What Men Taught Me

Last night, I attended a panel event hosted by Men In Business at my campus where the majority of the crowd was, well, men. For those who aren’t familiar with Women In Business, a national organization, trying to close the gap between women in business related fields and promoting equal rights for women all across the nation, the name Men in Business sort of felt like a slap in the face for me since business-related fields are dominated by male identifying individuals. However, being the curious little soul I am, I decided to attend, and to my surprise, it was very eye-opening and useful.

Men in Business is a new organization at the University of Illinois at Chicago, trying to uplift men of color who otherwise don’t get the exposure they need to develop networks and gain mentorship to succeed in a white and male-dominated industry. Their mission is to fight the stigma attached to male bodies of color in positions of leadership roles.

Being a woman of color, and experiencing some of the same prejudices, I understood the pain of having to work harder to get farther in my life, career, and proving myself to others. So, I stuck around to see what some of these men had to say about succeeding in life as a marginalized group of individuals. I have summarized what I learned into three main topics.

1- Own Your Story

Remember the old saying, “Don’t forget where you came from?” Well, it is very true! Whether you come from a family of immigrants, poverty, or a family held together by a single parent, never be ashamed of it. No matter what your story is, own it. That is what makes you different from everyone else around you. Owning your story also means you are honest with yourself and take responsibility for both your failures and successes. People love talking about their success stories and there’s nothing wrong with that, they worked hard and want to talk about the fruits of their labor. But, a person who can talk about their failures and own those as well is someone who we should look up to. Being able to share your failures with others shows how confident you are and how you aren’t afraid of any judgment. Next time a recruiter asks you to share your failures with them, be real and answer honestly, but also don’t forget to tell them what you learned from that mistake.

2- Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

This is a fairly simple one. There are billions of people on this planet, gifted with talents. I know I will never be the fastest runner, the smartest engineer to walk the earth, or even the best chef, even though sometimes I am convinced I am....but we can discuss that another time. The point is, there will always be someone who knows more than you, performs better than you and that is the hard truth so why waste your time comparing yourself to others? The best you can do is be the better version of yourself. This is something that is said all the time and should stick in our brains. That is true for myself as well, I am constantly comparing myself to my peers in academia and co-workers, and even after doing that for hours a day, it does nothing, trust me. It is a huge waste of time, so please quit comparing yourself with others and do what you can to be the better version of yourself.

3-  Do’s and Don’t of Interviews

This one is very specific to when applying for jobs and interviewing so get your pen and paper ready.

  • When interviewing, talk about yourself, not your resume. The employers have already read your resume and that is why you are sitting there having this interview. Talk about something that shows them you fit well with the company business.

  • Ask them questions. Have a conversation. Don’t expect them to ask you all the question because it is very boring for the employer. Asking them questions shows that you are very interested in their company.

  • Ask them if there is opportunity to grow within the company, it convinces the employer to imagine you in different roles.

  • And lastly, this is for all my ladies out there, do your homework. See what others with your job title are being paid in the industry and have a range in mind when you are offered the job. Don’t be afraid to negotiate your pay and ask for the upper numbers in your range. It is not rude. In fact, it shows that you value yourself.

I hope this information was helpful to all readers. Best of luck at your next interview.

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