professionalism

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). 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-flowchartYou 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:https://www.facebook.com/terrynredd/posts/10112034039704854My 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

Business Couture & Professional Aesthetics

Colleague: I don’t know… they’d probably tell me that wearing this printed shirt isn’t business casual.
Me: It’s not. It’s Business Couture™.

Yesterday, at the Center for Inclusivity, we had an engaging discussion about Vocation & Identity. We discussed how the word ‘vocation’ were different from ‘job’. We shared how we decided which work was worth our time and effort and how our identities intersected with your work.

These days, I call myself an interdisciplinary bridge-builder. I’m deeply interested in the work of writing, the creative and performing arts, higher education, emerging adulthood, and faith & spirituality. I’m interested in finding connections toward holistic visions of success and social justice. 

Yet, my understanding of vocation / work does not just include what I do. It also includes my professional aesthetic. My choices in ‘professional’ dress reflect more about where I’ve been and who I am than what I’m doing.

On Following Her Footsteps, Amina Doherty explains:

 

“We exist in a world where Black women’s bodies are contested spaces, where our fashion and style choices are heavily policed, where we are told what to wear, how to wear it, for whom to wear it, how much we should cover (or uncover), how much we should spend – how to ‘be’ everything but ourselves. We exist in a world that privileges thin, white, heterosexual bodies”

Michael Riley, Stylist and Higher Education Professional says, “As persons of color, we are often read as inherently unprofessional“.

Michael Riley

Michael Riley & I, posin’ in our Business Couture.

Thus, the way I practice, reframe, and re-mix “professional dress” or “business casual” into Business Couture allows me to push the confines. Stated simply, Business Couture is anything that allows me to come to ‘werk / work’ and slay. It is a theory that I’m living into each day. Here’s what that looks like for me, these days:

You’ll notice my favorite crop top from the last style post! As a card-carrying member of #TeamCurves, I’ve often been discouraged from crop tops. However, in my visions of Business Couture, this piece is a staple for me to get the lines that I want.

I have significantly less hair than my previous post! This has really amped up the role that accessories play in communicating my professional identity (and saved me a lot of prep time in the morning). In the first picture (far left), I’m wearing my “A Lil Bougie” pin from Tees in the Trap. (Yes, I absolutely do wear that to work). It’s a lighthearted and subtle code-switch, and my students always launch into discussion when they see it. However, it is also a reminder to think about class privilege, explain the references and / or jargon that I engage when I’m doing my work, and to check in with those who keep me accountable to the work.

The wooden earrings (center pic) were obtained at the Odunde Festival in Philadelphia, which “celebrates the coming of another year for African Americans and Africanized people around the world”. They can be a bold choice for the office but… #unbothered.

Business Cotoure 1

Glitter, sequins, and bedazzled shenanigans are absolutely a part of my professional aesthetic. In an older piece, titled “For Colored Gurls Who Consider Blogging & Glitter When Chronic Illness Gets Too Real…”, I explained that allowing my body to be bejeweled allows me to experience pleasure & “luxury” in my body, given the chronic amounts of sickness that are also in my body.

Business Couture means making space for things that aren’t quite casual, aren’t quite formal, aren’t quite… anything… and making it all work. This is something that I’ve had to do with my own lived experience: curate comprehensive works, aesthetics, initiatives, plans, from a variety of places, contexts, and needs. Pictured above is my Lauren Conrad bedazzled shirt and skirt (total cost around $25, as I got the pieces on clearance), and my Clarks knee boots (good for living with chronic plantar fasciitis in both feet while looking fly).

Palazzo pants and V-neck shirts are a part of my aesthetic. Again, as a curvy woman, I’ve been told to stay away from things that “attract attention” (**eye roll). This was discouraged both in secular systems and in “sacred” spaces. Yet, my ethic and aesthetic of Business Couture acknowledges two things:

1) It is the responsibility of others to practice self control and to refrain from sexualizing the frame that I inhabit.

2) This particular body that I inhabit is temporary (I know it sounds a bit mystical, but I’m going somewhere). Things can change at any moment: if I fall ill, my skin color can dull. If I cut my hair, it has the capacity to grow back at this point. There are a variety of factors that determine the amount of space my body takes up at any given point in time. My body is temporary. Understanding this has allowed me to a lot spend less time agonizing over what others believe I should be covering and hiding, given my current weight / shape / frame, etc.

Let me be clear, the way that I experience gender discrimination, given my aesthetic, is not the same as someone who is trans*.  I would be remiss to exclude the understanding that my cis-gender privilege is real, and that this must be worked through in a variety of ways (that could be an entirely new post).

My hope, then, is that this conversations on who gets to be read as ‘professional’ is built upon, remixed, and re-interpreted for a variety of contexts and lived experiences. The concept of Business Couture is something that I’m still working through, wrestling with, and exploring. It is a concept that, I believe, must be lived into and is likely flexible enough to take however it is lived into.

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!

Jades Faves: Get Into these Blogs & Sites

I found these blogs on my epic journey & quest to “get my life” through blogs & vlogs! I’m always looking to find fresh perspectives that also remind me of why I’ve chosen to blog: to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion!

I appreciate the work being done through each of these sites & talented bloggers. Add them to your list when you get a chance!

1. DressProfesh.com – I stumbled upon this website last week because Twitter is a magical place that gives you recommendations based on your interests. As many of you already know, navigating identity politics in higher education & in the workplace is… one…of…my… things! I talk about it. I write about it. I read about. So, when I saw what Katie Manthey was doing over at DressProfesh.com, I could hardly contain my excitement. This site exists as a photo gallery that

showcase(s) images of the various ways that people (regardless of industry) dress “professionally.” (The) goal with this gallery is to collect images that, together, will reveal that “professional” is not a monolithic idea—and that the idea of “professional dress,” like any dress code, is inherently racist, sexist, abelist, sizeist, etc.

It didn’t take long for me to submit my own photos, showing how I #dressprofesh in a myriad of different ways! Check out the site and be sure to submit a photo of your own!

2. Conditionally Accepted: A Space for Scholars on the Margins of Academia

I am always looking for materials for my mentees to read in terms of being successful in academia and in their post-grad work (if chosen). I was searching for a few readings when I found Advice on Applying to and Choosing a Graduate Program, written by Dr. Zandria F. Robinson for conditionallyaccepted.com. Her perspective on finding, applying, and accepting entry into a graduate program was refreshing and real. I found myself literally agreeing out loud as I began clicking through the site that weekend, reading post after post.

If only I had this key as an add-on when I was reading!

The purpose of this site is to serve as

a space for academics who exists at the margins of academia. We will provide news, information, personal stories, and resources for scholars who are, at best, conditionally accepted in the academy. Conditionally Accepted is an anti-racist, pro-feminist, pro-queer, anti-transphobic, anti-fatphobic, anti-ableist, anti-ageist, anti-classist, and anti-xenophobic web community. http://conditionallyaccepted.com/about/

3. The Write Girl – Whitney L. Barkley is doin’ the dang thing over at thewritegirlblog.com as she provides timely career advice for millenial women. If you’ve been following my site, then you know that I like speaking to and about millenial woman of color in the workplace: what helps, what promotes, what fosters our growth, what hinders… and what’s just plain tacky. At The Write Girl, Whitney “is taking her experiences and translating them into career advice that helps with job retention, online branding, job searching, and career advancement (http://thewritegirlblog.com/about/)”. Her posts will make you think about how generational identities change the game for millenials in empowering ways!

So, I’ve given you some good lunchtime reads for the week! Check them out and comment below to tell me what you think!

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).

Creative Commons License
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?