Career

Things I Would Add to My Resume if I Could

It’s been a while since my last post. Part of that is because of election day anxiety (Jesus in God, the Saints, all of the Orishas, and more). The better part of that is because #BookMe2016-2017 has really been fruitful. I’m absolutely loving the projects I’ve been able to take part in and many of them have had me thinking about my own “professional identity”, both online and offline.

During my time at Kansas State University, I talked a lot about how we can use socioculturally centered theories to assist us in our career process. It was a two day stint of thinking deeply about this notion of “professionalism” which many scholars posit can be inherently rife with issues. Writer, Carmen Rios, says “Often, the way professionalism dictates we should act at work also falls in line with stereotypes and predetermined roles based on our race, sex, gender, or class” (2015).

My initial foray into Student Affairs work was in the realm of Career Services. So, I know all too well how delicate of a dance this is… especially when it comes to advising. For example, general advice posited that we should tell women to keep their hair off the face in interviews. But as a woman with natural hair that is not easily “swept up”, I realized that this advice isn’t always inherently helpful. The same went for gender and professional dress. The same went for the affordability of formal business wear. Lordt.

Yet, these are the waters we often find ourselves navigating and *sigh*, it gets deep. 

Earlier this week, I spent a few days talking with students, staff, and administration about some of these nuances. I spent the rest of the week thinking about how I bring my own identity into the work that I do (both formally and informally). So, today, we’re going forward with a light-hearted post, if I can help it.

Resumes are often used to navigate current and potential forms of work (I’ll leave it to you to interpret what that work is / could be / looks like). There’s even a certain format of that here on this site (because listen, #BookMe2016-2017 is real and steady work, if possible, is important to me). However, here are some of the things I would add to my resume if I could:

  • Interdisciplinary bridge-builder – Because all of my seemingly random interests and levels of expertise would probably fit really snugly under this title. It’s pretty much like when I studied “Integrative Arts” in college. Folk didn’t usually know the details of all it meant… but I could always say it like I was out here doin’ the damn thing.
  • Language

    Because if I could add that, I would. I’m also conversational in Beyonce gifs. Beginner’s level in all other gif forms. (Because when you’re fluent in Prince gifs you have a large spectrum of reactions to choose from). One of my personal faves:
    princegif3

  • Teaologist – Do you have a headache? I have a tea for that. Folk on your nerves? I have a tea for that. Your hands ashy? Tea. And lotion. But first, tea. I didn’t get the nickname “The Apothecary” for naught.

    (Head over to Amazon to purchase the Lionel Richie mug and the Mana-tea infuser).

  • Musichead – It has been a longstanding value of mine to spend as little time as possible listening to trash music. Live instrumentation is important and I feel like our ears need it. In just a few minutes, I can likely come up with some dope music recommendations to fit your preferred style and genre. I will also encourage folk to stay on their note, and that’s important in life. It builds teamwork competencies. Cause don’t nobody want you jumping up on their note all the time.
  • Natural hair and organic beauty product tester – If there were a such thing as a “tab” at Lush Beauty Products, I would have one. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about natural hair care regimens and products I use, I would be sending big bucks to my past student loan providers. Sooooo…
  • Petty Theorist & Petty Flow Chart Co-Curator – I don’t talk much about #pettyflowcharts here but it’s one of my favorite side projects. However, I literally spend time with a good friend curating flow charts to help people get clear on a variety of things. I can’t add it to my resume because… well… petty. But it sure is fun!
    petty-flowchart

    You can check these out on IG: https://www.instagram.com/pettyflowcharts/

  • Churchy Linguist – Fluent. Can I get a degree in this? I feel like that’s a possibility. Being raised in an eclectic nondenominational Black church afforded me an entire lexicon of churchisms that I randomly use in everyday life. Last heard at a keynote speech: “I’m feeling moved in that direction”. Announcing a performance, as an MC: “Please clap for them, as they come”. Recently seen on Facebook:

    My friends and I have a running joke that I am “Culturally Churchy, Theologically Complicated” because my spirituality includes sacred texts, rituals, and practices from quite a few traditions. However, I just cannot shake churchy linguistics. Pray my strength.

  • Crystal Collector – Beginner’s Level. Because who is tryna be out here with their chakras out of balance? Not I. Go talk to my friend Ebony Janice of the Free People Project about why it’s so important to balance those chakras.
  • Headliner for the Shower & Car Concert Series – Some of you may know this, and some may not. A few years back (like… a GOOD few), I provided background vocals for a few local Philly artists. A while before that, I was the director of the student-led gospel choir in college. I don’t sing formally at the moment. (Bae does though, check him out). However, my car concerts are on. point. To me, at least.

    What would you add to your resume if you could? Leave it in the comments below! Or you know, wherever else you find me on these Internet streets.

Featured Photo Credit: Createherstock.com

Professional Dress? YAAAAAHS.

One of my favorite posts from The Feminist Wire is “You Betta Werk!: Professors Talk Style Politics” because it acknowledges and explores what ‘professional dress’ is and means for women of color. As you know, I’m always excited to talk about style and style politics as I also navigate my identities as a woman of color, a student affairs professional, a writer, and an artistic soul.

In “You Betta Werk…”, Dr. Tanisha C. Ford, Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass-Amherst and trailblazer of important work on style politics, asks the questions:

  • How do you incorporate your personal fashion sense into your professional attire?
  • Do you think women and/or men of color in the academy face unique challenges that are (directly or indirectly) linked to a politics of dress and adornment?

Today, I’m adding my own answers to the questions, along with pictures and examples of what professional dress looks like for me. (Shout-out to my colleague, N.S. for the photography and for her on-point make-up & nail tips from @san_bellisima)

My Personal Fashion Sense

A few staples of my personal fashion sense that I incorporate into my professional wardrobe include a) mixed prints / colors / textures, b) detailed, eclectic accessories (hair, nails, & jewelry), and c) showcasing art.

  1. Mixing lines, textures, & prints
Pictured in my office with one of my favorite work outfits: a crop top sweater with a zig-zag pattern and a pencil skirt with a lipstick pattern.

Pictured in my office with one of my favorite work outfits: a crop top sweater with a zig-zag pattern and a pencil skirt with a lipstick pattern.

I typically like to push the boundaries of what ‘professional dress’ means by incorporating surprising elements: the crop top, the leopard print jumpsuit. However, I pair them with more traditional elements and pieces: the pencil skirt, the cropped blazer, the leather shoes. This is what pulls my look together (and makes it really easy whenever I’m transitioning from day-to-night looks). I know that crop top is not the first thing most people think of when they think of professional wear. However, when you pair a crop top with a high waist pencil skirt, the results can be fabulous and SNATCHED! 

Leopard print jumpsuit in black and brown paired with a burgundy blazer & caramel colored leather shoes

Leopard print jumpsuit in black and brown paired with a burgundy blazer & caramel colored leather shoes

I wear my prescription glasses every day and I usually like to get a few funky frames in neutral colors that will compliment each outfit. I also mix prints according to the tasks I have for the day. If I’m going to a conference, I may work with a more neutral color scheme but keep the prints. If I’m working with students, I’ll incorporate a bit more color or items that are on trend in the season.

Conference Wear: A lot more subdued with color but still utilizing print and a pop of color (lipstick: Ruby Woo by MAC)

Conference Wear: A lot more subdued but still utilizes print and a pop of color (lipstick: Ruby Woo by MAC)

2. Accessories… and then more accessories.

I know many people go by the style adage, “Less is more” buuut… I am not one of those people. For me, accessories are what make the outfit uniquely yours. Hair, makeup, nails, shoes, jewelry are all things I use to signify a style that says, “This is Jade”.

A Closer Look: For this outfit, I've incorporated my favorite head wrap and a body necklace. Since these items do stand out, I chose to do simple earrings, no bracelets, and a dark muted lip color to balance things out

A Closer Look: For this outfit, I’ve incorporated my favorite head wrap and a body necklace. Since these items do stand out, I chose to do simple earrings, no bracelets, and a dark muted lip color to balance things out

I don’t wear too many soft colors at work, due to the fact that I already look very young (and I hate the question, “May I ask you how old you are?” In WHAT world is that okay to ask?! I ranted about that here). However, every now and then I just can’t pass up a good pink that makes my skin tone POP.

CAM00278

A Closer Look: I cannot resist a good lip color. This is MAC’s Saint Germain lipstick with a pink dazzleglass on top for shine.

3) Showcasing art.

As you can see from the pictures above, I see fashion and even professional dress as a way to incorporate art. Typically, I do this with my choices in hair and nails.

The Challenges Linked to “Politics of Dress”

One of my favorite academic articles is Tara Yosso’s ‘Whose Culture Has Capital’ (2005). In this piece, Yosso challenges the notion that only dominant culture holds worth and wealth. I bring her work up here because most of my style politics incorporate the question, “Whose Culture Has Style”? I’m always asking, ‘Whose culture is seen as the standard for professionalism’ and making choices to challenge that in ways that still allow me to inhabit that office / professional space.

As a millenial woman of color, there is also some identity management that goes into my style choices: if I wear this, will I look to young? As a woman, there is identity management: if I wear these bright colors, will people take me seriously? As a woman of color, there is identity management: if I wear my hair naturally, will people bash me for it? Will people immediately equate and associate the art on my nails with what they perceive to be ‘ghetto’? (For more on identity / impression management, check out Leary & Kowalski’s work, 1990). Getting dressed is a political act because in seconds you are making decisions about how you will (or will not) challenge societal norms. Finding that line and working with those nuances are things that I’m figuring out each and every day.

I figure it out, mostly, by doing and then by writing. So, if this topic interests you, here are a few other pieces to check out:

In the comments below, please leave a few of your favorite resources OR style staples!

Put On Your Hoops and Win!

Understanding how style impacts perception has always been an interest of mine. It’s been one of those inescapable interests as a professional Black woman with natural hair (sans chemical processors), a predisposition for nail art, and a commitment to being absolutely fierce! This is why I value the scholarship of Dr. Tanisha Ford on fashion & style politics. In her article, Haute Couture In the ‘Ivory Tower’, she states, “From slavery to the present, African Americans and other people of color have used fashion as a form of cultural-political resistance and creative self-expression…”

The way that fashion & style intersects with socio-cultural identities is an area that we navigate each and every day – from the time we wake up, to the time we decide how we’re wearing our hair, to the matrix of thoughts we use to configure an #OOTD (outfit of the day). We are making meaning for ourselves and others are forming perceptions about us, as well.

The other day I was talking with my friend Michelle. She told me that she wanted to dedicate a post on social media that celebrated all the great things about her, and that she thought about me in that moment. Anyone who knows me, knows that I encourage these types of shenanigans! [They’re so important]! When I told her to go for it, she responded back with #Putonyourhoopsandwin <tweetable!! (And the charismatic churchgirl in me said, “That will PREACH if you let it”!)

“Put on your hoops and win” is associated with Michelle’s expression of sociocultural identity in a professional context. She explained,

“It came from a time that I was told to look more professional when I was wearing a nice pant suit and tasteful hoops. Apparently it was “too urban”. What’s crazy is that it was a person of color that told me to take the hoops out at first. He told me, ‘Know your audience’. I walked in and the board member goes, ‘How brave of you to wear those earrings at a presentation’. But I owned that meeting… brought all the ideas and innovation to the table while folks were chillin’ and taking notes… wearing my hoops the whole time.

I thought about the fact that hoops have always been around my whole life. When I wanted to feel sassy or fly or strong… I would see other women who looked like me and I admired them. They were taking care of babies with hoops on, doing laundry, going to the bank…

…And I’m not gonna take them off so you feel better. Because it’s more than the hoops. It’s the taking off of the sources of your power. From that day, I decided that I was going to put on my hoops and win!”

I’m pretty sure at this point that some are inclined to offer a lengthy rebuttal on how it’s inappropriate to wear hoops in the workplace. But then you’d have missed the point of this piece. The appropriateness of wearing hoops in the workplace (generally) will depend on the history, context, climate, policies, and protocol within your work space. So, the point here is similar to one I’ve made in a previous post:

There are countless ways of image management that professional millenial women of color are asked to conform to. The choice to conform or resist lies with the individual and their values (Weitz, 2001). For some, looking professional in regards to dominant cultural mores seems most secure and / or beneficial. Others choose to redefine what professional dress is in their professional context. Some chose counter-cultural ways to express their style politics. And some days, it’s a blend of all three of those things. Again, the questions here become, “What compromises your soul?” Do you feel like you’re being asked to “take off (a) source of power”? In other words, what feels like an erasure of a key sociocultural value or expression? Because the fashion choices of professional women of color are that deep, even though many would like to assume that they aren’t.

Your choices may (and probably will) change from context to context. At the conference, you might choose to rock studs, a natural bun, and a retro blazer to keep things interesting. At the office you might choose to rock a wash & go, business slacks, a blouse, and “put on your hoops & win”. Either way, professional identity… including the expression of professional style… is always crafted within a context.<Tweetable

What are some professional style essentials for you? (Ya’ll already know how I feel about Ruby Woo). What makes you feel like you’re “putting on your hoops (to) win”?!

Image Credit: CreateHerStock.Com: “a collection of awesome resources and images for the everyday female blogger and creative of color”. #Support!

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“Put On Your Hoops and Win!” by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Navigating Exhaustion in a Culture of ‘Winning’

In the words of the prolific & poignant Rakim / Timbaland, “It’s been a long time… we shouldn’ta left you (left you) without a dope beat to step to…” (*if you don’t get the reference, pause and get your life here). SO, I haven’t written in a bit because I was attending, participating in, and decompressing from a national conference that is especially important in the work that I do full time. I’ve done reflection after reflection about what spaces like national conferences can bring to the professionals who engage. There are clear positives: the chance to engage in affinity building spaces, the exchange of knowledge through learning sessions, the ability to network with those who are in your field, the satisfaction of reconnecting with colleagues, and much more.

However, as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed a trend… there is an unspoken push for conference-goers to “win” the conference itself. You’ve probably seen it before but it’s very subtle. It shows up in the questions whispered from professional to grad student, and from colleague to colleague: “How many sessions have you gone to? Are you presenting? Who / how many people came to your presentation?” Conference #winning culture measures its success by the amount of people you’ve networked with / connected to, or even just feverishly handed your business card to. Conference #winning culture shows itself in the race of audience members who put their hands up in Q&A, in hopes of being the most poignant participant. Conference #winning might even include the measurements of selfies taken with “pillars”, the pictures of session titles, and the tweets and retweets conference goers hope to attain.

Now, before you think I’m ‘going in’ on my chosen full time profession, let me state that I see this same culture in the work that I do as a writer / blogger. It is a culture of  hashtag “winning”: the constant comparison of shares, stats, tweets & retweets, likes, dislikes, comments, and even trollage (yeah, I definitely made that word up)! How many Twitter chats have you participated in and how many times were you favorited or retweeted? How many shares did you get and how many posts are you cranking out per week?

And I get it. I get why we have this culture of hashtag winning. It is one that extends itself beyond writing or blogging and into many professional spaces. Why? Because a significant part of success (both on and offline) does come from networking, sharing information, and finding those people who are willing to believe in you and endorse you. I would not be where I am today if I had not done my due diligence in networking, building professional relationships, sharing my work, and being clear about my relevance in professional spaces. I must also state the fact that I have taught this before, influenced the culture of #winning, carefully instructing my students: “Make sure that when you’re networking you get a business card… you write down one thing you talked about… you follow up with them to nurture the network”.

However, if we are honest, we understand that most, if not all, professionals walk a tightrope: What is strategic placement / practice toward a successful career trajectory versus what is merely ‘posturing’ and ‘pretending’?

Writer Allison Vesterfelt alludes to this culture of winning in her quote:

The posturing. The self-promotion. The pretending to have it all together. The only-showing-your-good-side. Can we stop? It’s exhausting.

Posted by Allison Vesterfelt: Writer on Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So, I think that finding that balance between what we NEED to do to be successful in our endeavors and posturing or pretending requires that we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do I feel the need to ‘win’ in a conference space, or in an online space? If so, why? What is prompting that (i.e. new job search? career transition? looking to move upward within the field? internal / personal reasons)”? Ask these questions without judging yourself. Simply reflect, understand your answers, and adjust where and if necessary
  •  How can I show up as my authentic self while also fully engaging in strategic writing, blogging, conference going, professional networking, etc? Here is where a written reflection or a conversation with a trusted colleague would be helpful.
  • Finally, if I do not “win” these likes for my blog… or if I do not go to every networking event… how do I process that in ways that empower me as a professional”?

If you are reading this blog and asking that last question, you’re in luck… because that is the only question I have a concrete answer for. 😉 In order to process in ways that empower you as a professional a) talk to your mentors / colleagues because they really can help you get your life sometimes, and b) understand that it is essential to remember why you are doing the work in the first place(I got that one from Shannon Kaiser over at Mind Body Green… check out her work when you get the chance).

I don’t necessarily blog for likes or shares (although if you do share and like I will be on my side of the computer grinning it up and throwing imaginary confetti). Likes and shares are helpful and even necessary for the success of my blog, but that is not the core reason that I engage in an online space. The core reason evidences itself in my mission, “to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion”. 

So, as I decompress and debrief from conference season, I’m asking myself the same question, “Why am I doing this“? I am doing this for those who will benefit from my experience, expertise, authenticity, and accountability in higher education and academia. I am doing this with confident hope that my presence and representation, along with my savvy and innovation, will assist marginalized students in their academic and post-college success journey. I am doing this because I like to! I am doing this because as I do good work, the networking connections will flow easily to me, and strategic career moves will also become clear to me… sans pretending.

So as you reflect on the work that you do, either online or offline, share with me… Why are you doing this work?

Practicing authentic networking (in addition to stylin’) at the conference. (Shout out to A. H. who had my updo lookin’ oh so right).

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Navigating Exhaustion in a Culture of ‘Winning’? by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Hair Stylin’ & Profilin’ – Making Identity Conscious Decisions at Work

It has been a busy week and weekend, filled with writing deadlines, but I’m excited about the opportunities! I talked about navigating microaggressions in the workplace over at Black Career Women’s Network, reflected on the difference between vulnerability and overshare in blogging over at BrownGirlBloggers.com, and worked with the amazing staff at NACE.org to publish a piece on natural hair & identity politics in the workplace!

On the topic of identity politics and natural hair in the workplace, I noted:

In my professional life, I have chosen to wear my hair naturally… Though the options are endless, these styles include anything that allows me to least amount of manipulation to the way my hair naturally grows…

I cannot count the times that my students, particularly women of color, have asked in hushed tones, “So….I’m meeting a recruiter/employer tomorrow and I’m hoping to get a job. I wear my hair naturally. So, what do you do—what should I do—about my hair?

It is one of my favorite questions, but it is always a loaded one. The trained ear will notice that these students are not just asking for fashion advice. They are trying to figure out how to navigate identity politics. They are looking for understanding on how they might “assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations…” as Heyes asserts. They are looking for ways to be authentic in spaces that may be largely homogenous, and in professions that may be largely male. Questions about hair are typically never just about hair…

In the article, I talked about how I walk students through these important decisions, including encouragements to a) acknowledge the validity of their experiences, b) research the company & its culture, and more. However, I did not include any pictures of the various ways that I have decided to wear my own natural hair during various occasions in my work life. Some of the examples you will see below reflect what I was doing at the moment; as someone who has been working in student affairs, we have weekly hours in office in addition to supervising or hosting events that might be formal and / or more casual in nature. Thus, you will see that my hair reflects a range of these kinds of styles, from formal to casual:

Style: Yarn braids inside a wrap. I have dressed that outfit up or down, depending on the circumstance. In the workplace, I would choose a more subtle pair of earrings, but I wanted you to get a good idea of the hairstyle itself.

Style: Loose twist out

Style: Updo (supervising a student group’s formal event)

Style: Simple bun. This style is actually pretty clutch for interviews as well, as it sits off your face but also allows you to manipulate your curls without heat. I simply used a bit of Ecostyler Gel for the edges and rolled the hair up.

Style: Headwrap

Style: Salon straightened (low heat, flat iron)

Style: Loose updo

If you have natural hair in the workplace, what are some of the styles that you love? Does your style vary, according to the professional occasion? If so, how?

JTP’S Side Eye Symposium: “Wait, How Old Are You”?

Yesterday, the Daily Post posed a question, “What question do you hate to be asked? Why?” It really wasn’t hard for me to access one… the question that grates my ears each time it passes: “Wait… how old are you? Can I ask how old you are?” I mean this question gets a “You just tried it but I still have to be composed”, First Lady Chantal Biya level side eye from me.


Image Credit: http://awesomelyluvvie.com

It’s not so much the question, per se. It’s how the question is asked, specifically because this question is asked in situations where I’m meeting someone new, and I’ve talked about where I’ve studied, or the work that I do, areas of interest, or really any other thing that they feel doesn’t match how old I look. I have been asked this question by professionals, pastors, artists, entertainers, parents, clients, students, strangers, and more. My usual response is, “I’m a busy millennial,” or, “I’m not as young as I look – I’m just youthfully effervescent”. Yet inside, you’d better believe I’m cringing.

In an article for the Student Affairs Collective, I talked about this question in depth, citing the ways that young professionals have to manage their image through the use of either verbal or nonverbal cues (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Yet, to talk about image management without really unpacking the question doesn’t really gave the full picture. There are a lot of assumptions hiding behind questions about our age in the workplace, especially those asked in public settings. As stated in that article, they include:

  • Assumptions about how competent and capable younger professionals are or should be
  • Assumptions about work / life balance being easier to obtain, the younger that you look
  • Assumptions that age = experience, credentials, and / or lack thereof
  • Assumptions that you may be “out of your depth”

All in all, what lurks behind that question, in professional settings are the slight hints of ageism, based on someone’s perception of age. This is why the question makes me cringe. In my experience, more often than not, it is condescending. It shows that you assume credentials (or receipts as I like to call them) are directly tied to the perceived age of someone. This is problematic for me, specifically because, let’s be honest… I’ve looked about 17 for the past 10 years or so.

Oh, make no mistake, the question is nerve-sy (as my Gramma says). Because there is a certain age bracket when that question fades away, when it might seem incomprehensible to even ask. But it is one that many millennial professionals hear quite often.

My response to the question, “Wait…how old are you,” varies, considering who might be asking it, why, and when they might be asking. When I was asked at an important conference, I’ve simply responded with, “I’m not sure what makes that relevant to the presentation / session”. If it is a student, I simply pose more questions to try to clarify their purpose in asking. If it is relevant to something that we are discussing, then I share my age. But most times, I give a (slightly shade-filled) smile and speak my truth: “I don’t tell my age”.

Sure, there are ways that young professionals manage their professional image and identity, and this varies for each person. I always keep a resume on hand, along with a few business cards. I tend to dress a bit more formally on days where I’m meeting with important stakeholders or while attending conferences. Some would contend, “That’s just best practice,” and I would be inclined to agree with them. Yet there are also those who understand that some professional image management is going on at the same time.

One of the commenters asked a very interesting question under that initial article, stating:

…I struggle with the balance of appearing/ seeming older (either with props or just giving my confidence/ attitude a super boost), but also remaining authentically myself. Any suggestions as to how to manage those two things simultaneously?

And I knew that I could communicate a more contextualized and nuanced answer in this space (cuz it’s mine. Ha)!

Yesterday, I was at brunch chatting with my friend T.J.* and we started talking about navigating the perceptions / stereotypes of young, professional women of color in professional spaces. She expounded on some of tools that she uses as a millenial woman of color, educator, & PhD candidate. For example, we talked about dressing more formally for business meetings and teaching sessions, bringing documentation or research that would assert our professional critiques, wearing a name badge that connected us to the institution,  etc. However, it was what she said at the end of our conversation that really stuck with me, “Other people may not have to use these same tools as me, and I usually encourage them to reflect in those instances to see if there is any type of (race, class, socioeconomic, age) privilege attached to that. But individually, I make sure to never compromise my soul. I can get dressed up to teach; that doesn’t compromise my soul. But there are other types of image management that I just won’t do – that compromise my soul. It’s different for everyone”. I think T.J.’s advice applies in these cases. It is the same advice that I give people who ask, “Should I change my hair for the interview space? Should I engage in a certain type of image management?” The answer to that lies in the question, “Does that compromise your soul?”

In addition, though I am not comfortable with someone asking me how old I am, I am also not interested in “looking older”, per se. I am interested in communicating my professional identity in a comprehensive way both verbally and nonverbally, as it is appropriate. This can be done with or (hopefully) without being asked how old I am. This is much like when I am attending an arts festival and I’m done up in all kinds of eclectic jewelry, accessories, hairstyles, etc. that communicate my artistic identity / expression. Neither one of these modes are inauthentic and neither one of them require me to compromise my soul.

So, to those ends, there are some image management practices that I’m just done with – they require too much shape-shifting and at the end of the process my authentic self feels hidden. There are some image management practices that I just refuse to engage in (like answering the question, “Wait, how old are you?). For each individual, figuring out whether to engage in image management or not is a process that requires you to remember your personal values. In addition, calling attention to problematic questions about identity and perception takes finesse, self awareness, and self advocacy. (Because there are those times where you have to say, “That question is neither relevant nor appropriate…” – and it makes all the difference if you know when).

Further Reading & Sources:
Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological bulletin, 107(1), 34.

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JTP’S Side Eye Symposium: “Wait, How Old Are You”? by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Jade’s Faves: Work Essentials

I’m blessed to be able to say that I absolutely love the work that I do within higher education! These are some of the essentials that I use to take me from the student development retreat all the way to the strategic planning meeting:

1. Self Awareness
One thing that I absolutely stress is a healthy self-awareness of your professional identity. This means, taking the time to a) do the work, and b) reflect on the work you are doing. It means being able to identify where your strengths are and where those areas of development might be… and communicating that in strategic ways. Checking in with your supervisor for feedback in these areas can allow you to access opportunities that play to your professional strengths or that help you grow in exponential ways. Take the time to reflect on your identity as a professional and don’t be afraid to communicate that!

2. Oprah Chai Tea by Teavana
Tea is one of my passions, so a few months ago, my partner bought me a huge amount of Oprah Chai tea as a gift. Let me just say, that has been helping me get my entire life! There’s nothing like brewing a quality black tea in the morning to rejuvenate your spirit, sharpen your senses, and help you get focused. Although I have my other favorites (i.e. Original Spice from Todd & Holland), Oprah Chai is what absolutely does it for me. It’s a well-balanced blend that is smooth and a bit spicy, and features ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and more. Plus, it leaves my office smelling warm and wonderful!

3. Ruby Woo
This matte red lipstick is one of my ABSOLUTE favorites, and I may or may not have two tubes of it resting in my makeup case. Ruby Woo has taken me from the laid back weekend festival…


To the professional portfolio pic

JP (1)
And back home from the board room’s strategic planning meeting
Jade P Headshot

I cannot say I have ever seen it look bad on anyone. Seriously, do a quick google search. It’s a classic and it compliments every skin tone. This is my go-to lip color for so many occasions, and it gives me that little bit of fierceness I need in my pro-style.

4. A Well Crafted Porcelain Coffee / Tea Mug
As an avid tea drinker, I do like to have a good vessel to drink the tea out of. Right now, I’m rockin’ with my porcelain J Monogram Mug by Papyrus (and their monogrammed mugs are going for only $5 now)!

However, I will soon be investing in one of these miniature works of art by Tees in the Trap:

You can buy it here!
Ya’ll don’t understand how much I need this mug. I need it for my meetings, for curriculum development in my office, for reading e-mails… I just… I just need this. There’s another I have my eye on, as well. Picture this – so I’m in a meeting about retention, persistence, & identity development for students of color, low income students, and first generation college students… and before I say my piece and give feedback, I slightly tilt to my fierce Ruby Woo-ified lip the mug that says
 Who is ready for this?! I am!
I am here for it and I hope you are too! So, now that you’ve heard about some of my work essentials, what are some of your essentials that get you pumped up and ready for a full day of productivity?!

Featured Image Credit: http://www.deathtothestockphoto.com

Why Career?: Things I Wish I Knew the First Time Around

Serving as a diversity program coordinator & drop-in career counselor during my graduate program schooled me in innumerable ways. I learned how the search process worked, tools for career discernment, and had important conversations about identity & professionalism. I read & edited so many resumes, cover letters, and personal statements that I could probably write a few in my sleep. After completing my graduate program, it was time to put all of that into practice in my own search. I knew a lot of the formal information, but I was going into the field with both professional experience and my identities as a woman, a person of color, holistic educator, etc.

Navigating through these identities in the career development / job search process was also something that I had the joy of walking my students through. And what I found to be true, over and over again, is that:

“The career development of all women occurs in a specific cultural context… The larger culture operating as a macrosystem perpetuates career myths and stereotypes related to race and gender and, in fact, institutionalizes forms of race/gender discrimination. This macrosystem embodies such values as White male privilege, Eurocentric worldviews, race-/gender-appropriate ideologies, or race/gender typing of occupational choices. Macrosystem values may be internalized by the individual (e.g., internalized oppression) and, on the microsystem level, influence how others treat a woman because of her gender or ethnicity (Cook et al., 2005, p. 167).”

So, while I had done the work externally with my students to challenge hegemonic career myths, it was time for me to apply this (again) within my own life. Although I was entering a career field where women were well-represented, I had to be aware that the ideals and norms were still centered around a framework that catered to what Patricia Hill Collins (1999) calls the “mythical norm”: White, able-bodied, male, etc.

I knew I would have to apply the knowledge that I gave to my students on a range of questions: “What do I do with my natural hair?” How do I negotiate? As a woman, will they think that I am negotiating too fiercely? Does this interview outfit accentuate too many of my ‘assets’? As a new professional, woman of color, what do I value? Do I just need a job and need it right now? What does that mean for my search? What does that mean for my socioeconomic status & identity? Should I apply for a lower position and attempt to work my way up from there? And so on, and so forth.

And surprisingly, that was the easy part. The HARD part, the BIG question that I did not even know I was asking, was “Do I trust my own voice, professional & lived experience enough to make the best choice for myself?”
In the face of hegemony.
In the face of the “advice” I received that called for me to apply and function beneath my level of expertise.
In the face of systems that were not inherently and foundationally set up for the success of all people; systems that favored a mythical norm, accessed benefits & pay differences based on gender, allowed some a clear path in, and others a clear path out to the margins.

I wish I could say that I trusted my own voice expertly in my first search. I did all of the formal things with little trouble. But the “gut-level” stuff… working through my own journey of self-authorship and empowerment as a professional woman of color was entirely up to me… and was not always easy. I am grateful to the mentors, from various points in gender expression & spectrum, who walked me through it. Yet though things worked out for me on my first search, I knew that there were subtle ways in which I conceded to macro-level norms, myths, and culture. I straightened my naturally curly, voluminous hair. I took out my nose ring. I barely negotiated. I did not seek further information on the lack of representation of people of color. Though it worked out to some degree, it never quite “sat right” inside (as my Gramma says).

So, my second search post M. Ed looked drastically different from the first. I knew that I would have to re-imagine my answer to the question, “Do I trust my own voice, professional & lived experience enough to make the best choice for myself?”

The second time around (*cue the music) I learned to give myself the pep-talks I needed to show up in a culturally authentic way, regardless of the setting. I learned to embrace the unknown that is inevitable in any job search process. I got REALLY good at giving myself pep-talks, that would later help my students. And here is what I tell them:

Show up with your authentic self.

Organizations are not just assessing your qualifications and skills. Employers are also looking for “fit”: the ways in which you will be able to transition into the norms, values, and practices of the office space. When you don’t show up as your authentic self, your employer can’t fully discern whether that opportunity is for you, and you can’t discern whether you will be fully accepted within that space. It’s a lose / lose. My authentic self includes my naturally curly hair. It includes my bent toward social justice, educational access, equity, and inclusion. It includes my background in the creative arts, and how that informs my educational practice. Reflect on your professional identity: what is important to you? What has shaped your views on professionalism? What do you value in a workspace? Bring those things with you into the interview process, and you just might be surprised at the type of opportunities that open up for you.

Ask about organizational structure in specific ways.

This is a lesson worth learning. At the start of my process, I knew that I needed to do some research on the organization structure (i.e. who was in leadership, what was their background, etc). However, I did not know that I needed to ask questions about the overall health and functionality of that organizational structure. This cost me dearly in the past.

I learned that you should never wait until after receiving an employment opportunity, to be privy to the health of the organization structure. Ask questions about how the organizational structure promotes growth for the staff. Ask about how it might limit the work of the staff, if at all. Ask what they would change about the organizational structure, if anything. Ask about the history of the position. All of these things will help you to take the temperature of the health of an organizational structure, and allow you the chance to see if you can picture yourself in that structure.

Go with your gut. If it feels wrong, get more information so that you can access the site of the intuitive feeling.

I remember arriving on site to my institution & thinking, “This is it!” The mission, the colleagues, the timing… my gut (or intuition, if you prefer that term) was clear on it. Different factors go into creating that “gut feeling” in the career process. These factors have a lot to do with what you value as a professional. Personally, I value inclusion, professional development, and supportive relationships with colleagues to name a few. Throughout an interview process, your gut processes cues that create your understanding or intuition about a place.

For example, I still remember particular cues from various interview sites: being asked my preferred gender pronouns, speaking with leadership who openly described the nature of their leadership style, hospitality in the process, opportunities to speak with student leaders, etc. These things helped me in the career discernment process in regards to where I should land.

Career searching is NOT just about having the perfect resume, cover letter, application materials, interview suits. Although this is a part of it, there is much more. The process requires you to think through your identities and the values that you hold, in regard to those identities. It is understanding that the career search process is both external AND internal. The career search process requires being wise enough to notice hegemony even when you see it in the workplace (which many believe is a neutral space). It is making decisions that are healthy for you as a professional, which allow you to contribute even more to your field. And perhaps, most of all, it is choosing to be brave.

Image credit:
deathtostockphoto.com

Resources
Cook, Ellen P. Heppner, M.J., O’Brien, K. M. (2005). “Multicultural and Gender Influences in Women’s Career Development: An Ecological Perspective”. Journal of multicultural counseling and development (0883-8534), 33 (3), p. 165.

Collins, P. H. (1999). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge.

Electric Lady at Work (aka How Janelle Monae Helped Me Get My Life)

Two things that I really miss about South Carolina are the open roads and the 70 mph speed limits. It creates the perfect landscape for one of my favorite past-times: riding down the roads with my music as a soundtrack. During my time in South Carolina, I did anti-bias, diversity, & inclusion work as the only staff member of color in our division. The lessons that I learned during my time of anti-bias work in the South were incredible. However, as a young professional woman of color advocating for underrepresented students, I was not immune to bias & microaggression. In many respects, the world that my students inhabited and the struggles they faced was my world, too.

Janelle Monae’s project, Electric Lady, came out right before I started that work. However it didn’t mean much to me until I actually began.
Until I, as a Northern transplant, saw & experienced the ways in which women of color moved through academia in a Southern setting.
Until I needed something that would sustain me in the work while the rural landscape provided ample space for reflection and little space for socialization.
That “something” became Janelle Monae’s Electric Lady.

It is undeniable that the project “jams”. It’s one that you can dance to, clean to, and essentially “get your life” to. Yet under the jam is a fresh message of empowerment & uplift. In a Billboard interview, Monae unpacks her inspiration for the album, stating that it came from a series of paintings she did & was trying to make sense of. Throughout the process, she identified the figure she kept painting as The Electric Lady. Through these paintings and this album, Janelle Monae created, “a world where these electric ladies were realizing their super powers and doing self-realization into self-actualization and nurturing the community through their gifts and their unique perspectives on life.”

The Electric Lady, as described in the titled track, is a woman who,

“Whether in Savannah, K-Kansas or in Atlanta,
She’ll walk in any room have you raising up your antennas.
She can fly you straight to the moon or to the ghettos
Wearing tennis shoes or in flats or in stilettos
Illuminating all that she touches
Eye on the sparrow
A modern day Joan of a Arc or Mia Farrow
Classy, Sassy, put you in a razzle-dazzy
Her magnetic energy will have you coming home like Lassie
Saying “ooh shock it, break it, baby”
Electro, sofista, funky, -cated”

So, one evening as I was “shockin’ it” & “breakin’ it”, I decided that this work by Janelle Monae would become my strategy for empowerment and self-care. I decided that as long as I was doing the work, I would own my vitality, buzz, & worth as a professional woman of color. I would not wait for it to come externally. I was finally taking ownership of my inner Electric Lady. I hoped that by doing this, others would be encouraged to do the same.

Why claim this motif as a self-care strategy?

The Electric Lady is vital. The Electric Lady can transition through various environments. The Electric Lady has a keen sense of style politics, how she shows up in the world, & navigates through them creatively. The Electric Lady understands the power of oppositional gaze, is not afraid to look at the world around her, and require better. The Electric Lady is courageous in her love for others, fully realized. The Electric Lady has grit & finesse. The Electric Lady “illuminates all that she touches. She sparks something in other people that they did not know they had. She lights a path for those within her reach through knowledge and the audacity to simply be herself. This is what I wished to model for my students. I realized that in those moments of driving down stretches of highway, facilitating learning experiences, creating opportunities for underrepresented students, sharing written work, and having the audacity to show up as myself in the world… I am an Electric Lady.

When I was in graduate school, my professors required us to create a personal statement that would outline our professional philosophy. In that statement I talked about ” assessing your performance, receiving feedback, and adapting to the changing needs of students, cultivating relationships outside of work…” and so forth. Though these things still detail my professional values, I’ve since distilled it down to something I remember each day. It motivates me to do the work through education, writing, and student affairs. And that philosophy is… “Be an Electric Lady.”

Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Janelle_Mon%C3%A1e_19.jpg

Lyrics written by Janelle Monae, cited from Google Play

Resource Links:
http://thefeministwire.com/2012/08/you-betta-werk-professors-talk-style-politics/

bell hooks (1992). In Black Looks: Race & Representation. pp. 115 -131. http://www.umass.edu/afroam/downloads/reading14.pdf

They Said What?! – Navigating Microaggressions in the Workplace

Microaggressions can be defined as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (Wing Sue, 2010).” These subtle snubs can creep up in the work environment in the most unlikely places.

I have both experienced and supported others through the various microaggressions that they may have faced in their work environment, in my process of navigating the workplace as a millenial Black woman. These few come to mind:

  • ideas I contributed being re-directed for attribution to one of the men in the room (either immediately or over time)
  • being called a “girl” as a professional, full time staff member
  • prominent leadership figures subtly attributing career successes to affirmative action efforts
  • assumptions of being “angry” about something when we are professionally critiquing an exclusionary policy, practice, or protocol

Through mutual support systems and networks, colleagues and I have talked about ways to navigate these instances. Do we see it as a teachable moment and a brief lesson in diversity education? Do we call for the organization to establish diversity training sessions? Do we ignore it? Do we speak on it?

Honestly, there are just as many approaches as there are individuals and identities to navigate. Most of the time, understanding what to do comes on a case-by-case basis. However, here are a few things that have helped me in the past, and I hope that they will assist you if you ever have to navigate these murky waters:

Document, document, document!

There are lessons that I’ve learned through graduate school. There are lessons that I’ve learned through professional mentors. Then, there are those ‘common sense’ lessons that I’ve learned from the village that raised me and called me to the work that I do. One of those lessons is documentation. One thing that I know to be true, is that there is a profound difference between individual microaggressions perpetuated by a colleague… and a culture that promotes, implicitly allows, or does not challenge microaggressive behaviors. You typically can “feel in your gut” which one you are dealing with. (The good news is that this gut feeling can also help you to discern which work environments will help you thrive!) If you are feeling that you have landed within a work culture that fosters microaggressive behaviors, documenting things will become absolutely key. Having a timeline allows you to examine the environment and have robust information should you need to chat with a supervisor, administrator, ombudsperson, or HR representative. Keeping this type of documentation is not unnecessary or petty. It is a data set that can inform strategic change within the workplace or organization.

Challenge it. 

I fully understand that not everyone will feel comfortable with this approach. However, as someone who is an educator & student affairs professional, this is an approach that I fall back on quite often. Of course, methods vary as audiences change: the approach is different if I am talking with students about what a microaggression is but I tend to be a little firmer if I am talking with a colleague. Since we’re talking about the workplace, we have to realize that we are all coming in with different backgrounds, experiences, and mind sets. And bias is real. Thus, creating a truly inclusive and affirming environment is a continual process.

In instances where microaggressions arise, the hope is that we can communicate supervisors, administrators, and / or HR representatives that these instances threaten the inclusivity of the environment, and thus, impede overall productivity. This process might include addressing the matter directly, challenging what was said, and offering clarity (i.e. asking my age in a board meeting is inappropriate for the following reasons…).

Though the methods vary, this is an approach that many can use, if it’s their choice. For clarity’s sake, I am, by no means, suggesting that every microaggression is a teachable moment. Here’s why: many times, we ask those within marginalized communities to be the primary teachers and educators on that community. This can take up a lot of cognitive energy that you want to use for the actual work that you are doing (Fries-Britt & Griffin, 2007). While this is a work that I am committed to as a multicultural student affairs professional, I do not blithely suggest that this is something that everyone should take on, if they do not feel comfortable. Please understand that creating these teachable moments with your colleagues or co-workers is something that you are empowered to choose… or not choose.

Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time or energy for a lesson about microaggressions. In those cases, I ask clarifying questions in hopes that these questions will help people to think through what they just said or did. It can be as simple as, “Help me understand what you are really saying,” or, “To me, your statement implies _______. Help me understand how you’re interpreting what you just said”. For example, in instances where my speech choices are attributed to being “a credit to my race”, or “not speaking like” a person of color, I typically ask them to help me understand what they mean: “What made you say that? How are you defining the speech patterns of persons of color? Are these speech patterns all synonymous?” (I won’t lie… I’ve thrown in “I didn’t know you studied sociolinguistics! Will you tell me more about that?” as appropriate). Many times, asking for more information allows people the space to process through their own words, thoughts, and actions… and the implications of it all.

Facilitate meaningful connections within the workplace.

If there were any one approach that I had to stress, this one would be it. The three that are above will be contingent upon your personal circumstances, ideology, and comfort levels. However, facilitating meaningful connections within the workplace is important, regardless of the circumstance. There have been instances where I have experienced microaggressions (and / or just general discrimination) and I have accessed supervisors, colleagues, and co-workers to have those ‘close the door’ conversations. In those spaces, they told me about the organization’s history, who I needed to talk to, and in some cases, what approach I needed to take. These connections came from within my field and outside of my field. They are the people who invested in my success and who believe that workplaces could and should be inclusive and affirming. Start branching out to make those meaningful connections.

Understand that sometimes, self-care trumps all.

It’s no secret: we put in work! And many times, our work requires us to be present and effective for the long term. So, we have to be diligent about paying attention to our own self care when faced with microaggressions in the work place.
The thing about microaggressions is that they subtly challenge the core of your dignity and brilliance, because of your race, ethnicity, and gender. They are not always easy to shrug off, dismiss, or confront with colleagues (and /or especially those who might be in higher leadership positions). So, in those instances, think about the ways in which you can care for yourself, right there, in that moment.

Self-care looks different for everyone. If you need to take some breaths after being the target of a microaggression, do that. If you need to talk it through with one of your connections, do that. If you find that these types of instances keep coming up on a regular and consistent basis, and you can afford to do so without considerable cost to your socioeconomic reality, then self care might also look like facilitating a search for a new work environment. I’ve done this before and trust me, it comes with both the pros & the cons of transitions – as well as the ever-present understanding that microaggressions at the intersections of race & gender are prevalent for Black women in the workplace (Crenshaw, 1993; Harris Perry, 2013).

An older version of this piece has also been posted on the Black Career Women’s Network.
Image courtesy of createherstock.com

Resources (not linked)

Fries-Britt, Sharon, and Kimberly Griffin (2007). “The Black box: How high-achieving Blacks resist stereotypes about Black Americans.” Journal of College Student Development 48.5: 509-524.

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They Said What?! Navigating Microaggressions in the Workplace by Jade Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.