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In a perfect corporate world, intellect, hard work, and professionalism would be recognized and rewarded regardless of the color of your skin. Kenneth Arroyo Roldan is here to tell you that nobody works in a perfect corporate world. Stellar performance alone will not determine corporate advancement—minorities need to learn and follow the rules of corporate politics. As one African American employee who started as a systems analyst at Xerox observed, "The reality was that despite your ability, if you weren't ...
In a perfect corporate world, intellect, hard work, and professionalism would be recognized and rewarded regardless of the color of your skin. Kenneth Arroyo Roldan is here to tell you that nobody works in a perfect corporate world. Stellar performance alone will not determine corporate advancement—minorities need to learn and follow the rules of corporate politics. As one African American employee who started as a systems analyst at Xerox observed, "The reality was that despite your ability, if you weren't playing politics correctly, you would be derailed."
In Minority Rules, Roldan gives a dose of tough love to minorities in corporate America while educating their majority counterparts. As the CEO of the top U.S. head-hunting firm specializing in placing minorities in fast track jobs, Roldan watched as minority superstars hired at Fortune 500 companies bailed out, disappointed and rejected after only a few years. The problem, Roldan says, is that minorities are not adequately prepared psychologically or culturally for corporate careers. In a six-step plan, he explains how to surmount the obstacles, play corporate hardball, and succeed as a minority in the workplace. Corporate culture is unforgiving to minorities, but it is possible to rise to the top with Roldan as your guide.
With refreshing candor, Roldan prepares minorities both psychologically and culturally for corporate careers. Forget about using affirmative action and discrimination lawsuits to level the playing field. The only way to win is to know the landscape and master the rules of the game—from finding the right mentor to learning the art of networking to focusing on self-reliance, patience, and most of all, performance. Roldan shows minorities how to climb to the top jobs—and keep them.
Building Your Career Step-by-Step
Success doesn't happen overnight except in sentimental Broadway musicals like 42nd Street, where the understudy replaces the star and instantly becomes famous. In corporate life, planning your ascension through the organization requires the skills of a chess grandmaster. In this chapter, I lay out how you can make a name for yourself, build your corporate reputation, and stand out from the crowd in order to surpass the many colleagues who also want those high-powered managing-director and senior executive slots. In short, I map out how you could build your career from day one of being hired to enable you to surmount the obstacles to advance in the corporation.
The Broadway musical Seesaw featured the song "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish." Where you start can influence (but not determine) how far you rise up the corporate ranks. Too often I see minority candidates being lured into and agreeing to launch their corporate careers in roles such as ethnic marketing, public finance, or government or community affairs, rather than assuming a line and operations role that has direct impact on the company's bottom line. "You'reAfrican American and we'd like you to start selling Crest to the African American market, or doing community affairs in inner Detroit," the HR rep will say. "You can help recruit people of your own ethnic background" will be another ploy that will play on your civic virtue and conscience. In this chapter I'll propose ways to avoid being pigeonholed as an ethnic marketer, which can lead you into being trapped.
Once you secure your first job, start investigating how to move up to the next rung, internally within your organization or outside with another company. Your supervisor/manager will likely serve as your initial ally in your pursuit. Without being overly aggressive, obnoxious, or self-serving, start asking questions about how he or she moved up, the skills required for the job, who are the key contacts that you need to develop, and what his or her director/manager looks for in staff that wants to move into the fast lane. Consider also meeting with your supervisor's boss to discuss similar topics, as long as your direct manager won't see this move as circumventing him or her.
One way to get ahead in most companies is to turn everyone into your ally. The administrative assistant to the senior manager of your department may be low on the totem pole, but she or he may be a hidden treasure trove of knowledge. Nearly every piece of information goes through him or her, so establishing a strong rapport can help you to learn what's going on before everyone else does. Remember, you're becoming a strategist and intelligence gatherer. Everyone in the department--colleagues, your immediate supervisor, the senior manager, and administrative assistants--is a potential ally of yours.
Your attitude and performance will determine whether you have what it takes to climb up the corporate ladder. For example, Crain's New York Business published an article in early 2005 about the difficulty faced by many African American men in business because they often don't smile, look gravely serious and sullen, and come across as defensive. In the ghetto, this defensive posture made good sense because there were so many threats to their safety or manhood. But in the corporate world, their sullen stare alienates people and often forces too many of their colleagues to keep their distance. Overcoming this defensive gesture by opening up and changing their facial expression is necessary to advancing their career.
Possessing the right attitude and being a self-starter, an open, performance-driven team player, sets the tone. And then the emphasis must be on making the right moves.
Hence, I recommend becoming proactive about moving up the minute you land your first job. That doesn't mean avoiding mastering your job at hand. Clearly becoming a top performer in your current role is a prerequisite to success. But too many minorities think that by sending their resume to Monster.com or an ethnic job board once a year, they're taking an aggressive approach to job hunting. They're not. Most top performers, in fact, avoid the massive Internet job sites, which are equivalent to cattle calls, because they attract thousands of resumes, so one high-performing individual like yourself, can't stand out from the masses.
Mistake #1: Resisting Assimilation
Too many minority rising stars "silo" themselves off from their colleagues. Mistrustful of others, not knowing who is racist and who gives diversity lip service, many people of color detach themselves from the corporate mainstream. That error can be fatal when it comes to gaining trust, becoming noticed, and securing first-rate, challenging assignments and reaching out and expanding your network. To succeed in corporate life beyond being a solid performer, you need to become the quintessential team player, collaborative, outgoing, and reaching out to colleagues and forming relationships throughout the organization. You become the go-to person at conferences, help recent graduates make the transition into corporate life, and turn yourself into the all-around network/team player. At all costs, avoid becoming isolated and cut off.
Mistake #2: Getting Pigeonholed
Some minority professionals are proud that they have created a place for themselves in the corporation. They're the good guy or woman who is a junior-level marketing person who does a decent job, gets 2 percent raises, and watches colleagues advance up the corporate ladder. Though they are as bright and effective as their colleagues, they are complacent and just plain satisfied to have a job. The minority performer who succeeds is the one with fire in the belly. Strive to reach your maximum potential. Being talented and capable isn't enough unless you learn to play corporate politics, network, master relationships skills, and instill some positive ambition in yourself that ultimately is evident when people work with you. Don't settle for complacency; maximize your chances of reaching your full potential.
Excerpted from Minority Rules by Kenneth Roldan Copyright © 2006 by Kenneth Roldan. Excerpted by permission.
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