We caught up with Jessica Ekong, chief human resources officer at Providence St. Joseph’s Health in Los Angeles, who graciously took us on a journey debunking seven pervasive myths that often hold Black women back from career success.
Myth one: If you keep working hard, good things will happen to you
We have all heard the saying, “work smart, not hard,” which applies to those picking up extra tasks around the office or focusing on internal organizations instead of showing excellence in their roles and responsibilities. If you are killing it in your role, taking on leadership roles in other areas can be beneficial, but ensure you focus on your primary responsibilities at the company. When you are exceeding expectations, ask yourself if the right people in your organization know the amazing work you are producing and whether you have advocates speaking on your behalf. This will make the difference in being recognized for your accomplishments and contributions that hard work cannot do on its own.
Myth two: The best time to ask for a pay increase is at your performance review
Understanding how your organization works, including knowing the pay review schedule, is essential to timing the ask for a higher salary. While they are typically 90 days prior to your part in the review process in larger organizations, you can request this information from human resources or your manager as early as the initial interview and at any time during your employment. Having this information can save you disappointment from asking for a raise when there either isn’t money available.
Myth three: When you are in trouble, keep it to yourself.
When people are in trouble, they wait too long to tell someone. The first step is to immediately talk to someone you trust within your organization who will give you honest and clear feedback. Figure out how you want to handle the situation before you seek advice. When you tell them the scenario, follow it up with a question, “Here’s how I’m thinking of proceeding. Do you have any guidance?” Always ensure you have a paper trail that helps keep you accountable and protects you. If your mental health is being affected, you can seek out the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in your organization to get a referral for a licensed therapist.
Myth four: Every opportunity is an opportunity to fight
There may be instances to file a complaint with human resources or even the EEOC. Still, sometimes for mental health and sanity, it’s better to bow out gracefully and negotiate an exit package that gives you time and resources to find a better opportunity.
Myth five: You have friends at work
As human resources professionals, we constantly hear, “HR is not your friend,” when the truth is no one is your friend, this is a business. It is important to figure out who your professional allies are and who supports your career, but don’t mistake professional courtesy for friendship.
Myth six: Being happy to be there is a flex
There’s something about fancy brands that get folks caught up. Taking a lesser role or staying too long at a well-known company with big-name recognition is a common career mistake. Staying at a company simply because you like being associated with the name or status, and not because it serves you and your goals, is not a mature career choice. When you are simply happy to be there, companies know this and handle you accordingly. They know they don’t have to hire you at top dollar, promote you or increase your pay, so they don’t. In other words, “don’t let your employer be your God.”
Myth seven: Being unsuccessful at one company means you’ll have the same experience everywhere.
Just because you’re not shining in one place doesn’t mean you are not a star. Sometimes one company is not a good fit, or they don’t see your value. Don’t let that hold you back. You may join another organization that celebrates your contributions and pays you what you’re worth.