Category Archives: Career

The career category help young men of color understand and navigate their advancement in the corporate, military or private industries. The category is selected to get in, stay and excel in the corporate workforce.

Staying employed: Email – A keyboard is more damaging than a gun Part 2 of 3 series

Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Thomas Paine in 1796, in which he wrote: “Go on doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.” This statement was the predecessor of the quote by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  It’s a proverb to suggest writing is more effective than military power or violence.

In 2015, we seldom use the quill or pen, we use the keyboard.

“A keyboard is more damaging than a gun.”

Before I delve into generic advice about avoiding the “Reply All” button or staying professional and not getting personal. You have to understand how email is a chess game. As soon as you hit send you may place your career in checkmate. This is not a “Like” on Facebook, it’s not a picture of something funny on your instagram account. This is documented statements relating to your work responsibilities. Work is how you pay for everything you need to live, so take it seriously.

Where to start. Email is recorded somewhere on a server/cloud…somewhere, and can be shared EVERYWHERE to ANYONE. So if you’re upset or mad at what someone just transmitted to you, your friends, manager or coworker in an email, DO NOT RESPOND, not immediately anyway.

When someone pulls me into an email thread and the blame starts to shape around me, I do five things.

1> I read the email at least three times. (I know I’m mad and when I’m mad, I miss things the first and second time I read the offending email. I need to understand everything that’s being said. I may be mad for no reason.)

2> Breathe to calm down. (I know I’m mad and I need to think clearly about my response.)

3> Examine and understand who the person included in the email and what does that say about the tone of the email. When someone is emailing you and all of a sudden they include the whole team, most times blame is coming your way. Be careful of anyone that publicly blames and criticizes you but privately praises you. Realize the people could be BCC(Blind Carbon Copied) on the email.

4> I reply to everyone they included in the thread but I also include other people who may be affected by the subject matter discussed. I know I said earlier, avoid Reply to All, but when you are responding professionally and not retaliating it shows that you’re a mature professional and you can handle a little pressure without being personal. I usually don’t like to include people but I do so to be inclusive and “align all the resources for transparency”. When you make that statement, it looks less like you’re retaliating.

5> When I reply to all, I remove everyone off the email until I’m ready to send. This way if I send by accident, the unfinished email is not being sent to anyone. I’ve done it before.

Before you start typing, ask yourself, “Can I have this discussion in person, offline?” Sometimes you can, if and only if it’s an email just to you, go to the person and have the discussion. After the discussion, put closure to the discussion by going back to your desk and drafting an email starting with, “Per our discussion, ….”. When you do this you do two things; you resolve the issue and you document the resolution. Blind copy yourself in this email, because in about a year when performance appraisals come out, some people might not remember exactly how this issue was resolved.

Writing the email…

You have to set the tone. When you reply to your coworker “Melissa”, Don’t type out,

“Melissa, You are wrong, blah blah blah”.

You should start the email with a neutral greeting;

“Good morning team,” “Hello team” or even “Good morning Melissa”.

When you say, “Melissa, blah blah blah”

Melissa is already on the defense. When you greet the team or Melissa it paints the picture that you’re in control, calm and intelligent.  The greeting inherently gives the notion that someone else messed up because you’re too calm to be the one messing up. If it’s a nature of hostility I quickly diffuse the tone and aggression. It’s not easy but this is my career and everyone on the receiving end of the email is watching you.

I look at who “Melissa” included on the email and that will tell me if I’m being “put on blast”. In layman’s terms I’m being blamed or embarrassed. You have to be careful when other people are suddenly on the email, understand why the author decided to all of a sudden include you…then read the entire thread to see what’s being said.

Don’t use these phrases at all:

“First of all…”

“I told you…”

“It’s not my fault…”

“The problem is…”

Try these phrases;

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

“For clarity, I’d like to give everyone an understanding of the other issues we may have to consider.”

“Going forward to properly align our expectations, we could try…”

“I see this as an opportunity for more collaboration.”

“I’m glad we have an opportunity to identify where we have not met expectations.”

“In the future, if we have an issue that occurs within my scope of responsibility, please call me directly.”

“I have to admit my disappointment, but I will make it my priority to resolve this issue.”

I pulled this advice from a website:

http://www.businessinsider.com/common-email-mistakes-professionals-make-2014-7#ixzz3gYwxmJxY

Being too formal

While formality remains crucial to professionalism, if you’re emailing a client you call by their first name in person, don’t revert to an honorific, such as Mr. or Mrs., in the email, Gottsman advises. Your email opening should always reflect your relationship with that person.
Becoming too informal too quickly

While an email thread can swiftly become short and friendly, starting off too informally — for example, saying “Hey Megan” instead of “Hello Ms. Smith” to a new contact — may seem disrespectful. “It can smack of a lack of professionalism that may cause people to wonder what else you don’t realize is important or take seriously,” Kallos says. Always start a conversation politely and formally, and follow the other person’s lead. Gottsman recommends waiting until they sign off using their first name to use it yourself.
Saying “to whom it may concern”

This greeting is the email kiss of death, Gottsman warns. “It shows you haven’t done your homework,” she says. “It’s so easy to find out who you need to talk to if you put in a little effort.” Taking the time to include a name will make your email feel more personal and less generic. If you can’t find a specific name, try something like “To the consumer affairs department” or “Dear hiring manager.”

Hitting “reply all”

Unless what you’re saying applies to absolutely everyone, respond only to the sender, Gottsman says. It’s annoying to receive one-sentence responses from 40 different people, especially if the topic isn’t relevant to what you’re working on.

Including too many personal details

No one wants to read through more than they need to, so keep emails concise and leave out personal details. “Business email etiquette developed because people want to hear about just business, not your cousin or grandmother,” Kallos says. Save your personal updates for another time.

Not monitoring your tone

“Since people can’t hear our tone of voice, we have to remember that all they have is the written word,” Gottsman says. “The writer needs to make sure that they are writing for the reader to understand.” This makes phrasing and formatting extremely important to clearly getting your point across. Always take the time to find the exact word that conveys what you mean, and only bold something if you’re ready to stand by it, Kallos says. “If you type it, you better mean it,” she adds. People will take things the wrong way, so avoid even giving them the chance to.

Asking questions that have already been answered

Asking unnecessary questions not only wastes the other person’s time, it shows that you didn’t pay attention to what they said the first time around. To avoid this, Kallos suggests answering emails point by point. “People love it because they know you’ve taken the time to address each and every one of their concerns,” she says.

Saying something over email that should be done face-to-face

Some things, such as offering criticism, can’t be said over email without creating a misunderstanding. Learn to recognize these situations, and pick up the phone or walk over instead of sending an email. “On email you don’t have the eye contact or the body language, so there are times you’ve got to add that personal touch,” Kallos says.

I pulled this advice from another website:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141020211726-68335342-career-damaging-email-blunders-to-avoid

Do: Only reply to all when necessary.Remove those on the thread that do not pertain to your response. Most people feel they get enough email as it is. So, sending them unwanted mail will only annoy them.

Do: Be professional in your communications. Use good grammar and choose your words carefully. If writing is not one of your strong points, consider typing it in Word first, and then copying and pasting it into an email. Words’ spell check and built-in grammar help will alleviate most errors.

Do Not: Send poorly written emails. It makes you look unprofessional, uneducated, and gives off the impression that you do not care.

Do: Respond within 24 hours or sooner even if you don’t have an answer right away. At least let the sender know that you have received their message, and set an expectation for a follow-up.

Do Not: Take days, weeks, months to RESPOND!

Do: Send email when you are in a good frame of mind.

Do: Send email at appropriate times of the day.

Do Not: Send email late at night or after you have been drinking. For obvious reasons this can be a complete train wreck. I have seen it happen!

Do: Be very careful when replying from your mobile. The auto correct feature can be a killer, and lead to some real embarrassing emails.

Do Not: Send email without first reading it over a few times. Especially when sending from your smart device.

Lastly, just be careful. I’ve seen careers ruined because someone was angry and didn’t know how to effectively communicate. The funny thing is they were right but they included the bosses boss, bad move.

Email can potentially end a presidential campaign run, ask Hillary.

MPM

 

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Staying employed: Attitude (Get your mind right) Part 1 of 3

I discussed ending a job/relationship in one of my more recent blogs but I never offered any insight regarding keeping a job. I should say maintaining a career instead of a job. When your working a job, it may not necessarily be a career. If your flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant or mowing lawns you may not say it’s your career. If you’re smart these jobs will help you understand business and the develop the attitude you need to represent a company.

I’ve been working in corporate America since graduating college in 1996. What I think now and what I thought or perceived in 1996 are like night and day, or should I say black and white. I graduated from a historically black college or university(HBCU). My education fully prepared me for the technical rigors of the position without question. Unfortunately, going to an HBCU, may have handicapped me regarding the culture of corporate America. The corporate racial make up is about 80% white. I’m making that number up but when you’re the only person of color in the audience of about a hundred people, you’ll realize I’m being very generous with my estimate. So…when I say corporate culture I mean, dealing with white people or a non-diverse population and their perceptions and insecurities of a black people. I’m not pointing a finger at racism, I’m not even pointing the finger, I’m just aiding you in understanding how to identify the behavior without losing your cool or your job.  As the black person, it’s key not to allow people to disrespect you. If you try to make everyone like you, you’ll be miserable for your entire time in that position. You rather people respect you than like you. You’re not there to make people laugh, that’s not your job. I’m not saying be angry or militant like I was, but understand if everyone wants to joke with you, the black guy, ask yourself why. It’s not a bad place to be if everyone really is cool and respectful but it’s a slippery slope. Next thing you know, they’ll be saying, “My niggah” as a joke and you’re left standing there debating breaking his jaw and going to jail or laughing uncomfortably cause you want to keep your job. Don’t friend anyone on Facebook, keep your social life private, I just tell people, “I don’t friend co-workers.” I can’t control what my friends on Facebook will say and if a deep discussion about Obama, Zimmerman or the justice system pops up then I don’t want to hear about it at work. So learn to keep your private life private. If I leave the position then maybe, but I don’t want to introduce any coworkers to all my friends. People pass judgement, they get jealous and it’s not necessary. My friends on Facebook are MY FRIENDS and my co-workers are not allowed in that world. Again, you’re here to do your job, not make friends.

Don’t be unapproachable or angry, the angry black man persona is just awful. People won’t want to work with you, you may not get key emails or invited to meetings. The pro-black, militant image will make your environment horrible. People won’t want to associate with you. It’s a hard balance to maintain but for success you must do it. I’ll use an example, be approachable enough to where someone will give you a ride if you’re stuck in the snow and be prepared to do the same for someone. Even if you don’t agree with them from time to time, be professional enough to help them if their car needs a jump.

Be nice to everyone but don’t be a push over, remember you want people to respect you. I mean nice to the janitors, window washers, cashiers in the cafeteria, everyone. You’re not that important, I don’t care how much you make. It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice.

When you communicate, ask questions, be clear in your statements, most times just say, “I don’t understand the expectations, can you provide a little more clarity?” Be the team player, if someone asks for someone on your team and they’re not present respond, “They went to lunch, you need me to help you with that?” Just be pleasant, like the cashiers in Chic-fil-a. When they say, “My pleasure.” I think it’s different, pleasant even. You may think it’s corny, phony or uncool, it’s not meant to be cool. You’re a professional now,  act like a professional, you want to be cool and unemployed or a working professional buying cool stuff or going to cool places. Being broke ain’t cool.

Dress the part, pull you pants up!

YOU WILL NEVER BE A MANAGER FOR ANYTHING BUT A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT IF YOU DON’T PULL YOUR PANTS UP! I’m not going to say anything else about that, because I’ll just get off subject.

People are going to piss you off, they are going to annoy you. People will test you where they won’t test your white coworkers. I don’t know why this is, it’s  just the culture but this is the time to be cool. Don’t retaliate, just seek understanding and then respond professionally. It’s hard I know, real hard, but when you’re angry, you allow them to win. Don’t reinforce a negative stereotype about black men that will justify them not hiring another person of color…ever.  If something upsets you, don’t be angry, excuse yourself walk around the building and clear your head. I remember this woman was setting me up, trying to get all this ammunition against me. She didn’t understand my job, the team or the dynamics of getting things done and protocol. I allowed her to think she was going to embarrass me in a one on one meeting with my manager. After successfully dismissing her assumptions about what I was doing and not doing, I asked her a simple question, “Is this your first position in a leadership capacity?”  She almost broke down and started crying right there and I was very compassionate in my inquiry. Man, it was beautiful. That was when I realized that it’s not cool to lose your cool. An older gentlemen(white) later made a comment about her to one of my friends that she, “didn’t like black people”. I felt good about the vindication but it was an empty victory because I left the job, and it was a really good position. I had made some angry decisions prior to our meeting and it caused me to leave that position.

When you mess up, own up to it, be responsible and be the first one to fix it. If your white coworker makes a mistake, it will be much easier accepted and excused. Hey…I don’t make the rules but after 19 years of witnessing how they respond to my mess up versus “Paul Whiteguy”, I know the game. It’s all good, I don’t like it but hey I’m still employed and it could be a lot worse.

I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t share what I do in my personal life. After working in my first corporate job for about one year, my black friend told me, “They don’t like you.” He was talking about my team. Stunned, I said, “WHY?!” He said, “You’re making the same amount of money they are, you’re younger than they are…and you’re black.” Still shocked I said, “I don’t understand.” He said, “Come here.” We walked over to my cubicle, and he pointed to where I had scuba pictures in Grand Cayman, horseback riding pictures in Virginia and indoor rock climbing tickets posted in my cubicle. He then said, “They are jealous, and you’re black.” It was my first wake up call and it wasn’t my last. So…also keep your personal pictures home. Be ready to leave the job in one hour if your fired. It’s not personal, it’s business.

I had a woman ask me,”How did you get this job?” I said, “I went to college and graduated with a degree in the IT field.” She responded, “How did you pay for college?” I responded, “Student loans”. Seeing an opportunity for both of us to learn something, I said, “What college did you go to?” She said, “I didn’t.” Shocked I said, “How did YOU get your job?!” She said, “I’m friends with the managers wife.” “Figures”, I smirked and walked away.  I wasn’t compassionate or interested in entertaining her ignorance at that point, but back then I wasn’t mature in my responses to people. Again, I don’t raise the racism flag, it’s just the culture. Some white people have never been around black people, all they understand is what they see on tv. Your inherent duty is to give them the best representation of a black civilian you can. It’s not totally their fault but take advantage of the opportunity to properly correct them if the opportunity presents itself.

MPM

“Things like racism are institutionalized. You might not know any bigots. You feel like “well I don’t hate black people so I’m not a racist,” but you benefit from racism. Just by the merit, the color of your skin. The opportunities that you have, you’re privileged in ways that you might not even realize because you haven’t been deprived of certain things. We need to talk about these things in order for them to change.” Dave Chappelle

“As I often say, we have come a long way from the days of slavery, but in 2014, discrimination and inequality still saturate our society in modern ways. Though racism may be less blatant now in many cases, its existence is undeniable.” Al Sharpton

DISCLAIMER: My hopes is that the culture of racism will have died off and you won’t experience this racial double standard my generation had to endure. I call it the Obama phenomena, where you have to be over qualified, make no mistakes, be perfect in all you do just to be equal to someone white that’s  under-qualified, inefficient and a product of the “good ole boy” system. What I talk about is the inherent entitlement of whites. I hope you don’t ever get a taste of the stereotype association. Things are changing yes, but I would rather you step into a position somewhat prepared, than not be prepared at all.

NEXT BLOG:  Staying employed: Email conduct Part 2 of 3 series

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Everybody can’t be a rapper!

REPOSTING TO SUPPORT THE ALBUM!

http://www.traceyleemusic.com/music/

I wanted to save this blog for next week but my friend Jarrett motivated me to address one of the phenomena among our young men. Thanks Smokie! This desire for all young men to be a rap artist…yes, rapper. Not entrepreneur, not accountant, not construction worker, or engineer….a rapper.  The percentage of successful rappers compared to the numbers of young males that want to be rappers is disheartening.

Everybody can’t be a rapper!

Even the term “successful rapper” is a slippery term. There are a few rappers that are doing well, about what…20 rappers? No let’s raise the estimate to 50, no let’s say 100 rappers are living the life.

African-Americans make up about 12.6% of the US population, that’s 38,929,319, almost 40 million people. There are many different careers to pursue but the number of young black males that want to be rappers are like comparing a grain of sand in the beach. It’s an extreme ratio compared to other realistic attainable careers.

Why do you want to be a rapper? No really, what are your reasons?

Give them to me, no, think about it… then give them to me.

I’ll wait…

If you said money…ok how much money?

Do you think you’re intelligent enough to manage that money?

Do you think that amount will last you the rest of your life or until your next hit?

Before we talk about hits, let’s get some money wisdom from Left Eye from TLC (RIP)

Did that 2 minute video help you out…did that dose of reality change your perception? Good.

So, are sure you’ll have another hit? Wait, do you think you’ll have a first hit?

Can you even handle being a celebrity? You want to be a celebrity?!…OK it sounds cool but I warned you. Have you watched the “Unsung” series?!?! Just saying.

You’re going to need to hire an accountant, an attorney, an agent…and you don’t even have a hit yet.

Prerequisite to be a good rapper:(Just my opinion)

Witty, good understanding of English structures, metaphors and a similes specifically. Your talent has to be out of this world or you have to know someone in the industry. I honestly don’t know how else to break into the industry, but that’s my point. If you pursue a traditional career you don’t have to “break” into it. There’s little opposition to your success, just a little hard work.

To me personally there’s a bright side. I do have a close friend, Tracey Lee II that actually had a nice album back in ’97. I remember Christmas night of ’97 driving to Jersey with my mom, brother and sister in the car.  I heard the beginning of the song broadcast on Power 99 FM…”It’s Party Time…” I yelled, “That’s TRA!!!” My mom, brother and sister were in the car and they started looking outside the windows like Tracey was actually outside the car somewhere on the dang highway. I yelled, “No No…that’s Tracey’s song!” pointing to the radio in my old acura integra. I was dancing and rocking the car all the way to Turnersville, NJ with my mom complaining the entire time. You’d think it was my song. Later the video came out with Casey the dancing bear, doing the dances he showed us in the club, the RNF cats, Pi, Guru, it was good times.

“You know we get down…oooooh!”

The bright side is not the album or even the hit single, the bright side is the side of his name that now has Esq on it. Tracey is now, Tracey Lee II Esquire, he’s a legal attorney. He went on the get his degree and still performs. He’s one of the few artists that I would actually pay to see perform. Yes I like to support my friend, but I actually like listening to his lyrics. They’re witty intelligent, and not some jingle, I can actually listen to him. He and his wife, yes wife not baby mama, run a company LLEFT entertainment and are making moves in media.

“Tracey’s whirlwind music industry experience prompted him to seek additional education in an effort to become more knowledgeable about the legal side of the music business. As a result, he earned a Juris Doctorate Degree from Southern University Law Center making Tracey the 1st former major label hip-hop artist to earn the abbreviation Esq. behind his name. Some of his clients include Eric Roberson (Grammy-Nominated R&B Singer/Songwriter), Invisible Productions (for Kelly Rowland, Solange Knowles and Kobe Bryant), and DJ Young Guru (Tour DJ & Engineer for Jay-Z).”

http://www.lleftent.com/

I actually need them to help with me with my script…ttyl.  So…yes, married, degree, successful with an occupation and a passion not chasing a dream, doing well.

Real Dreams Come True

Real Dreams Come True

Again, I don’t want to stay negative on your dream to be a rapper. I just would like to inject some reality to your dream. Everyone has dreams and it’s not my place to tell to anyone not to chase them….BUT I have no reservation warning anyone about chasing a dream. I use the word chasing because the goal is not a fixed goal, it’s a dynamic target that evolves based on genre, geographic location, age, industry politics and trends.  So… yes you will be chasing the dream. My concern speaks to the reality of chasing vs planning. . If you plan to be an accountant or any traditional profession, there are key points in the planning that reinforce the trajectory of success. A degree, an internship, a job, wealth, stability, the right path and choices that get you closer in a reasonable bracket of time.  You’re not chasing… you’re becoming a professional. I just don’t want any of you to exhaust your life trying to be something and end up with nothing. No degree, no job, no family, just a dream that can empty your life of everything else. You don’t want to sacrifice your real life for a dream that may not materialize. Tracey worked his passion into what he does for a living. All I’m saying is, you can’t just have a dream and no life. If after you’ve read this and still have what it takes to be a rapper, call Tracey and hire him, you’ll need him.

Me & Tra living our dreams

Me & Tra living our dreams & eating cake!

MPM

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

Albert Einstein

 

 

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If you put your mind to it, you can do anything!

If you put your mind to it, you can do anything

As a child, I heard that statement ALL THE TIME. To be honest, I didn’t believe it. As a young black child, I wasn’t capable of understanding the possibilities of my future. The positive male examples around me were few. I didn’t know any black men that went to college, I knew men that enlisted in the service. I knew men that had good jobs; the postal workers, bus drivers, and grocery guys. That was then in 1980’s, now in 2014,  there are men and women of color that are successful everywhere.

I’m sure YOU may not understand what possibilities are out there for you…trust me there are too many to count. Don’t measure yourself to people who don’t value their opportunities. I don’t want you to be short-sighted like I was…you have time on your side. You really can do anything you want to do. You have time to mess up, you have time to try different things. Find out what you like, find out what you don’t like. Can you make money from what you like to do? Can you make it a career? It’s up to you to find out.

A pivotal moment in my life occurred from a simple discussion about someone else’s future. When I was 15 years old I had a discussion with my best friend Lydell. I remember walking next to him asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He replied, “I’m going to be a doctor.” He didn’t hesitate, he didn’t say try to be, thinking about, or probably.

He said, “I’m going to be a doctor.”

Again as a young black kid from North Philadelphia, I didn’t see black doctors. I saw some on the Cosby show but that’s about it, and that was tv. I wanted to respond to Lydell with, “Brotha you crazy!” but I didn’t, I kept my mouth shut. I realized his statement was serious, unwavering. I realized he had a goal, not a dream, a directive. At that very moment, his response taught me that I need to have a goal too. He asked me what I wanted to be, I told him I wasn’t sure but computers made me curious.

All of my uncles Rusty, Greg and James told me different paths to get to whatever goal I had in my head, all paths involved college. When they were growing up, college wasn’t something that many black kids considered an option. All my uncles, insisted that I go to college, even though none of them attended college. When people love and care about you, they want the best for you even if they don’t possess what you could achieve. I initially wanted to be a lawyer or doctor but that was just what everybody else wanted, but I knew I liked those new computer things, so I went in that direction.

Many of my closest friends went to college, but some didn’t. College doesn’t guarantee you’ll be successful, but it was the best time of my life.  My business associate, ‘Savoy’ from the Calvert County chapter of Concerned Black Men, has a career/business in sheet metal. He’s successful and doesn’t have or need a college degree. At a young age, he was entrepreneurial with a grass cutting business. He doesn’t have to work for anyone, he works for himself. That’s awesome!

A few years back, I was golfing with Lydell in Dominican Republic. He had shot two balls in the water and was standing next to the pond. I walked up next to him trying to hold back my smile and said, “You know that’s 4 strokes…”  He responded, “I KNOW!” Putting one ball in the water was bad enough but two…jeesh. Right there on the edge of the water I said, “Look at us man, you have your own practice and I’m a system engineer, remember those two poor little black kids? Look at us now, playing golf in the Caribbean…crazy right?” We both nodded our heads proudly and continued our game. I reminded him to take his drop. LOL

MPM & Lydell in Dominican Republic...(Two positive young men of color from the Philadelphia, products of single parent households)

MPM & Lydell in Dominican Republic 2006…(Two positive young men of color from the Philadelphia, products of single parent households)

MPM

“There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  Nelson Mandela

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