matters most, you’ve got to be willing to DO THE WORK. That also means not only doing the work when it’s convenient for you but when you are needed most.
- Stay in your lane – whatever you do, don’t take advantage of your privilege by not giving credit where credit is due. What I mean by this is when you’re discussing social injustices that you didn’t experience firsthand, remember to remain objective and tell the story that needs to be told without making it your story.
- Embrace constructive criticism – if someone from a group you’re aligned with tries to give you feedback on what could be better, don’t take it as an attack. Instead, allow yourself to be educated and look at their constructive criticism as an opportunity to help you simply become a better ally.
Have some examples of your own to help others be a better ally? Share them in the comments below.
For more, I recently gave a talk on allyship that can be found here.
In the late 90s, I was a teenager in middle school. One day I told my mom, I needed my social security card to register for a summer program.
When looking at the card (pictured above), I immediately wondered why the middle name on the card was different than the name I had spelled my entire life. I asked my mom, and she explained to me that the nurse, when I was born, decided that my mom must have been mistaken in the spelling of my middle name and wrote Michelle instead of the intended Michel. My mom then explained the hoops that she had to jump through to change my birth certificate but that she never got around to changing my social security card, because there was a cost associated to the change.
Many years later, I found out that this narrative is actually pervasive in the Black and Native American communities, where outside medical professionals often made a judgment call as to what they felt was best for the infant under their care.
Stories like this is actually why I feel compelled to share the fact that as another step in my journey as a trans nonbinary individual that I’ve decided to be called B. moving forward. This won’t be my legal name. I will continue to be legally to government and institutions as a tribute to the fight my mom had to even name me as she wished. However, I know that the name B. fully represents the person that I have been in my home, work, and in every other space for the last 6 years of this journey. I also have to personally thank one of my best friends, Alex, for encouraging me by telling me one night that I just felt like a “B.”
Some may struggle with this change but one must remember a line from Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I like many of my trans family realize that this is our season and we choose being whole versus continually operating within the bounds of systems that would not recognize us anyway.
If you’ve managed to convince yourself that you’re a lost cause when it comes to working in tech, I’ve got news for you: there’s a job in tech with one of those fancy reserved signs literally waiting just for you. And the only reason you haven’t landed that dream job yet is because you haven’t properly assessed your skillset and what is truly needed to get you there.
When I look back on my own journey, I can tell you that I didn’t get to where I am overnight. In fact, who I am and where I’ve gone both professionally and personally happened because I took the time to assess and reassess my own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats on a consistent basis over the years. Whether it was to gain more confidence in my technical and professional skills or just get more comfortable with my sexuality/gender, it’s all part of what shaped who I am in tech and in life today.
But what really helped me solidify my place in tech is CLASS. Sure, I’m plenty classy and dapper in my suit, but what I’m talking about is:
Leading with Authority
Not only did I repeatedly spot the five traits mentioned above in folks who were able to successfully navigate the tech space, but these are the same traits that were critical for propelling my career in tech-forward.
And the best part is that you can easily move your own career in tech forward in just 4 steps today:
List out skills and traits you want to develop – you don’t have to go big or go home. Instead start small with key areas you’d like to learn more about all while embodying a bit of CLASS with curiosity. Develop a squad of accountability partners – having a friend, coworker or even a family member hold you accountable can make all the difference. So don’t hesitate to ask around or swap and hold each other accountable on whatever skillset or trait you’re both working on. Find a teacher to help develop your desired skills/traits – finding a teacher in the area you’d like to grow in is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of whatever skillset you’re looking to improve. Just remember to pay it forward when a student comes to you down the road. Set specific benchmarks for success and stick to them – knowing what success looks like is sometimes half the battle to getting to where you want to go. The key is to define it for yourself before somebody else does.
If you don’t have a lot of experience under your belt to evaluate your skills or traits yet, then focus on staying curious and learning as much as you can by following prominent people in tech or reading some of my favorite books below:
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts
- Think and Grow Rich: The Landmark Bestseller Now Revised and Updated for the 21st Century by Napoleon Hill
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg
- The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron
- You are a Badass (Deluxe Edition): How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio and Jeremy Bobb
- Entreleadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey
- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Rich by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D., William D. Danko Ph.D.
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
So if there’s anything you choose to walk away with after reading this, just remember this: there is plenty of room for you in tech (yes, you!) As long as you continue to develop your skillset, stay CLASS-Y, round up accountability partners and teachers to help you grow, and set those benchmarks for success, you can find a career in tech that’s exactly the right fit for you.