Category: Early Career

A New Way to Network

The term, “Zoom etiquette,” would make no sense just a few months ago, but now, connecting appropriately in virtual meetings is a must. Momentum fortunately got to host its biannual conference just before COVID-19 hit Alabama, but many organizations have had to forgo their usual in-person gatherings. However, Birminghamians are still finding ways to network despite an international pandemic. Here are some upcoming (and fun) events geared toward professionals in our community:

Rebound Bham: created by a host of nonprofit and government organizations, this series shows small business owners how to persevere and grow during this time next event Roadmap Goal Setting Workshop, August 27  at 9 am

Virtual Cocktails & Conversations: Join after work and connect with “social go-getters” in Birmingham, September 1 from 6-8 pm

CTRL + SHIFT: A Virtual Conference for Dreamers and Doers: “take control and shift the paradigm on the outcomes in our community,” August 28 from 12-6 pm 

Connect with Birmingham leaders in marketing, graphic design, and anything artsy through Creative Mornings, an international program with speakers and networking opportunities

Birmingham at the Wine Loft: connect in a casual space and get started on your next great idea! November 10, 6-8 pm

The Women’s Network of Birmingham: get to know a diverse group of women professionals in the city through their networking event on September 10 at 11:45 am through Zoom

Mixtroz: this Birmingham startup expertly features a myriad of opportunities to connect and grow your network. Ashlee Ammons, co-founder, attended our conference in March!

Finding Financial Confidence

As COVID continues and stimulus checks remain unpredictable, it is more important than ever to find financial stability and security. DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, gave a detailed presentation last month on how to control personal finances during the COVID crisis. Some of her suggestions include creating a budget, establishing savings, and making a financial plan. 

Unfortunately, women have historically earned less than men. “Women are three times as likely as men to say they can’t afford to save for retirement and have significantly lower rates of financial literacy. Women also make up the majority of caregivers, and are three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for a family member.” Despite men spending more time working from home, women are still bearing the brunt of the labor. According to Forbes, mother’s work hours fell four times as much as father’s in April, widening the already existing gender gap. Most men worked the same amount of hours, but women were expected to take on additional caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities. The future remains uncertain, but women across the country are finding unique ways to support each other. 

Here are some ways women are gaining strength:

  1. Being vulnerable. “Talking about and sharing more stories about the success of women who took chances, made missteps and still ended up on top are vital to helping more women go after their dreams and not be so focused on seeking perfection,” said Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’Well. Mentoring relationships are a great way to swap stories and bring encouragement.
  2. Improving emotional intelligence. According to the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, “Investors ask men about opportunity and the potential for gains while women are questioned about the potential for losses.” Reframing challenges and gaining confidence can help narrow the gap. Jean Ann Larson, Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB, gave an insightful presentation on the role of emotions in the workplace.
  3. Speaking up. “College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.” Of Momentum’s Alumni, 79% agreed or strongly agreed that Momentum had a positive influence on their attitude to negotiate in the workplace. Delphine Carter, Founder of Boulo Solutions, works every day to help women find new careers. Her advice on achieving professional goals is for women to proudly share their accomplishments in a comfortable way, allow themselves to be whomever they want and, as importantly, learn to support each other on that journey.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

Momentum offers mentor matching as a free service to our community. If you are interested in learning more about the program and being paired with a mentor, click here for more information.

You Wanna Grow in Your Career… Do these 3 Things!

Barbara Mason is the CEO of Career Pathways, and a session presenter at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial conference

So many people say they want to grow in their career.  I can understand that because who wants to do the same thing the same way in the same position for the same company for the same 40 years? No one! So, I get it…it’s reasonable to desire growth in your career.

Well, I want to give you 3 ways you can accelerate the growth in your career:

1.      Network-yes, that’s right you must network. This is a class they should give you starting in high school. That’s how important it is. It is important that you stay connected to other people to learn new things, learn new people and learn about new career opportunities. In fact,  there are a large majority of jobs that are never posted, and you only find out about them through your network. Networks can be formal networks that you have at work with your boss,  or other leaders within your company. And networks can also be informal with people from your church, neighborhood or civic organizations you are a part of.

 

2.      Utilize Mentors-yes, everyone needs mentors in their careers. Mentors are helpful to be a sounding board, give you honest feedback and help you navigate your different career moves, twists and turns. There are several kinds of mentors you can have, and many people often have different ones for different things or areas they want to work on.

 

 

3.      Continuing Education-if you don’t want to be stagnant, then it’s crucial you invest in staying relevant in your field and continuing your growth and development. There are several free and paid options to stay abreast of your field and also to just personally sharpen the areas where you need help. Think about taking free classes at your local library, local universities or at work. Also, consider getting certifications or joining professional organizations related to the field you are in.

These 3 strategies will help you stay on a trajectory of growth in your career and ensure you do not cultivate complacency and stagnation.

 

Tips on Navigating your Professional Journey

When thinking about our careers, we never want to become so focused in our day-to-day that we forget to look forward to where we want to be.

No matter where we are on our professional journey, we always want to be aware of our career progression.  While also remembering that it takes time to move forward, the workplace isn’t like grade school where we are constantly being tested and reminded that we have either made the mark or we need to step it up. But all in all, each of us is on a path that is hopefully leading us toward a brighter professional future.

It’s easy to think that the first full-time job we had (or are going to have) defined everything, but in all honesty the first ten years are the most crucial. With each new job and position, we want to remember to look for a role that highlights our strengths while challenging us at the same time. Furthermore, we never want to become stagnant.

We recently had the opportunity to hear from Joy Carter and we wanted to share some of her wisdom. Consequently, we want you to keep these ideas in mind while you tackle your professional journey.

A few tips to help your progress:

1. Negotiate your salary. Whether it’s your first job or your last, you’re worth it.

Remember to ask those around you for feedback, insight, and encouragement. Figuring out what your future goals are can be difficult, always feel free to phone a friend.

2. Goals! Goals! Goals! If we consciously take disciplined steps, we will get where we want to be. Every 90 days, set 3-5 goals that you can accomplish. Know where you want to be, and then figure out how to get there.

3. Take advantage of the small moments. Whether that’s taking advantage of the right opportunity over lunch, coffee, or when riding the elevator.

4. Don’t fear feedback; ask for it. Your managers and your peers may have excellent insight for you about your strengths and about ways that you could improve. Are you aware of your RBF?

5. Mentorship is key for all. Observe the people around you in your company or community, and consider creating a mentor relationship with them. Relationship makes us stronger whether you’re the mentor or the mentee. Career decisions can be overwhelming; don’t go it alone.

6. Be aware of all the possible next steps you could take on your professional path in the upcoming five years. Do your best to avoid committing to one direction. Simply be aware of your options.

Career progression can be daunting and illusive. We hope our tips today are a reminder that you are not on this journey alone. Remember to stay disciplined and to always be aware of all the possibilities.

 

Contributing Writer Holly Moore

 

Updating Business Etiquette

The workplace is always evolving, and so does business etiquette. No matter where you are in your career, make sure you understand the unwritten rules of etiquette where you work today. Here are a few things that have changed in most organizations.

  1. When is it acceptable to do social things with coworkers? While socializing with coworkers used to be discouraged, it is now quite the norm. Our advice is to remember to keep it fair and equitable. Going out to lunch or getting a group together after work is fine when it’s inclusive. Socializing with coworkers gets to be an issue when business is discussed without necessary stakeholders present or when the conversation devolves into office gossip.

  2. When the workplace is casual dress, where do I draw the line? Business casual used to mean that men could lose the tie and women could wear pants instead of the skirted suit, but otherwise it was still formal by today’s standards. Now a wide range of clothing is acceptable in the workplace. Always err on the side of professional over too casual. Even with casual dress, watch the neckline, hemline, and choice of fabric. It’s never okay to show cleavage. Skirts should be at least as long as your fingertips when your arms are resting at your sides. Fabric should be thick enough and loose enough not to show undergarments or fleshy contours.

  3. When being introduced to someone, should I stand or remain seated? The rule used to be that men would stand when introduced, but women were to remain seated. Now everyone should stand when being introduced to someone new.

Most organizations have a published employee handbook with some rules and expectations. All organizations have a set of unspoken rules that go along with the company culture. It’s very important to understand both. Here are five tips for general business etiquette that are likely to apply anywhere you work.

  1. Be punctual. In business, time really is money. Come to meetings prepared, and arrive a few minutes early to settle in and observe others before the meeting gets underway.

  2. Understand the appropriate channels of communication. Ask your boss on the organization’s preferences regarding when to use email, text, phone, direct messaging apps, or call an in-person meeting. Find out what the organization values in those communications…generally clear, concise, factual communication is best when written. Observe written tone used by leaders and follow their example. Any communication where reading emotions is important, negotiations will take place, or brainstorming would be valued should be saved for in-person interactions.

  3. Put the phone away. Don’t mistake your smart phone for a productivity tool when in meetings. Checking texts and emails during a meeting is distracting and counter-productive to effective collaboration. Instead, keep meetings brief, on topic, and suggest taking a quick break to check messages if necessary.

  4. Opt for listening over talking, asking questions over voicing opinions. It’s more important to prove yourself with results than assertions. Avoid interrupting, and encourage others to do the same (e.g. “I’m interested in hearing the rest of Adrian’s idea.”)

  5. Brush up on formal table manners. When attending conferences, awards dinners, and important meetings over meals, table manners are on full display. Remember BMW: Bread on the left, Meal in the middle, and Water/wine/whatever you drink on the right. Eat slowly and quietly, cut your food properly, only cut the bite you are about to eat, and never make gestures with utensils.

 

 

Recommended Resource:

Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top, Dorothea Johnson, Liv Tyler

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Why Confidence Matters

When you work really hard to gain expertise in your field, you want to believe that your competence will earn you extra stripes and higher level positions. Turns out it’s confidence, more than competence, that makes the bigger difference. More than mere bravado, authentic confidence comes from believing in your competence, trusting your abilities, having faith in your instincts, and conquering the fear of failure.

Many women lack the same level of confidence and self-esteem that men have. While some level of explanation may be rooted in physiological differences, most of it is social. In a 2015 study on Age and Gender Difference in Self Esteem, Wiebke Bleidorn and her research team studied nearly one million subjects from 48 nations. They found that worldwide, men systematically have higher levels of self-esteem than women, and that self-esteem increases with age from adolescence to adulthood. What is surprising about their study is this: the confidence gap between men and women is actually higher in industrialized, western, more egalitarian countries than in developing countries. How can we explain that?

It seems to me that in countries where women’s equality is guaranteed by law and where women  expect to be treated as equals, the blow to self-esteem is much greater when women experience inequality, unconscious bias, and harassment.

So how can women overcome these deeply seated sociocultural norms to regain their confidence and self-esteem? Dr. Sharon Melnick is a leading authority on business psychology, stress resilience, and women’s leadership. According to Melnick, there are three main patterns that affect confidence levels:

  1. Seeking Approval

  2. Preventing Disapproval

  3. Looping Self/Other Criticism

To rise above these patterns, we have to understand why we do them and be willing to move from what Melnick calls a “confidence seeker” to a “confidence contributor.” Once we can make the shift from looking to others for our confidence, we can begin to gain confidence from the true value of our contributions.

Dr. Melnick is a preferred facilitator for Momentum’s executive leadership class. This year Momentum is hosting a leadership series open to the community, and this week Dr. Melnick will conduct her “Confidence When it Counts” workshop January 16, 2019 at Samford University. 

 

Building Social Capital

We all have days when work feels overwhelming and we may not take the time to speak to a coworker in the parking lot or put away the mobile phone at the coffee machine. Yet, it is opportunities like these to engage with others, even on a surface level, that build social capital.
While some relationships with coworkers form naturally, others need time and attention to grow. It may feel awkward to strike up a conversation with someone who works in a different department or is much higher (or lower) in the hierarchy. Simply opening a conversation with a comment about the coffee, the weather, or the new landscaping outside is a good start. If time permits, ask what your coworker is working on today. We don’t have to have an agenda driving every conversation, we just need to take the time to build that social capital. Here are a few good reminders:
  1. Be energetic without being over-eager.

  2. Ask questions that genuinely interest you, and really listen to the answer.

  3. Attitude and emotions are contagious, so check yours before you engage.

  4. Stay optimistic. Even if your coworker is complaining, don’t add to their load. Be part of the solution.

CEO and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan has an insightful and entertaining TED Talk on social capital that is well worth the watch. She explains that companies who encourage interaction between teams produce better results. At the end of the day, people need people and we never know what we can do for someone else or where that relationship could take us. Investing in social capital may be the very best thing we can do to make work meaningful.

Contributing writer Holly Moore

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.