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The Number One Soft Skill You Need To Thrive In Your Career

The Number One Soft Skill You Need To Thrive In Your Career

As you prepare for your future, are you equipping yourself with the right tools?

Workin' Girl

You just started your first job out of college. What you prepared for your entire life to jumpstart your career is this very moment. You've set performance goals, and you've started your list of senior leaders you plan to set lunch dates with, but are you communicating well with your manager? As you prepare for your future, which can be next year, next week or even tomorrow, one thing we all forget to take ownership of is our communication skills.

How we communicate is vital in our growth and will be a pain point in your formative years in your career.

"As new grads starting their first job out of college, communication can be your greatest asset or challenge," shared Meredith Moore Crosby, author of "Getting Unstuck: A Guide To Moving Your Career Forward", a guide on how to advance at work. From emails to phone or in-person meetings, the way you communicate in a corporate setting doesn't come with your degree. It's on the job soft skills you pick up from managers, peers, and companies, but it's a skillset some organizations expect you to have right away.

Crosby is a communications expert who managed teams at Verizon, McDonald's, 3M and Comcast and understands how communications can be pivotal in "navigating the unwritten rules" of corporate America. "It starts with the understanding [that the rules] exist and getting clarity early about what your manager and the people who can decide your fate at work [want]. Whether you get promoted or fired all depends on how you react and communicate," she shared.

Here are her tips for working through communication challenges that present themselves at work:

Understand how your manager communicates.

"Most of us hope to work at our first real job for a while. Your first job is where you'll develop skills, friendships, and habits. Often the company culture shows up in how people communicate, so the first few weeks can be difficult while you learn the unwritten rules," shared Crosby. She advises that you open communication lines with regular one-on-one meetings. You create a road map to how you'd like to communicate your progress or challenges with your manager.

She suggests you assess how your manager interacts during the early days of your new job by asking these three questions:

  1. How do people get more information on the direction?
  2. How would you like to give me feedback on my work?
  3. How will I know if I am off track or missing your expectations?

Ask for clarity when you don't understand what your manager wants.

Sometimes the directions our managers give us aren't always clear. However, we often hit a crossroad when considering whether to ask for clarification or figure it ourselves. Will our manager think we are incompetent if we don't understand our assignments? But what if we work on the task inefficiently by doing the wrong thing?

To help with understanding your work, Crosby suggests you ask for examples, templates, or expectations when you receive new assignments.

"Take time when getting new work to reconfirm the expectations, timeline, and what to do if you have existing priority work," she explained. She suggests asking for clarity before agreeing by saying, "Thanks for the opportunity to work on this! I was working on XX as we discussed in our weekly one-on-one, should I switch gears and focus on this based on when you want to see something?"

Remember written communication can follow you.

Emails and messaging software like Slack are like social media. Even if you delete it, it can't be unseen by others, and it can be printed or referred to over and over again. "Remember, it's a written document that can come up in legal issues in the future. Never joke, be sarcastic or make comments you wouldn't want to clarify in a court of law," Crosby shared. Her three tips for managing email communications at work include:

  1. Be respectful, kind, and conscious of the timeliness of your email. When in doubt, talk in person and resolve an issue or opportunity immediately.
  2. Use bold to highlight actions and don't be afraid to resend friendly reminders if you don't get a response.
  3. Get an email buddy. Ask them to review your message for tone, clarity, and to make sure you aren't getting distracted by your perspective.

Find a mentor.

There's always that one person at work who sends great emails and gives excellent speeches at work. They capture your attention every time they speak at a meeting or send an email. If you have identified that person at work, Crosby believes that that person can be a mentor for you.

"Find a role model and if possible, build a relationship, and you can potentially cultivate a mentorship where you can get individual feedback. In the meantime, consider how they would respond in situations where you might feel stuck."

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Featured image by Shutterstock

Originally published on September 2, 2019

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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Featured image: Getty Images

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