April 2008


Diversity is a wonderful concept.  Total Inclusion is even better, when you can find it.

There was a discussion on a recruiting site that I occasionally visit in their Diversity Forum regarding the lack luster performance (is that an accurate term for a job board?) of diversity job sites. Now, I do keep up on what sites are out there. That’s my job as a Recruiter, to keep up on all the places to seek talent.  But being that my specialty is Diversity Recruiting, I go to great lengths to keep in the know about where to find diverse talent.  Ethnicity specific, gender specific, disability or veteran specific, all the way to total inclusion (which would make it supposedly like all the other job sites I suppose). But there is a lingering misconception that a diversity job board will magically bring in diversity candidates. I can’t tell you how wrong that is and how frustrating it is to me as someone who specializes in diversity recruiting. I think some people just don’t get it. Some companies are tight fisted with the dollars and don’t want to put their money where their mouth is as far as diversity initiatives go. Recruiters on the average don’t care about diversity because their objective it to fill the job by any means necessary.

I bring you this post from the perspective of a recruiter and a diverse candidate and hope you’ll feel compelled to fill in any areas I may inadvertently leave out.  I won’t get too heavy into it from the recruiter perspective, as that is not my intended audience.

Job boards of any kind are but a tool and should not be relied on to be used for a major portion of “diversity” sourcing. I think everyone would agree with me that a true diversity (or rather inclusion) initiative would include the company GETTING OUT IN SIGHT OF CANDIDATES. Posting an ad on any diversity job board is not enough. I believe candidates want to see companies who get out and get involved to show that they stand by their mission. Attending events that target diverse candidates, creating a message to share that will catch the interest of diverse candidates, and contributing time, expertise and writing talent to deliver content attracts diverse (or specific) candidates.  Most employers fail to take advantage of those opportunities to step forward and present their company in a different light from the competition. Honestly speaking, I, as a diverse candidate, would only utilize a diversity job site if it had other things besides job postings to catch my eye. Show me why I stand out. Show me why I matter as a diverse candidate. Show me how you as a company promote diversity, not just that you are posting a job on a site to attract my attention. You need to HOLD my attention. Show me how you have a message I might be interested in. Show me that your experts look just like me. Show me that I can see a kaleidescope of people in your company that match the global landscape (and I don’t mean just in the call center). Wouldn’t you agree?

There are lots of sites in the internet to choose from.  In terms of Diversity sites, I know people sometimes want to visit a site that relates to them in some manner.  A site that shows they understand the needs and wants of you as a person from a certain gender or ethnicity.  Some hit the mark and provide a range of tools, articles and activities to keep the continuity of interest. Others are an extension of a network or organization (such as Empower Me! Careers…which is still in development).  Then there are some that put up some cute graphics or flash and proclaim to be the #1 source for [insert ethnicity or gender here] and want to charge exorbitant fees for access to their “exclusive” database of resumes.  Newsflash….if they are selling their database to anyone who pays for it, how is it exclusive?  But I digress.

As a diversity recruiter (and an African American and Hispanic Woman), my approach is different than the average recruiter. I gauge a job site by how useful it is to candidates. I put myself in the mindset of a (so-called diverse candidate) and try to understand the draw of the site. Is it related to an active organization? Do the members actively participate? How does the site get into the mindset of the candidates who visit the site? What types of people does the site draw? What is the attraction and why do people want to return? Are there things for me to do there as a recruiter other than just posting? Will I be able to create a relationship with the site through contributions (articles, etc) that will brand my company as being truly involved in diversity initiative? The answer to many of these questions for a lot of diversity sites is often NO.

As head of Empower Me!, I know that my members are fickle. They are not looking for companies that are just fishing for black women to add to their staff. They are savvy when it comes to making their career decisions and are interested in looking at genuine opportunities from top notch companies. They want to see more than just a job ad, so they expect more in a job site than just a colorized version of Monster or Careerbuilder. Companies that do advertise jobs on the Empower Me Careers site need to understand that they need to create a message for the candidates they seek, and they are agreeing to a partnership of sorts to promote their employment brand to members. They can’t just post a job and run. Companies that we partner with are excited about being able to answer these very same questions (I mentioned above) and know that they are not just being sold the same database that other employers are receiving the same access to. Oh yeah, and I don’t sell the resume database. The site allows for companies to create their brand identity to attract diverse candidates. In other words, they have to put in time and work to cultivate relationships and get their message out.

So I ask you as visitors and potential users of the site.  What, besides job postings, keeps you returning to a job site?  How important is the diversity message that each company portrays? What tools would be helpful to you? What type of content will make you think and take action to use in your own career?  What do you like to see from employers?  And finally, what are your thoughts on a website created “just for you”?  Your answers will help me in further refining the site to bring you the best tool possible.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Everyone covets that golden opportunity…working from home. With soaring gas prices, congested rush hour traffic and annoying co-workers, bosses and clients, working from home can be a much welcomed safe haven for some. Most companies, even though they claim to be ahead of the global economic curve, either refuse to consider it, or will only consider it for one or two days a week. Let’s face it, not everyone is right for working at home. But whether you are a corporate warrior or a budding entrepreneur, here are some tips to ensure productivity (and comfort) in working from home.

  • Treat each work day like you’re heading into the office and will be working with clients. Too often we will roll out of bed and fire up the computer, hair looking crazy, in pajamas and a bath robe. Are you crazy? Just because nobody will see you doesn’t mean you need to look crazy! We are in the age of the video conference. If you have (or your employer supplies) video conferencing, it is your duty to get up and get the crust out your eyes, comb that hair and put on some decent clothes. Set a regimen. Get up, wash, put on some business casual attire, have breakfast THEN turn on the computer. Believe me, the better you look, the more productive you will be.
  • Set a regular work schedule. Guess what? Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that its not business as usual for your clients and colleagues. You just happen to not have a long commute. It works for me to break down my days into blocks of projects. For example, Monday is my day to return calls, follow up with clients, set my projects for the week and handle general business housekeeping. Friday is for reports, scouting new clients and networking contacts, and follow ups. Tuesday through Thursday I am focusing on specific tasks (sourcing candidates, interviews, business meetings, conference calls, coaching sessions, candidate summaries, etc.). Setting a schedule and posting it in a visible location will keep you on task.
  • Organize your workspace. Before I had a house, I lived in an apartment that had a sunroom. That was my office. It was annoying to have it constantly spill over to my living areas. Once I bought a laptop, that was all she wrote. My work and living spaces merged. Since I’ve lived in my house, I have separate room for my office. I have gone through great lengths to outfit my office to accommodate my businesses. I have a pretty good set up. Everything has its place. I can host a video conference without the fear of people seeing my bedroom or kitchen! I am in the process of redesigning my workspace for that less is more look. But you can spruce up your office anyway you like. Just make sure you have dedicated space for it. And don’t let it cross over into your home life if you can help it. Close that door or area at the end of the day and especially on Friday.
  • Make sure you get the basics covered. No matter what field you’re in, there are some items that are necessities for the home office. They include a computer, printer/scanner/fax combo, telephone (of course), cell phone, proper lighting, comfortable chair, functional desk and a filing/storage system. Now this can be expanded depending on the type of work you do. You know what you need to make your job easier. Now, if you need additional tools to help on a shoestring budget, there are a ton of cool sites out there for free or low fee. Look into using: Skype (for telephone or video conferencing), Google Apps (Google’s answer to Microsoft Office), Paypal (for receiving payments), Quickbooks (for managing your accounting), Genbook (online appointment scheduler), and a host of other tools to help you do your job better. A quick tip- a paperless office is the way to go. PDF as much as you can. And did you know that Oracle offers a free basic database?
  • Know your limitations. Listen to your body. We have a tendency to push beyond normal working hours because we figure we’re home anyway, why not work. Know when to take breaks. I’ll share a secret. I will often take a 2 hour lunch break each day. It allows me to rest, run errands, surf the net, eat, etc. It is also important to set time boundaries. I try (key word TRY) to not work late into the evening. But there are times when it is unavoidable. If you plan your day properly, you can accomplish everything you need to in the day. Most importantly, make time for family!

These are just a couple of general tips for successfully working at home. To make working from home successful, you must put in as much dedication as you would in an actual office. Prioritize, organize, plan, schedule and execute. That is the formula for success.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham (from her home office!)

Black Business WomanAll of us have a similar common goal….to be empowered and have control over our professional destiny.  To have true empowerment, you must take responsibility for who you are, what you do, and what course you chart for yourself. It would be nice to have someone do it all for you.  I would have loved to have someone give me a road map to plotting my professional life.  But alas, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. At best, you can surround yourself with mentors and associates who will guide you along your journey. But in the end, it’s up to you to make the decisions and changes that need to be made to reach empowerment.

Here are a few steps you can take to True Empowerment:

1. Let go of past baggage. We have a tendency of holding on to what does us no good. Remembering a fight, worrying about bills, being upset about how someone else lives their life, holding a grudge because someone else took credit for a project we worked hard on. All of this is negative energy that takes up space in your world of positivity.  In order for positive blessings to come your way, you must get rid of the old negative feelings and thoughts.  Let go and let them fuel you to push even harder to achieve your goals. Come to new situations with a free and clear mind and heart.  Baggage keeps you from bringing your “A” game and from experiencing true success.

2. Get educated. Now I don’t just mean go to school. Education comes in many forms.  Yes, a college education is a good foundation, but continuing to learn well after you’ve earned your degree comes back to you ten-fold.  You can take continuing education courses.  Find topics that interest you and can help boost your career.  You’ll even get credit units for taking them.  Attend seminars, workshops and conferences.  Some organizations give you continuing education credits by simply attending.  Take advantage of events to leverage new relationships and show off what you know (and what you learn).  Read a book or three.  Trade journals, magazines, newspapers, online content and of course books help to continue the flow of knowledge.  Create a binder of important articles that are beneficial to your career or industry.  The internet is right at your fingertips.  Do your research and reading.

3. Find mentors. Notice I didn’t say find “A” mentor.  Mentors are all around you.  They don’t have to be a specific age, gender, position title or even in the same industry.  Study people whom you admire.  What makes them tick?  What paths have they blazed in their industries?  Reach out to them and ask if they would be open to being your mentor.  Don’t limit yourself to just one.  There’s a lot to be learned out there.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people.  More often than not, they are willing to share their knowledge.  But be careful not to monopolize their time, and definitely make it a value added relationship for both of you. I’m sure there is a way you can give back to your mentors.

4. Polish your image. You’ve got to look the part.  There was an article I read about dressing like a CEO.  I believe that no matter what level you are in your career, you absolutely must dress to impress.  Don’t go out to buy the Georgio Armani suit so quickly.  Buy classic tailored pieces that are timeless.  Have a couple of good staples in your wardrobe that you can mix and match with the Target wear.  Be sure to bring your own flair to your image.  But follow the tone set by those who are where you want to be.  Even law firms are slightly relaxing their corporate attire…but not too much.  Everything from your hairstyle to your accessories say something about you.  Are you portraying the appropriate image?  Invest in some classic shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves.  Depending on what field you are in, a stunning briefcase can add value to your look.  And most importantly, buy a dress coat that is professional and classic. You must always be cognizant of your outward appearance. Confidence attracts confidence (and opportunity).

5. Build a solid network and use it. There are so many people who tell me “I can’t network. I don’t know what to say to people.” Well I usually tell them to get over it.  You cannot succeed in the business world without interacting with people.  You don’t necessarily have to become best friends forever. But you must have the ability to strike up conversations and the timing skills to know when to strike or move on.  As much as I hate to admit it, there is still an unspoken truth that it’s all in who you know, not what you know.  Learn how to network online, but don’t let that be your end all be all.  Use it as a starting point to building relationships.  The internet is a wonderful thing and I am grateful that I have it to make my job a little easier.  But it can make you lazy.  You must cultivate your business relationships that you form online.  Let’s say you meet someone on Linked In or Viadeo, or any other online professional networking tool.  Immediately suggest a phone conversation.  Take the time to introduce yourself and let the person know how you see them networking with you.  And then continue the dialog.  You don’t have to speak every week, or every month for that matter.  But you do want them to keep you in the forefront of their minds.  Don’t approach your relationships with a “set it and forget it” mentality.  It takes real work.

True empowerment is there within your reach.  Whether you are a college student, entrepreneur, or corporate riser, these principles will work for you.  Education + Action = TRUE EMPOWERMENT(tm).

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

Social Networking. That seems to be the term of the decade. Everywhere you go, it’s Web 2.0 this, social networking that, Linked In this, Facebook that. Who would have imagined back in the day that social forums would evolve into professional networking opportunities?

I teach a few webinars that focus on not only Linked In, but also social networking to its core. One of the features I read and take advantage of often is the Answers section of Linked In and Yahoo. By answering questions and giving my advice, I seem to draw a lot of people who ask to network with me.  An avid user an fan of Linked In, I am cautious about how and with whom I network and connect.  Daily, I get invitations to connect.  Despite the fact that I have clearly mentioned on many occasions that I prefer people send a note asking to connect and making it personal (ie: an introduction), and that I always take the time to send a personalized note letting a person know how I found them and my reason for asking to connect, this is what I still manage to get from people:

Adrienne,

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

It drives me nuts!  It’s as if they haven’t even read my profile.  Recently I received the same generic note from a young man .  I politely responded back to him my preference for contacting and connecting with me and asked him to a least introduce himself.  He replied back that he was sorry I didn’t see anything in his PROFILE that would make me want to connect.  I was taken aback.  So not only did he not honor my request, he STILL didn’t even take the time to introduce himself and tell me how he’d like to network with me.  But he was upset.  It left me scratching my head.

I tell this story to illustrate a point.  When you are stepping into a social networking situation, it’s not like being on Myspace, Facebook, Blackplanet or any other social networking site for pleasure.  When you join a professional networking site, you must have a different approach and mindset than you would with the above mentioned networks.  You cannot assume that people will take the time to read your profile if you didn’t put any thought into introducing yourself properly or abide by their wishes.  The rules of engagement are simple.  Do your research.  Read a person’s profile and see if there are any specific request about how to contact them.  Make sure the person wants to be contacted, and what their preferences are (if you are a pet lover who wants to share an event for your pet, you wouldn’t contact someone who doesn’t own a pet).  Do NOT EVER send cookie cutter or standard template messages.  That will turn a person off immediately.  I know it turns me off.  Take the time to properly introduce yourself, indicate why you are contacting them, and offer to discuss any possible synergies.

Building networking relationships takes work.  Building networking relationships ONLINE takes not only work, but also the proper etiquette.  The people you reach out to cannot see you.  So you have to be extra diligent about presenting the proper first impression.

The next webinar will be held on Saturday, April 26th.  Please be sure to visit the website for more details.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Ladies,

As I began one of my courses, I was told by my professor that there is a site called The Ultimate Steal, which is working in conjunction with Microsoft to provide college students with a copy of MS Office Ultimate 2007 for only $59.95. The offer is only valid through April 30, 2007. Here is the link. There are very strict requirements for this offer:

Promotion Eligibility:
This offer is good only to eligible students who possess a valid email address at an educational institution geographically located in the United States. This offer is non-transferable. Limit one purchase per eligible student.

The following conditions serve to define student eligibility for the Promotion:

1. Individual must possess a valid e-mail address at a U.S. educational institution which contains the domain suffix .edu; AND
2. Individual must be a student at a U.S. educational institution and must be actively enrolled in at least 0.5 course credit and be able to provide proof of enrollment upon request.

Microsoft or an appointed vendor may contact you to verify that you are a current student. If documentation is not provided indicating that you are a current student, you will be liable to reimburse Microsoft for the full retail cost of the software ($679).

Go to the Ultimate Steal to get the full information, or visit the Microsoft website. Enjoy!

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Hi Ladies. I’m going to deviate for a moment to address the significance of today.

As we all know, today is the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. The year was 1968. But what you don’t know is that I was born exactly a year later, in 1969. I have had the pleasure (or is that misfortune, I don’t know) of sharing a birthday with the anniversary of one our country’s most renowned orators, leaders, ministers we will probably ever know. When I was little, it didn’t affect me much. Children don’t think of such things in their small microcosm of the world view. But as I got older, I had mixed feelings about it. Yes, it was a sad and pivitol point in our history, but I started to think of it like this. For every life that is taken, another life is created. I am in no way comparing myself to Dr. King. But I could never help but think I have a huge responsibility to live up to.

I was listening to Warren Ballentine this morning on the radio and snippets of Dr. King’s speeches. They touched me deeply, as always. All that he hoped for and dreamed of, some might say we have achieved. We have and then again we haven’t (case in point the Jena 6). I couldn’t help but acknowledge that if it wasn’t for Dr. King, I would not have had the opportunity to grow up as I have. I would not have been able to be a successful business woman. I would not have been able to move where I want, pursue the education I want, raise my son as I want, or be able to set the wheels in motion for the phenomenon that is Empower Me. So, yes, in many respects, we have overcome. Barack Obama is living proof of that. Who would have thought a Black Man would be a serious contender in our lifetime? My son, my mother, my sisters, brother, nephew and nieces get to see this….in our lifetime. Unfortunately my Dad never did. He passed away 6 years ago this coming July. Dr. King certainly didn’t and neither did Mrs. King.

I still remember the stories my Daddy used to tell me about Dr. King and the “struggle”. Daddy was very animated when telling stories. He had a way of drawing you into the stories as he was telling them. I remembered being so afraid and fearing that “they” were going to get me. I was very small and had not grasped the fact that we were indeed free. My mother being a product of that time, was one who was always telling us keep your mouth shut and do what you need to do. Don’t make trouble. But daddy, man he would tell us we have the right to do and go and say what we want. Yes, even in the late 70’s early 80’s we encountered racism. Not at home though (New York). We would encounter it in the south. But daddy never let us just “take it”. He always had a lesson to teach us and always was able to somehow channel Dr. King. Very early on I could never understand some of the racism. But as we got older and daddy used to tell us these stories, it became clearer. Especially after watching Roots….can I get an AMEN!

It was in my early teens that I took Dr. King’s words and thoughts and hopes to heart. I became this outspoken grown child. I was never to let anything stand in my way of what I wanted. Naive? Perhaps. But I said to myself, dammit, we have these Dr. King celebrations every year to continue the fight. In NYC I did have a mix of friends. But when I went downtown to the Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, or any other areas deemed off limits to us, I felt a bit out of place. It wasn’t until my late teens early 20’s that I began to shake that off and own a sense of entitlement. It was my right as an American, as a New Yorker, as a BLACK WOMAN to be there making money like everyone else. And when those doors did not open, I made my own way. My first adult taste of overt in your face racism was back in 1988 or 1989. I went on my first trip to California without my parents. My friend Kim and I went. And of course, I was always miss fancy so I wanted to “do Beverly Hills”. Fresh off the plane with my daddy’s American Express (don’t laugh), I walked into Beverly Hills like I had lived there. I won’t mention store names, but the minimum wage earning sales clerks had their noses up in the air and nobody wanted to give me the time of day. A few people even asked if I was “lost”. Huh? Are you kidding me? I was dressed just as nice as any of their rich customers. One asked me, are you sure you want to buy this? It costs$….. Again, huh? Don’t you see this Amex card burning a hole in my pocket? My friend said let’s go. But the stubborn rebel in me didn’t want to give THEM the satisfaction. So I bought 3 bags. Of course my daddy freaked out and demanded I pay the bill myself. I was a project girl living a princess life. LOL Or what about in 1991 when I took my infant son, mom and sisters with me back to California. I was once again on Rodeo Drive looking around and my family headed on a walk through the residential area of Beverly Hills. Within minutes, the Beverly Hills Police were called. Someone hit the panic button when they saw these “strangers”, BLACK strangers (with a damn baby stroller mind you) roaming their neighborhood. Nothing jumped off, but my mom was pissed!

Why do I tell this story? Fast forward to February 2008. Just about 6 weeks ago. I flew to California for the Women of Power Summit. I drove over to L.A. to stay for the remainder of my trip. I had a ton of emotions going on. I was no longer this kid I was so long ago. I wondered and was a little nervous of the treatment I would receive upon my return to Beverly Hills. Well I was quite surprised. I strolled Rodeo, in and out of stores. And so much has changed. I was greeted and doted on by the sales clerks in nearly all of the stores I visited. I was taken aback. Really. I saw people of different ethnicities working in these stores and also shopping! Yeah, we black folks have money too. Some even chatted with me and asked where I was from. I was amazed. The men were holding doors open for me. The women were showing me things from the cases and the back. I didn’t buy anything. This time, I could afford it, but I ain’t crazy! LOL It made me feel good to see how things had come full circle. Could Dr. King’s dream have become a reality?

Every time I see a successful black man or women open a store, business, restaurant, etc, I fill with pride. Every time I see a black man or woman achieve top rank status in a company, I fill with pride. Every time I see a black man or woman earn their degrees, be it BS, BA, MBA,MA, PhD, I fill with pride. We HAVE overcome. To an extent. But we still have a way to go. I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would be in awe of what he and others set in motion. So I come to you and ask, what is your purpose? What dream do you have that needs to be fulfilled? What’s holding you back? I, a girl from the projects of the Bronx, sits here a CEO of 2 companies, a mom, a wife, a mentor, a homeowner, a teacher (not in the school sense), a diversity expert. A black woman living Dr. King’s dream. A black woman fighting to empower and educate my sisters, and inspire them to not quit and to achieve all their hearts desire.

I am hopeful for my son’s generation and my future grandchildren’s generation. If or should I say WHEN Barack Obama wins, that will break all kinds of barriers and set precedents that Dr. King was never able to see come to fruition. So am I sad to be born on the day of Dr. King’s assassination? Hell no. I consider it a privilege and an honor. Happy Birthday to Me. Thank you Dr. King. You have touched and molded me in a very profound way.

Till next time.

Adrienne Graham

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