Being a young woman in the working world has plenty of ups and downs, especially as a woman of color. I’ve been in the corporate world for over 10 years and you would think it gets easier (it doesn’t). When you initially enter the workforce it can be very overwhelming particularly if you work in an environment where you are clearly the minority or the “only”. Unfortunately, I’ve been the “only” one too many times. If I had a $1 for every time I was mistaken for an administrative assistant or mistaken for another black girl (who I looked nothing like) I could probably retire early (j/k, but I could have a nice steak dinner). To be clear there is nothing wrong with being an admin, in fact I know some six-figure earners that are admins, but the automatic assumption that a person of color is in a support role reeks of bias. The case of mistaken identity is not the only workplace micro-aggressions that we have to confront. I learned early on that you had to be twice as good to be thought of as good enough.
One of the worst things to contend within your career is “Imposter Syndrome”. Imposter syndrome is defined as a concept where individuals downplay their accomplishments and have a fear of being exposed as frauds. Early on the concept was associated with high achieving women who were convinced they did not deserve the success they achieved. Even though this is primarily something that begins with internalized thoughts micro-aggressions and unbiased opinions from others that are rooted in sexism and racism can amplify the issue.
There will be times when you ask yourself “do I really belong here” and the short answer is YES. You’ve earned your spot rightfully so, women (particularly black women) are achieving higher levels of education than our peers and oftentimes are the better performers (hopefully the pay scale and management ranks will soon reflect that). But despite this, we are generally underpaid and overlooked for promotions. Building your confidence early on is KEY to your success in whatever environment you work in. Oftentimes we are really our own advocates, and to be that you have to have the confidence to speak up about your skills and accomplishments. Don’t place the future of your career in someone else’s hands; don’t think just because you do your job well you will get acknowledged based on merit. You have to aggressively promote yourself, write down every achievement, every goal met, continuously remind those in charge of your worth and value. This sets the tone for everything including future pay and promotional opportunities. There is nothing wrong with tooting your own horn. If you aren’t who will!