Life Changing Career Advice From 10 Black Women

Life Changing Career Advice From 10 Black Women

There’s something extremely powerful that happens when women come together to help each other. I’m not talking about just joining hands and singing “Kumbaya My Lord” over a campfire with chips and guac (although the pseudo-yogi in me is down for that too). I’m talking about the unbiased gems that are dropped for the sole purpose of making sure “she” is better because of her interaction with you.

Of course it can be helpful, but it’s also synergistic.

Some may say even magical.

Fortunately enough for me, I’ve been blessed with a myriad of phenomenal women in my life. Throughout both my life and career, I have met women who saw fit to impart in me their own findings about life. Being a lover of quotes, words, and just bomb advice, I find myself recalling some of their isms and sharing them in presentations.

On today’s blog post, I decided to curate a list of some of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve received from my amazing circle of influence. If you google any one of these women below, you’ll find a plethora of awards, articles, and 40 under 40 list recognitions, so I’ll just keep this blog to the advice.

This list is not at all exhaustive, but I figured if I could benefit from these gems, then perhaps you could too.

Here we go:

1. Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep – My Mom

Every Shut Eye Isn't Sleep - My Mom

Translation: When you’re around people, assume that they are watching or listening to your every move

I’ve mentioned my mom before on my blog and anyone who knows her in real life knows that she tells it like it is. This saying is something that I always grew up hearing. It’s just a gentle reminder to be on your best behavior because there’s someone who is always watching you – even if they pretend that they aren’t.

2. Communication is point and key – Kristie Hubbard

Communication is point and key - Kristie Hubbard

Translation: I don’t want to find out something later because you didn’t tell me first when you had the opportunity

Kristie Hubbard was my advisor when I was chapter president for my Sorority back in college. We were able to build a level of trust in that relationship because I did my best not to let her find out something in public that I should have told her private. Communication – even when you’re wrong – can go a long way in whatever relationship you’re in.

3. Do it for the kids – Myskeshia Mitchell

Do it for the kids - Myskeshia Mitchell

Translation: Sometimes you have to inconvenience yourself for the next generation

Like Kristie Hubbard, Myskeshia was also an advisor for me when I was in undergrad. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and shaper of young minds, Myskeshia constantly reminds me that it’s not just about me. A simple school project for a friend’s daughter turned into a lecture about how representation and effort matter to children. I see Myskeshia walk this talk every single day of her life and I often hear her echoing these 5 words in my mind when I want to be selfish.

4. Anyone can take your spot, but no one can take your place – Tracey Artis

Anyone can take your spot, but no one can't take your place - Tracey Artis

Translation: Your uniqueness is priceless

Tracey Artis was the very first person to ever trust me with a check in the music business. She hired me fresh out of college and constantly dropped nuggets of wisdom from every angle. As a highly successful African American female business owner, I had no idea the impact she was making on my life. Merely seeing her confidence both in her faith and herself is enough to make anyone keep their chin up.

5. Self care is the best care – Dr. Jackie Darby, PsyD

Self care is the best care - Dr. Jackie Darby, PsyD

Translation: take care of yourself so you can operate at your best

My built in Psychologist strikes again. My sister, Dr. Jack Jack, has a way with words. I mean, she should…she’s written a bunch. This mantra was one she coined and we’ve never looked back. Whenever I forget to incorporate self care into my routine – this quotable is all the permission I need to treat myself.

6. Keep a blazer in your car just incase. People notice your shoes, bags, and your hands first. – Shayla Treadwell

People notice your shoes, bags, and your hands first. - Shayla Treadwell 

Translation: Outward appearance isn’t everything as a young professional, but it does matter.

I met Shayla Treadwell back when she was Shayla Jones. She adopted me into her circle when I was a teenager after seeing untapped potential. Shayla reminded me that we live in a visual world. When you are a young woman (especially a young woman of color) you have to consider your appearance in addition to your work ethic. Shayla wasn’t saying that you always have the latest Kate Spade bag on your arm or switch your nail color for every season. However, investing in a few staple pieces and even a clear top coat or gel manicure can make you appear a bit more polished.

7. Once people think you’re incompetent as a leader, it’s hard to convince them otherwise – Debbie Brooks

Once people think you're incompetent as a leader, it's hard to convince them otherwise - Debbie Brooks

Translation: don’t give people a reason to doubt you as a leader

If you didn’t say “Amen,” when you got to this one, go back and read it again. Soror Brooks is another one of my Sorority super-sheros, much like Kristie and Myskeshia. She can literally lead me into a brown paper bag and I would follow her knowing it was for my good. Under her tutelage, I learned a lot about empathy, kindness, and fairness. Working with people can be a lot to handle, especially with different personalities and even ulterior motives. Soror Brooks always reminded me to put my best foot forward and the importance of thinking before I spoke. Once something is out into the world, you can’t take it back.

8. You’re not a garbage can, don’t let others dump their mess on you – Evangelist Patterson (“Mother Patterson”)

You're not a garbage can, don't let others dump their mess on you - Evangelist Patterson

Translation: you can have your own mess without adding others’ issues to your pile

Mother Patterson always had a unique way of snatching my edges. She was (and still is) the First Lady of the church I attended in college and would always listen to me lament about my 18 year old woes. She never made me feel small, but looking back on it, my issues probably weren’t as larger-than-life as I made them out to be. This particular instance, she reminded me that I have enough problems of my own without allowing others to use me as a punching bag or a garbage can. Learning how to separate your own issues from others’ issues can be difficult when you have the spirit of helping, but it’s something that I continue to work on.

9. It doesn’t matter who you have in your phone. It matters if they answer when you call – Evangelist Maynard

It doesn't matter who you have in your phone. It matters if they answer when you call - Evangelist Maynard

Translation: Your level of influence isn’t just measured by who you know. It’s also measured by who knows you. 

We already know how powerful relationships are, but this quote by Evangelist Maynard takes it up another notch. A community leader in her own right, she reminded me that people get hyped off of the clout they think they have. Building authentic and meaningful relationships is much more powerful than networking. Choosing the former can help you in your career and life.

10. Enjoy your vacation – Michelle Mills Clement

Enjoy your vacation - Michelle Mills-Clement

Translation: live your life, boo

Michelle Mills Clement is yet another Sorority sister who has helped me in times of need (noticing a trend here?). I was in a sticky situation at work one day and text her asking the best way to navigate it before I dipped out on vacation. She spit out a short laundry list of things to do that were extremely helpful. But, it was the last liner that got me. At the end of the text message, Michelle wrote: Lastly, enjoy your vacation. It seems like such a minor detail, but there are plenty of people who get anxiety at the mere potential of backlogged emails. Although I’m super grateful for what I get to create and put into the world, the schedule can be demanding. Michelle reminded me that I should also get to enjoy what I do. It’s not about being perfect.

Once again, this advice list is by no means exhaustive. I could have totally kept going.

I tried something a bit different for this blog and I hoped you enjoyed it! Let me know which piece of advice resonated with you the most by dropping it in the comments.

Always speak life,