November 2008


Hi everyone. Unfortunately due to illness, I will be postponing the release and workshop event until December 6th.  Thos who have registered already will have your registration transferred to that date and be sent the new log in information.  If you have any questions, please email me directly. My apologies to all, but I had not expected to come down with the flu.  Thank you for your support.

full_cover_smallGo Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking

By popular demand, Go Ahead is now available online! No matter where you are in the world, you can now participate in this very important workshop.

Let’s face it, this economy is on shaky ground. As witnessed by the collapse of some of Wall Street’s powerhouse companies like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, we never know when our cushy job is in jeopardy. If your company collapsed tomorrow, what would you do? Do you have a contingency plan like starting a business? Do you have a solid network of key decision makers who could help you in landing your next opportunity? Chances are if you haven’t taken the time to build a strong network, you don’t have many allies who can help you in a pinch.

Go Ahead Talk, to Strangers, based on the book written by Adrienne Graham, gives you the foundations of becoming a fearless networker. In this session, some of what you will learn includes:

* Branding yourself

* Build, communicate with and tap into your network

* Networking with top executives and key decision makers

* Making a memorable impression on the people you meet

* Positioning yourself as a subject matter expert and an asset

* Being a fearless networker

* Navigating and tapping into traditional and social networking

* Using networking to advance your career or build your business

Don’t miss this dynamic session that prepares you to become a powerful and empowered networker. Your real networking experience begins at this seminar. Adrienne Graham gives attendees a look into her own networking journey, shares her experiences and best advice on building your own network from a position of confidence and strength, and gets the audience involved in interactive networking exercises. Graham will also read a chapter from the book.

Date: December 6, 2008

Time: 11 AM- 2 PM

Location: Online- log in information provided after payment is received.

Cost: $69

Register today:

Space is limited and advanced registration is required. Must have internet access to attend this session. Drawings will be conducted for a $25 American Express Gift Check, a copy of the book Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers, and 1 free networking coaching session with Adrienne Graham. Event will be recorded.

22781140OK, I’m used to people falsely calling me a sexist against men. *yawn* I had to laugh at this email I received from a guy who apparently has a problem with me championing women (actually he called me a racist and a sexist because of my Empowered Latina and Empowered Black Women networks under Empower Me). I generally ignore the very few email I get in that tone but I had to address it this time. I’m not going to sit here and defend myself against those idiotic claims of racism or sexism as those who know me or have read anything from me know my true heart.

So I get an email chastising me regarding my perceived “Old Boys Network Bashing”. I had to laugh. The gentleman said he felt that by encouraging women and writing a book dedicated solely to women and networking made me a sexist. He said I was ushering in the New Girls Network that kept men out. He went on to say that we all, men and women need to move forward and network with one another. I agreed with that. My question is, when did I say men and women can’t network together? Look at my own network and you’ll find men and women from all races, countries, industries, stations in life and career, etc. As long as a person can be comfortable in a mutually beneficial networking relationship, I don’t care if they are pink with polka dots from the moon. I will network with them with no hesitation or problem.

I have been very vocal about women being careful about focusing too heavily on the OBN. Yes, to some degree, it does still exist. But the difference is that today, in 2008, it is no longer the barrier it once was. For one, men are a lot more progressive these days and open to doing business with women. There are a lot more women in power positions than there were 20 years ago. And finally, I believe this generation of business people are moving beyond gender as long as a business idea (or relationship) makes sense. I also agree that there are instances where women do need something of their own. I mention in my book that sometimes it’s good to have a network within your own (gender, ethnicity, industry, etc). I also said not to make them your primary network.

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to a day where diversity is a given, not a mandate. I align myself with people who fit in line with my business and professional objectives. I open myself to learn about other businesses, countries, cultures, practices, etc. So for someone to call me a sexist or racist is laughable at best. This is a global society. Anyone who limits themselves to their “own” (gender, ethnicity, sorority, fraternity, economic class, etc) is doing themselves a grave disservice. So yes, while I did write a book targeted to women (gee I AM a woman…go figure), the principles in the book work from men and women and I stated this. We need to be focusing on how to work together, not looking for ways to exclude. We need to focus on building solid relationships and learning from one another. Not whining that a group is exclusive. If it’s really that exclusive, do you really want to be part of it to begin with? We all need to recognize that at times, it makes sense for people to want to congregate with people like them. But we can’t read too much into it. Recognize it for what it is and keep it moving. I mean really, I’m half black and half hispanic. Are you seriously telling me that I’m not allowed to join groups for either ethnicity without someone reading more into it than they should? Just because I’m a woman, does this mean it’s wrong for me to join a women’s group just so I don’t offend men? Seriously. As long as it isn’t an inflammatory or vindictively exclusive group, I say do what you do and forget what other people think.

So there may or may not be a “New Girls Network” out there. If there is, more power to them. People, let’s focus on real issues and stop trying to make something out of nothing. It’s insulting that I even have to address this in 2008.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
International Networker

Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking

By popular demand, Go Ahead is now available online! No matter where you are in the world, you can now participate in this very important workshop.

Let’s face it, this economy is on shaky ground. As witnessed by the collapse of some of Wall Street’s powerhouse companies like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, we never know when our cushy job is in jeopardy. If your company collapsed tomorrow, what would you do? Do you have a contingency plan like starting a business? Do you have a solid network of key decision makers who could help you in landing your next opportunity? Chances are if you haven’t taken the time to build a strong network, you don’t have many allies who can help you in a pinch.

Go Ahead Talk, to Strangers, based on the book written by Adrienne Graham, gives you the foundations of becoming a fearless networker. In this session, some of what you will learn includes:

* Branding yourself

* Build, communicate with and tap into your network

* Networking with top executives and key decision makers

* Making a memorable impression on the people you meet

* Positioning yourself as a subject matter expert and an asset

* Being a fearless networker

* Navigating and tapping into traditional and social networking

* Using networking to advance your career or build your business

Don’t miss this dynamic session that prepares you to become a powerful and empowered networker. Your real networking experience begins at this seminar. Adrienne Graham gives attendees a look into her own networking journey, shares her experiences and best advice on building your own network from a position of confidence and strength, and gets the audience involved in interactive networking exercises. Graham will also read a chapter from the book.

Date: November 22, 2008

Time: 11 AM- 2 PM

Location: Online- log in information provided after payment is received.

Cost: $69

Register today:

Space is limited and advanced registration is required. Must have internet access to attend this session. Drawings will be conducted for a $25 American Express Gift Check, a copy of the book Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers, and 1 free networking coaching session with Adrienne Graham. Event will be recorded.

obama_we_didSo are you approaching life optimistically and full of hope yet? Have you made the decision I asked you to make weeks ago, to stop letting this economy get you down? Have you resolved to make this jacked up economy work for you yet?  I certainly hope so.

In order to embrace this mindset, you have to think back to the turn of the last century. Men and women HAD to make opportunities.  Especially black men and women. Needless to say, opportunities were scarce and we had to make a way out of no way.  It should still be the mantra we follow today. Depending on what part of the country you’re from, it’s possible that you have had innovation and entrepreneurship all around you. And in other parts of the country (like where I grew up- Bronx NY) you may have seen lots of people without hope or desire to go out and get what you want.  Each person is responsible for claiming their destiny and living their “American Dream”.  If I listened to statistics, I would not be here where I am today.  I would be on welfare somewhere living in the project with 4-5 kids, no education to speak of and living off the government.  But I’m not.  I have two businesses and a lovely home of my own.  And I only have ONE kid. :)

How did we lose that spark of becoming incidental entrepreneurs?  When exactly did this happen? I don’t know every black woman in the country so I can’t speak to stats and numbers. But of the people I do know, more contend they are happy to be employees and receive a steady paycheck each week than to strike out on their own to create their own opportunities.  This is fine for some people. We all have that option. But it makes me question where that drive of our ancestors went.  What happened to the times of turning a special skill into a business?  What about our unprecedented access to technology and the internet? If anything, it should be easier today to start a business than it was back in the beginning of the last century.

But that’s neither here nor there. My point is that I want you to get out and do something.  You cannot fix the economy. But you can control how you react to it. Don’t be satisfied to just accept any job for the sake of a paycheck. Find out what your passion is and work on doing it. If you’re comfortable being a “worker bee” as one of my friends put it, that’s fine. But don’t feel you are stuck there.  There are plenty of opportunities for people who work for them and go for them.  If you’re worried about money, do something on the side. Essence Magazine has an ongoing column about “Side Hustles”. While I hate that name, it is appropriate. Get a side gig or start a part time side venture for yourself to make up the difference.  Who knows, this could ultimately prepare you for a full time business venture in the future.  But in order to find out if it’s something you would like to do later on, at least try it.

Know your limitations, but don’t let them hinder or scare you. What did I say earlier? We are notorious for making a way out of no way.  Focus on strengthening your limitations and seek guidance when necessary.  That doesn’t make you a weak person.  It’s part of the game.  All of the greats have hired people smarter than they are or more skilled in an area they are not.  By focusing on strengthening your limitations, you put yourself in a position to excel. Don’t let pride stand in your way. This applies whether you are running a business or building your career.  Seek out what you don’t know and work on your weaknesses.

Stop letting the gloom and doom of the media frighten you. Yes, we are going through some tight times, but we are far from the depression of the 1920′s. It’s all in your perspective of things. You can choose to hide and be scared, or you can use this as an opportunity to do things you’ve always wanted to do to better yourself. We all hit stumbling blocks every now and then. But it’s not those blocks that define us.  It’s how you get up and deal with the aftermath that matters.  I’m a survivor. I’m a fighter. I’m an innovator. I refuse to succumb to this “crisis”. That keeps me sane in a period of insanity. But remember, it’s not enough to just say the words. You have to believe them and take actions that are in line with the thoughts. There are opportunities all around you.  Just open your eyes and ears, and you’ll find them.

Good luck to us all. In the words of our new President, “Yes We Can“.  In the words of Adrienne Graham, “Yes We Did“.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

My sisters, my sisters.

OK, I watched the news this evening and they showed the young lady in this video in court today.  Can I say I was beyond pissed and saddened by this.

Apparently this happened a little while back.  I’m in Atlanta but never heard of this before today.  According to the news, this young lady harrassed an elderly woman on the train. I’ll get into that in a minute.  What really infuriated me is the fact that a) someone taped this nonsense, and b) NOBODY said or did anything.  I try so hard to be positive about our younger generation but they sometimes make it so damn hard.  The mother of this young woman said she is bi-polar.  SO WHAT!  Bi-polar.  So is that what we’re using as excuses these days?

It’s bad enough that sisters, Black Women are portrayed in such negative and disgusting light.  But it makes it worse when we put ourselves smack dead in the middle of the spotlight.  When are we going to start talking to our sisters and guide them and make them realize they need to respect themselves and others?  When are we going to shake some sense into these young women and help them understand that they alone can control how people perceive them, so they need to step their game up?  When are we going to start publicly denounce such behavior?

Whenever I see a young lady acting out, I try to talk to them. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t.  But I would be remiss in my duties as an Empowered Black Woman if I didn’t step up.  We set the tone for our younger generation.  If we keep turning a blind eye to this nonsense and keep quiet while crap like I Love New York and Flavor of Love and the like continue to air, we are headed down a path of destruction.  My Black Women, we are better than this.  I hope to not see this crap again.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

http://www.forbes.com/executivewoman/

So a few weeks back I made a post about Forbes recently launched Forbes Life Executive Woman Magazine.  There has been mixed reaction over the magazine and a debate as to whether or not it’s even necessary.  Well I received my new issue today and let me tell you, I am pleasantly surprised.  I don’t see the new issue online just yet, but I provided the link above so you can look and judge for yourself.

The last issue didn’t sit well with be because it came across as too “girly”. I was not happy with the issue at all and felt they were slipping into Vogue mode.  Not only is this issue bigger (more pages) and has better written articles that mean something to me, there is a woman of color on the cover!  I think they heard me! :)  It seems like Forbes has listened to the complaints and are trying to up their game.  It still doesn’t have the bite that Forbes has, but it is trying.  As I said, I’ll give it a chance for the next few issues.  If they stay on this path, I predict great things for the magazine.  If you do not subscribe to Forbes, I recommend that you do so you can get the FLEW magazine.  Only Forbes subscribers receive it and it isn’t available on the news stands.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
an Executive Power Woman

meinroomFor those of you who are mid-career or around my age (39), I have a question for you. If you were asked to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? What advice and warnings would you give yourself? Would you hint at the future or let it be a surprise? I was asked this a few weeks back and have really been thinking about it lately. There is so much I would tell my young self. I wouldn’t reveal anything too prominent because I know that the path I have taken and the decisions I’ve made have shaped me into the woman I am today. Could I have changed some things? Probably. But all of my experiences, good and bad, have all been relevant in and pertinent to my growth. Here’s what I would say to a young me (21).

Dear Adrienne.

You are a gifted individual. I know right now it seems like you’re lost and don’t know what your path will lead to. You have a beautiful baby on the way and you need to create a legacy for him. Don’t be scared. Life is full of decisions and though some of your decisions have been wild, I love that you stick to your guns and champion what you believe in. Hold onto that because it will come in handy later on in life when you face even tougher decisions.

Don’t let a title or your current circumstances deter you from that dream you’ve always had. That little black girl from the projects of New York is destined for greatness. People sometimes don’t understand you or believe in you, but the only person that truly needs to understand you is YOU. Don’t let “no” keep you from success. Don’t let fear keep you from trying. Don’t let inexperience keep you from doing it anyway. Nothing is given in this world. You have to earn everything, and it’s up to you to dictate how people perceive you. Even though you have no solid mentors or connections, don’t despair. That can be changed over time. Get to know who you are first and understand your worth. Then find people you’d like to meet and be like. Some times all it takes is a simple conversation to get things started. The art of conversation is your gift. Use it wisely and often.

You have an incredible mind and there is no limit to what you can achieve. God has a plan for you and it’s up to you to listen and follow. Giving up is not an option for you. You have a legacy to create, lessons to learn, and some tough decisions to make. You may not realize it now, but you have such an incredible strength that will be tested many times. I can’t tell you what’s in store for you, but I can tell you that if you keep your focus, don’t give up, continue learning and use obstacles as stepping stone, phenomenal things will happen for you. You are destined to share your message with the world and I will tell you that you will some day be an important figure for women.

Be strong, keep that rebellious spirit, and always go for what you want.

Take care.

Adrienne

I had to re-read my own letter and wow. If I had someone tell me those things when I was 21, I probably would have had more confidence in myself. But then again, maybe it’s good that I didn’t. I had the chance to learn how to be confident and experience growth. Experience is the best teacher. Sure there was more that I could have said to myself, but at that point in my life, what I said is exactly what I needed back then.

So take some time and write a letter to yourself. It could be about your career, entrepreneurship, personal strength/development, or a simple pick me up. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and the woman I’ve become. I’m sure after writing your letter to your young self, you’ll see it too.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

obama08Well, well, well.  It has taken me the last day to compose myself and find the words to express my feelings.  As I got up early on November 4th, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful and excited.  For one, I was glad this election would finally be over, win, lose or draw.  I had determined after the primaries that Senator Obama was my pick.  When I watched him accept the nomination as Democratic Presidential Candidate, a feeling of pride overcame me.  I watched with admiration and hope, but I was cautiously guarded.  My son, a 17 year old high school senior, had been for Senator Obama from day one.  But he hadn’t grasped the issues or seriousness of this wonderful Black Man embarking on the journey.

As I left my home to go vote on the 4th, I prayed.  I prayed and asked God to send us change and to let this election be honest and without drama. Because of the area I live in, I half expected there to be some hostility or mild drama.  As I walked up to my polling place, I was amazed. There were maybe 40-50 people already there at 5:45 AM.  Yes I was there that early. Younger people were there with their stadium chairs and laptops blogging. I keep forgetting the age we live in.  This is the first time in my life I had ever seen bloggers.  People in line, black, white, hispanic, asian, young, old, in-betweens, affluent, working class, Obama supporters, McCain supporters, laughed, chatted and reflected on this long battle.  I walked into the polling place when it was time with my son and had him stand beside me as I made my historic vote.  All the while I was thinking of my Dad.  He was a political junkie and he would have been thrilled to be able to vote for the first Black Man who had a chance. I also wished my son would have been old enough to cast his own vote.

As I watched the election return, my stomach was in knots.  My son, my friend and her son all watched and flipped through channels.  As we watched the board light up with blue and red states signaling returns, I prayed even harder. Finally, I decided around 11PM to change channels to check out Bravo TV. After a few moments, I turned back to CNN and saw the massive celebrations.  At first I couldn’t wrap my mind around things.  We were all yelling “what happened, what happened”.  Then I turned my gaze to the lower right corner of the screen.  Barack Obama had secure way more than the needed 270 electoral votes.  We won. My phone began ringing and we were yelling and celebrating. My friend Monica called me and yelled “In our lifetime girl, in our lifetime!!”.  As emotional as I felt, I still had not shed a tear. My sister called “I told you! I told you! We Won!!”.  I waited for and then watched John McCain’s concession speech.  I was at that moment, feeling a high measure of respect for the man I did not want to get into office.  He handled himself with grace and dignity and sent a message that we needed to unite behind our new president.  Then came PRESIDENT Obama’s speech.  I was so moved.  Watching the emotions of the crowd and feeling the intensity in my family room as we all watched in awe and silence.  Needless to say I was very happy when I went to bed.

I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling invigorated and happy.  I turned on the tv and saw them talking about the new dog PRESIDENT Obama would get his girls.  And the reporter said that she can imagine the fun the girls will have picking out their own rooms. Then it hit me.  I broke down in tears.  A heavy, sobbing, emotional cry that should have hit me the night before. We have our first Black President.  I could finally wrap my mind around that fact.  America had spoken and they chose to break the old stereotypes and voted in our new Black President.  I spent a good portion of the day crying.  What really sealed it for me was Sherri Sheppard on the View explaining how she felt when she looked at her son and finally said “no limitations”.  I was broken down to the break pads!  See, I felt the same things about my son.  No limitations.  Between missing my Dad and wishing he was here to witness this, and the fact that times had definitely changed and my son has UNLIMITED opportunities, I was a wreck.  You see, I was born exactly one year after Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated (read my blog from April to see my comments).  The year I was born, they assassinated Robert Kennedy. I listened to stories from my Dad about segregation and the struggles his family had in the south.  It is crazy that nearly 40 years later, we have a Black President!  My Dad, uncles, great uncle and grandparents would not be here to witness this history, but the day is here.

I told my son that morning that forget about the bar being raised, that sucker had been catapulted.  We all know that as parents we’ve told our kids that they can be anything they want.  But for black parents, the presidency was not something we felt obliged to tell our kids they could aspire for.  Maybe our grandkids, but not our kids in our lifetime. Boy were we ever wrong! I explained to my son that any expectations I had set for him have now quadrupled. We have no more excuses. I could see my son stand a little prouder and a little taller and much more confident.  But it wasn’t arrogance. It was him accepting the fact that yes, he CAN do absolutely anything. I told him to follow PRESIDENT Obama’s lead of grace and dignity and go to school proud with head held high, but not bragging and acting the fool.  Barack Obama took everything they hurled at him and he handled it all with grace and decorum. *brushing off my shoulder*  That is the lead my son needed to follow should he run into any hateration at school.

As Black people, this is indeed a sweet victory for our people.  Just as if a woman had won, more specifically Hillary Clinton, this would have been a sweet victory for us as women.  But now we have a responsibility.  We got him elected.  But we cannot play the favors game. He is the president of our entire country, not just of Black people.  We cannot expect him to come into office on January 20th and wave a magic wand.  Yes, we will continue to have the same issues as we deal with today.  The economy needs healing.  This country needs healing. Our foreign relations need healing.  This is not an over night kind of thing.  It takes time. We cannot expect PRESIDENT Obama to work on “black issues”.  We are all in this together. Trust that people of all colors are watching.  My fear is that my people will start calling in favors or yelling and complaining in the first year if they don’t see immediate change, then start acting the fool.  We need to savor this victory, but by the same token remember he is still a politician.  He cannot bring about change alone and there is a real possibility that he will have to make some decisions that are not very popular.  But as PRESIDENT Obama said in his speech, we all need to work together.  He cannot do it all alone.  The bar has been raised my brothers and sisters. Black people have a responsibility to do better, be better, expect better and want better. Some of us need to look inside ourselves and heal us, and continue that healing to others.

Those of us who paid attention for the first time because race and gender was thrown into the dynamics need to continue showing interest.  America has jumped leaps and bounds, but there are still issues that need to be addressed.  We are talking about change and ushering in a new America.  Well let’s keep that momentum going. If you didn’t vote, you have no voice to complain in my opinion.  It’s always easy to stand on the sideline and make suggestions or talk smack. But for your family, community, yourself, stay involved and take action. Let’s become a country that we all can be proud of.  Let’s all do our part to keep pushing America to new heights.  Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin symbolized hope for many women (even though I think she was just a pawn of the McCain camp).  Hillary Clinton showed us that yes, a woman can run for president. And PRESIDENT Obama has shown that damn it, a Black Man CAN become President of the United States.

I will be watching.  I will be a bit more confident.  I will be doing my part to keep America moving in the right direction.  It is my hope that everyone else makes the same commitment.  I do not expect PRESIDENT Obama to be perfect.  I do not expect immediate results.  I am willing to be patient and do my part. My expectation is that he will lead us to the best of his abilities and continue his same even handedness while facing this tough job. I am making it my business to attend the inauguration by hook or by crook.  I want to be there to personally experience history. As a Black Woman, I stand a bit stronger and prouder. My confidence is on steroids because I now see, that yes, anything, anything is really possible.

PRESIDENT Obama, here’s to your success and I cannot wait to see where you lead our country next. God Bless You and the First Family. And hurry up and get those girls their puppy!  :)

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
*going to order my President That One, 08 t-shirt & bumper sticker*

Remember a time where during your senior year of college, people had big hopes of graduating and landing that cushy job even if it was entry level?  Remember how companies threw themselves at the top upper echelon (grade wise) on campus? Ah, those were the days.  You barely had to do anything during your four years but go to class and get good grades.  And if you went to an ivy league or high profile school, you had it made in the shade. Not so much today.

I think our younger ladies are a little bit more aware than we were years ago.  The economy and job market are clearly evident.  Recruiting budgets have tightened, companies have collapsed, people have flooded the job market.  Upcoming grads are worried about finding any kind of job when they leave the comfort of college.  OK before you think this is another gloom and doom post, it really isn’t.  I’m here to tell you that you can make it.  You just have to get on the offensive and not wait for things to work themselves out.

I usually tell young people to focus on their studies during their first year without any thought to working if they can. I still stand by that, even as my own child approaches college. But by year two, you better start on your game plan. Hopefully by your sophomore year you have a pretty clear idea of what it is you want to do.  You may even have a part time job to tide you over.  But what you should be working on is internship. Internships (while mostly available for juniors and seniors) are an excellent way for you to get exposure in the industry you’re interested in. Take this time to investigate the types of internships out there, the companies offering them and the criteria for landing them. Talk to people who have interned to get an idea of what it entails.  Whether paid or free, you stand to gain some valuable experience and contacts if you play your cards right.  And remember, internships and volunteer work counts on your resume.  Don’t let anyone tell you any different just because it was an unpaid gig.

By Junior year, you should already have your internship research together and have submitted (and hopefully offered) for internships.  Here’s where you really learn stuff you can’t learn in the classroom. If you haven’t learned how to network yet, get to it.  The contacts you make now can serve you well in the long run.  Classmates, dorm mates, associates at internships all make great contacts. Get to know them and keep detailed notes on your meetings, any commonalities, and favors they’ve done for you.  Remember, it’s about building relationships and relationships are two way streets. Get out and meet the key players in your industry.  Ask for introductions as necessary. This is your time to get to know people and tell them about you.  Hold on, this isn’t meant to be a brag fest.  You are still a newbie to them. And this isn’t time meant for you to pester anyone for a job.  You are on a fact finding mission. Your objective is to learn as much as you can from the best.  You might even get a mentor or two out of it.

While we’re on mentors, get one (or three). This is the best time for you to ask for a mentor relationship.  You are still green and people love to be able to pass their wisdom along to up and coming talent. Don’t let you young ego get in the way. You must remember you don’t know everything (and in some cases, anything).  Show your mentor that you are serious about learning and that you are willing to do the work it takes to be successful.  Don’t waste your mentor’s time.  When you meet with them, have questions ready and research available on issues you still need clarity on.  Make sure you make the meetings worthwhile.  Mentors have busy schedules and a lot to do.  Mentoring you is a small microcosm of their world. There is business to be done and deals to be made. So be respectful of their time.  Do more listening than talking. No further explanation needed. Learn what they like (golf, tennis, etc) and then learn it yourself. Trust me on this. It’ll come in handy.

By senior year, you should have the mentoring, networking and internship thing down.  And hopefully you’ve taken most of the classes you need so your schedule shouldn’t be as tight.  The beginning of senior year should be the time you start researching the job market and getting to know recruiters and hiring managers.  Pay attention to the market and the type of jobs out there.  Reach out to recruiters to get an idea of how they can help you.  Don’t waste their time either.  Remember, they are there to fill jobs with the best candidates, not find you a job.  Ask for tips on getting your resume noticed.  Share with them your professional goals and any past experiences (internships, volunteer work, etc).  Attend open houses and career fairs.  Typically I don’t like job fairs, but you can learn a lot from them and get names of recruiters you can reach out to directly after the events.  Turn to your college career office to seek some advice from counselors.  Use them to get an indication of what’s out there as well.  Have a professional resume done.  No, not a template you snatched off the internet.  Have a professional put together a solid resume that shows your accomplishments.  If you’re in a sorority, tap into that as well.  Your sorors can help you in many ways, especially if it’s a very active sorority.  

Now, I’m going to deviate just a little bit to sound like a “girl”.  You know how they say image is everything? Well it is.  No doubt, for the last few years you’ve been throwing your hair into a ponytail or wearing a hat to cover up and I will venture to guess you haven’t been shopping for professional wear.  Well now is the time.  I know you’re thinking in this economy, how could I possibly preach about shopping and pampering yourself?  Don’t panic. There’s a method to my madness.  Find that fashionista friend and ask for some input.  Of course you can’t afford to get an image consultant as a student (unless you’re loaded).  So this is the next best thing.  Have this friend go to the mall and boutiques with you to try different professional styles.  Ask the sales reps for opinions and see if they offer up any suggestions. Learn what colors, fits and styles work best on you.  Take magazines with you as guides.  Here’s the creative part.  While you’re looking at the prices and clothing at these malls and boutiques, make notes.  Then go to the best consignment shops and get these items (or similar) for dramatically less money. I once picked up a Chanel suit, that looked brand new, for $5.  So don’t laugh!  Pick up key classic pieces that can be mixed and matched.  And by all means, get appropriately fitting underwear, tasteful accessories, 1 or 2 pairs of good shoes and a classy handbag.  Save the patchwork Coach and multi colored LV for weekends.  I’d even throw in a classic briefcase (depending on what field you’re going in).

Use online social networks responsibly. I know you like to be free to post what you feel and what you want on Myspace, Facebook and a host of other sites.  I caution you to think before you post.  If you are going to have a page on social sites, keep them separate from your professional identity. Recruiters and hiring managers do use these sites to source candidates.  And yes, what they find can make or break their decision to reach out to you.  Always keep a sense of dignity and decorum about yourself and never post anything distasteful on your pages.  Linked In is great for a professional profile, as is Viadeo if you want to do some international networking.  Don’t create a resume page, rather, an overview of what you’ve accomplished and your professional objectives. Don’t over do it.  Leave readers wanting to contact you for more details. If you’re going to be blogging, I beg you to please keep it clean and sane.  The last thing you want is recruiters to find you arguing with some moron on the internet over an inconsequential topic. Watch what you say and when in doubt, read three times before hitting send, and even then, ask someone else to read it.  Your online image weighs heavily on your real life image.

Finally, I would say that you should make it a point to join groups in your industry.  Make it a point to attend the various meetings, which are often monthly.  You can make key contacts and learn some valuable intel that can help you with your search.  Get to know the people and don’t be afraid to volunteer.  Remember, you want to get your face and name out there.  Become a part of the conversations by keeping up on your research and sharing what you learn.  This is also a great time to ask for clarity about things you’re unsure of, and you’ll get it straight from people in the know.

So if you’re a student in college, don’t wait until senior year to try to make things happen.  Your career is an ongoing process. You have to cultivate it and do your part to make it come to fruition. Nobody is going to prepare you, so you must prepare yourself. Start your game plan as soon as possible and while I cannot guarantee total success, you’ll be ahead of the curve and ahead of many of your classmates.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Lately I’ve been obsessed with researching for my next book.  The topic? You guessed it…women power brokers.  I’ve been gathering the information on the women I want to interview for this book and I’ve been watching press and footage of some of them, trying to get an understanding of who they are.  I’ve learned that power comes in many forms and has different meanings for different people.

In a way, I am considered a power broker. Not because of fame or fortune (still working on those HAH!) but because of the connections I make and relationships I develop.  I am the networking guru.  I derive great pleasure from linking people together. I’m great at it and magic happens when I do it. I know a lot of powerful women (and men) and I know how and when to use them for my self and when to connect them with other key people.  That’s what makes me a power broker.

Hillary Clinton is a power broker.  Regardless of what you think about her, regardless of what I think of her personally, you have to give it to her.  She has a grasp of the political scene, a fearlessness that I admire, and a no surrender attitude. I’ll admit, during the primaries, she got on my nerves. At times I resented her because she wouldn’t give it up already even though it was clear she lost. But what made me resentful, also made me respect her fight.  Hillary went after what she wanted even though at times people made it hard for her.  She still fought the good fight. She made such a statement to all the girls and women of the world that we have indeed come very far and that the sky is the limit on your dreams. My proverbial hat is off to Hillary for being that woman who almost successfully went for the highest office in our land. I see her continuing to sharpen her political stronghold and a run at the seat in 2012.

Take someone like Kimora Lee Simmons.  Yes, Kimora.  Now there are some people who don’t take her very serious because she married a mogul and “inherited” her empire.  And there are people out there who discredit her business accomplishments and write her off as a gold digger.  But you know, I’ve been researching Kimora.  Her girls (two young daughters) are at the heart of everything she does. Yes she’s over the top, but I look beyond that and get to her core business and the woman gets things done. She is not a power broker because of her money, fame, ex-husband or extravagant lifestyle. She is a power broker because she manages to keep her obligation to raising her girls in step with growing her business and by going after exactly what she wants.

A power broker doesn’t need to be in the spotlight.  The two diametrically opposed examples I gave above are small examples from the extreme end of the spectrum.  A true power broker in my opinion is a woman of class, leadership, ambition, knowledge, service, energy, vision, creativity, visibility and positive attitude. A woman of power is clear about what she does and what she brings to the table. A power broker doesn’t let a perceived glass ceiling stand in her way nor does she let the small things distract her. She surrounds herself with key advisors but ultimately makes her own decisions and is comfortable with said decisions because they are her own.  She holds just as much pride in her silent power than in the in your face over the top displays of power.  When I think power broker, I think women like Indra Nooyi, Sara Blakely, Anne Mulcahy, Muriel Siebert, Sheila Johnson, Andrea Jung and Anne Fudge.  These women have risen to a level of power that took time to develop and fought all the way there to earn their spots.  Of course there are lots more out there who bring a different perspective to power.  But these are the women who stand out to me.

So how do you become a power broker?  First of all, you need to be true to yourself. Know your goals and don’t let anyone deter you from them. You need to be comfortable with breaking the stereotypes and have a thick skin.  Many people are going to hate you along the way no matter how nice or mean you are. It’s a fact.  But it’s up to you to make sure you don’t fall into the pitfalls. You must not be afraid to dare to buck the system. There’s never a straight line to anywhere. Sometimes you have to take the untraveled (or unpopular) path to get where you need to go. Dare to be different and follow your own heart. Networking and mentors are key.  Even power brokers need mentors, and relationship building is the cornerstone to success.  You know what they say about the company you keep.  Realize you don’t know everything and that in life you are always learning.  Always keep yourself open to new experiences and ask about what you don’t know. Education, self or institutional, can never be out of style. The more you know, the better you can position yourself for success.

Don’t settle, ever. If you want something bad enough and you have enough passion and fight in you, go for it! Reach for the unreachable.  Many doubters will try to talk you out of doing things. Cancel out that background noise and follow your heart.  Remember, the sky is not the limit. Leadership is a key trait of a power broker.  It is not about telling people what to do, rather, leading by example. Learn to listen to your people and find a way to bring out their best.  That’s the sign of a true leader.  And finally, check sabotage.  You shouldn’t be trying to sabotage anyone, and you need to be alert to anyone sabotaging you. Once you see an instance of potential sabotage, check it immediately. Don’t be afraid to get rid of negative people or people who don’t look out for your best interest.

I could go on and on about the role or archetypes of a power broker, but I’ll save it for my book.  I want everyone reading this blog to realize that no matter where they are in their career, no matter their station, everyone has the potential to become a power broker.  When you become a power broker, it’s up to you to use that power responsibly. Having power doesn’t mean you throw money at problems, treat people as inferiors or putting your word or opinion above everyone else.  True power comes from how people perceive you and trust me, it can be taken away at any time.

Tile next time.

Adrienne Graham

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