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A Corporate Career I Hated Gave Me The Confidence I Didn't Know I Needed

I set the standard and I create the rules.

Workin' Girl

A 9-to-5 never bothered me, and I never dreamed of a corporate career. I was a worker bee, and I was cool with it. I was stable – I had a job and a paycheck. I was content – I had no desire to manage people. I didn't want to sit in middle management meetings, lead a team, or work my way up the corporate ladder. Those things just never appealed to me. And money isn't my greatest motivator, but I understand that, for most people, it is. I never saw myself as a people person, a girl boss, or SHEeo either.

But a few years ago, I had transitioned from a support role in the public sector to a consultancy role with a "big four" consulting firm in the private sector. At the time, the job title, and money were my greatest motivators. I could afford shit now – a whole lot of shit. I earned four times more than my previous government salary in a year. How? I didn't know a damn thing about consulting, business management, or marketing. They say it's about who you know, but it's also "sink or swim". I learned every damn swim stroke possible just to survive the first couple of months. I had something to prove: I am capable of doing this job and worthy of all the coins in my bank account.

I succeeded with grace, but I always do. Despite our strained relationship, I am my mother's daughter. And she gifted me with grace at a very young age. I grew comfortable in my role; I loved the respect and autonomy the position offered me. I loved the flexibility too. I was in a position where I thought I was seen and heard. My opinions were valued. For the most part, I was my own damn boss. But – with pay increases, bonuses, company perks, promotions, and titles come a level of work politics that I wanted no parts of. A toxic work environment, on-the-job harassment, and bullying will have you fold real quick.

I started to feel uncomfortable in meetings, training, and team outings. Like I didn't belong in the room. As if I was not smart enough to be around my elite colleagues. I grew tiresome of discussing revenues, business proposals, and projects. I was lost in every single meeting. Every conversation drained me. When would we ever talk about some real shit? Something that at least had meaning. All the things I loved about my newly acquired role; I slowly began to hate. I tapped out – I had to. My mental health was compromised, and my identity was lost due to the emotional trauma I endured.

What I didn't know was everything I hated about my corporate career gave me the confidence I didn't know I needed.

I exude confidence in every single thing I do now. I mean, my work ethic was already bomb, but it's fire now. I own everything I do, and how I do it, with ease. From the way I articulate myself to how I interact with people in social and business settings. There isn't anything I say I'm going to do, that I don't deliver on. I kill it every time. Let me explain how this came to be.

1. Making Connections Is Everything

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In the corporate world, making connections with the right people is key. And building your network a must. You cannot survive without doing this. I've said this before, but I'm reserved by nature. I'm a lot quieter too, especially in a business setting. But having to interact with high-profile clients and top-level company executives daily forced me to shed some of that skin. Clients had an all-access pass to me – texts, phone calls, emails, coffee breaks, and impromptu meetings. My communication skills had to be on point, and they were. Developing relationships, gaining trust, and keeping clients happy became my thing. Building relationships with people is now and always has been one of my strongest skill sets. Who knew I was someone that likes to talk so much?

2. Welcoming Opportunities

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I used to be uber-selective about the opportunities presented to me. It was uncomfortable not knowing how to do something. I wanted to save myself the embarrassment of effing up the first time. I hate making mistakes. I even lacked knowledge in certain business areas, which led me to feel insecure. But I realized opportunities are learning experiences that I cannot pass up. Whatever I didn't know, I researched. BTW, research is also another skill set I was able to strengthen. The more you're willing to learn about a new subject or pick up a new skill, the more opportunities come your way. Think of it as building your personal toolbox. The more tools you have, the better equipped you are to succeed in your profession.

3. Challenging My Time Management & Organizational Skills

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For someone who believed herself to be organized, my organizational skills were tested. When you are responsible for your own team, work product, presentations, deliverables, and running client meetings, you have to be a hundred percent on. There is no room for error. A lot of the time, I was teaching myself how to do this with little to no resources. I thought I managed my time well, but this was some next-level shit. I had to learn to stay on top of myself. I had to find tools and implement ways to help me to do so. Like making it a point to plan my workdays and allocate time when necessary. A planner became my best friend. This was not easy by any means, but I made it work. When I say I was stretched, I was S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D thin. But I stay ready, y'all.

4. My Writing Skills Are Lit

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I always believed I wrote well, at least academically. English and social sciences were my strong suit, but technical report writing was a major shift for me. It was dry, monotone, and boring AF. I was accustomed to MLA and APA formats. Business writing was tough, but I managed. Proposal writing was even worse because you had to sell yourself and sell a service, and that didn't sit right with me. As much as I hated it, I wrote with no complaints. It challenged my creativity, expanded my vocabulary and writing style, and at times left me with writer's block. Even though I knew my writing was good, there was that one manager who constantly told me my writing was garbage. And now, here I am writing personal essays, interviews, lifestyle, beauty, and investigative pieces for a brand I love, xoNecole, and a founder I have followed for over a decade, Necole Kane. I couldn't be any happier. Success is always the best revenge.

5. I Do My Own Thing Now

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Now, this is something I never saw coming–something I never dreamed of. A career I despised gave me the confidence I needed to create my own opportunity. Yes, I write. I write a lot. I'm in love with words and writing is forever my first love. I still consult, and I am a paralegal by trade, but now I get to do all of this for myself. The funny thing is, I didn't know I was going to end up here. It's beautiful. I am thankful a wrong career choice led me to do my own thing. I have no regrets. I get to decide how I show up in the workforce. I choose the type of people I work with. I negotiate the type of work I accept or decline. And the most important thing to me is building a business that is honest and has a purpose. I exist to help others.

Every single challenge I encountered in my previous career made me a better professional. Everything I hated about business and Corporate America made me a stronger person. It broke me down and built me up, but in the end, I found my way.

Now, I set the standard and I create the rules. I walk into rooms knowing what I have to offer is gold. And I think you should, too.

Are you a member of our insider's squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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