Monique Betty

A Job Seekers Pursuit for Belonging

Monique Betty
Tuesday's with Coach Mo
A Job Seekers Pursuit for Belonging

If you’re a high achiever, belongingness in the workplace plays an important role in achieving your executive ambitions. 

Executive Coach Monique Betty, ‘Coach Mo’, is joined by Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, a Career Coach and University Professor, who talked about how to navigate the process of vetting a company to determine if they offer a work environment and culture that provides inclusiveness and a sense of belonging for all.

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Connect with Nadia Ibrahim-Taney–

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Instagram – @beyonddiscoverycoaching

Episode Transcript

03:44 Nadia: The thing that I like about this topic of conversation is there really is no one right way to do it. It really needs to resonate with you. It needs to align with your skill set and your comfortability level so I say that as a 38 year old, who’s full time and private practice is networking, right? Me, having the confidence and skill set to reach out to you to say “Hey, I really admire what you’re doing. Can we jump in a zoom and just chat, right?” Not everybody has that or wants to develop that skill set or that feels organically, natural to them or is the space which they are wanting to push more into. So, I think when you’re evaluating opportunities, companies or organizations, diverse people as well, there are few different ways to do it. One, like I said, people like me and you are one thing, I’m lumping you into the extraverted camp, just knowing you. Just jump on the phone and talk with people, right? Word of mouth is such a powerful indicator on what people are willing to say when they’re not getting the need to say it, right? So it isn’t me as media working and representing x company. This is just me voluntarily giving you my personal experience working at this company, what’s the culture like. Am I heard? Am I seen? Do I get to get involved in managerial decisions and actually impact influence in some of the business as well as the culture, right?

So finding people and being willing to engage in that level of dialogue is so incredibly valuable. You know, you and I are huge advocates on Linkedin so my number one recommendation would be to use Linkedin. Build your community, build your connections and don’t be afraid to just reach out to people. On the other hand with that, I work with a lot of folks who are jumping on LinkedIn and reaching out to strangers and it’s their version of hell, right? It’s a huge risk. Ask me to walk a marathon, ask me to do anything else, right? And so, some passive ways that you can evaluate organizations is their social media. Look at what they’re posting, look at their recent news sections on their website and figure out what are their values, what are they excited about, what are they proud to promote within their own brand image, right? The other side of that is a brand image. You go on that website and you see people that aren’t like you and you look at their leadership and you do not resonate with them at all. Not to say that’s a bad organization fit for you but it is a factor within the evaluation of that company, right?. So look at social media, look at their website, look at their marketing collateral, their brand imagery within.. Google is your best friend so just Google them and find people who have worked for that company previously, who worked at the company now. And I say the word company to really encapsulate both non-profit and for-profit because even though, you know, you might be someone that’s very, very committed to a nonprofit cause, that doesn’t necessarily mean that specific organization is going to be a perfect fit for you. In my full time role, I worked in higher education and worked in the university but that doesn’t mean every single university and college in America is going to be a good fit for who I am as a diverse candidate, right? You still got to do the groundwork, you’ve still got to do the leg work in determining, “Hey, is this a place for me?”, right?

07:17 Monique: And so, I would invite someone who’s feeling some sort of way of underrepresented population, that when you’re considering the degree of inclusion and belonging, invite examples. How did that come about? How do you support? What’s the outlook? And that person you’re interviewing may or may not know. Oh well, who may I speak with that may know? That also gives you the benefit of making another touch point inside of an organization. I do want to learn more about what’s going on in the inclusion and belonging. If you’re the person sitting in front of me that doesn’t know, who else I may speak with that’s being considered as a candidate.

07:59 Nadia: Yeah. And what I love about what you said is recognizing your own agency and advocacy within that space as a job seekers, right? Where it’s not really the organization’s responsibility particularly they’re stuff you because they don’t know what’s important to you as a candidate, right? The things that were important to me when I started my career at 22 are completely different than they are now as I am closer to 42 than 22, right?

08:26 Monique: Exactly, right?

08:27 Nadia: In really drilling down what diversity, equity and inclusion and really the goal of those three things being belonging, how do I feel like I’m part of this, right? And I know we have talked a lot, you know, about the next generation and gen z and millennials becoming managers and moving into those team lead roles. It’s not enough just to look around the board room or the Starbucks table as most of us are now working in non-traditional places and just seeing people that aren’t like you, right? Or, you know, knowing okay, hey we have one of this and one of this and one of this and that’s equitable, right? It really is about do people feel included? Do people feel a sense of belonging? And the diversity and the equity bit that just gets people to table, right? That just invites them to be part of the conversation. But to be heard and seen and have your influence be evident in not only the task orientation of the company, right? Your marketing firm, you know being able to see your influence in the marketing world. But then like you said, if every organization, if every single person in the organization cannot speak to the company culture or the initiatives from a strategic framework or leadership perspective, that means it’s not clearly communicated and people don’t know, right? And so, you know, whether you’re on a frontline HR recruiter who’s getting folks on the door or you’ve been at the company for 4 to 5 years, everybody’s responsibility is to understand the company, to be able to advocate and promote the company and understand the directionality of the company, right? And I see you nodding your head like, “yes!”

10:06 Monique: Oh yeah! Because take that as a data point. If the person you’re interviewing with is ill-equipped to answer your questions data point, and a possible opportunity to connect with someone else in the organization to dig deeper. And this is the reason why you saw me smiling there, Nadia, is because I see that as an opportunity, I don’t see it as “Oh, this organization isn’t for me” I’m like “Oh this is an organization that needs me”. Because we all have a choice and I have this conversation yesterday with a prospective client who reached out to me, who’s just like “You know, it’s been 3 years, I’m tired of this place, I want to go, it’s not what I thought it was going to be.” They said that they were innovative and doing this, that and the other and they’re not. And I said “okay, so the answer is to pursue, take your talents somewhere else” I said “ What’s your consideration for that being in the place that you do want to be so that you can lead that change, that you’re saying there’s a gap” They were saying these things and they’re not doing it so, what’s your role in bringing about the change, you know, and I said “you’ve made up your to already leave, right?

11:13 Nadia: Yeah.

11:14 Monique: Then I said “Well, how long have you been sitting on that notion?” “Oh, well maybe 18 months.” Yeah, when you’ve been sitting, you know, because we get comfortable, we know we have a paycheck coming in, or feeling some sort of way may not feel, you know, that this is a place for where I want to stay for the long haul, it’s not welcoming to all, it’s not inclusive, I don’t feel like I belong. And so we all have a choice to make and if those of us from underrepresented communities feel that the answer is to be derived by somebody else, that’s the true point you are making, Nadia. I love that. It’s like we can also be the change here.

11:48 Nadia: Yeah, yeah absolutely.

11:49 Monique: We can also be because without our voice there definitely won’t be representation, but that’s a conversation for another day.

11:59 Nadia: Yes.

12:01 Monique: I don’t think everyone of an underrepresented community and knowing that you’re going to step into a situation where you’re the only one in the room, I don’t think you want to carry the banner for being the DEI representative, okay? Not everyone wants to do that. And you can’t just assume because I’m a person of color that I want to be out in the forefront in all your DEI initiatives. I just really want to apply my marketing skills, my strategy skills and, you know, bring about the productivity and the performance that I’m equipped to while I am this member of an underrepresented and i want to show that, you know, we have these capabilities. But I don’t want to carry the banner for the DEI, you know, initiatives of the company. So what do you say to those individuals?

12:47 Nadia: Sure, yeah. I think it’s like what you said, it’s important to recognize that’s your journey, right? You know, some of the most influential cultural mindset shifts that I’ve experienced as a professional in the workplace has come from peers and colleagues, not the people who have degrees in DEI, not the HR trainers. It’s literally being put on a team with someone who’s completely different than me and figuring out.. “Alright, we got to do this.” You know, we’re getting paid to do this, we got a job to get done here, what do we need to do to move forward as a team, as a couple or whatever, right? And to recognize in the earlier stages of your career, you may not be in a place where you want to put yourself out there, you know? When I was coming up in higher education which is a very liberal environment academia as a place where you go and you make mistakes and you learn and as long as you’ve got that iterative cycle, yeah that’s great. And that’s how learning works, right? You experience something, you have a lived experience and you challenge that with a learned experience and you bring it back to your real life, right? So just to know that you don’t walk out at 21 or 22 years old and if you’re not going to college, you know, even at 18, I’m just saying like “oh because I am this I’m now an expert in this are” you know, as even in the LGBTQ+ community, I don’t have it all figured out, you know, it was a learning journey for me to introduce pronouns to my introductions, to incorporate more inclusive language into my curriculum, to ask someone “Hey I know your name is this but what are your pronouns? what can I or how can I support you in being seen in our partnership?” right? So just to know, it’s a journey and you are going to make mistakes and that’s how we learn. I would say, as you get older and more confident and more mature in your professionalism, the other things will come. It’s also how you professionally show up at work, right? When I started putting myself out there as an out LGBTQ professional, people just started asking me questions, most of which I had no idea how to answer or had no lived or learned experience in those spaces but people see you in a certain way, right? Like you said, being a person of color, being a woman, being a first generation american, maybe your english has some type of accent or, you know, kind of different cadence or whatnot. Maybe it’s even as simple as the types of food you bring to the lunch table at work, right? Like, you know, putting yourself out there and offering people opportunities to get to know you, the real you, not your whole identity. You don’t represent all people within your identity but just start with you, right? Just make yourself available. The cavaet that being you’re in a safe place to do that, right? If you’re in a company or an organization and you are the only one of something and you have a feeling of isolation or if I was my true authentic self, I think there would be a retribution or there would be some type of, like I said, feeling some type of way from my colleagues, A) I’d probably advocate, you know, kind of reevaluate the work situation but then also, you know, B) Now may not be the time to pick up that pride flag. Now may not be the time to go to the employer resource group and be an advocate for putting your pronouns on email signatures, right? It really is thinking about what DENI and belonging look like to you and how do you want to exemplify that so walking the walk and how you want to be part of that conversation. And take that stuff to your manager, right? Say “hey, I really want to get involved in, you know, reenvisioning what our maternity leaves policy looks like because i don’t think equitable and I don’t think it’s good and I want to be part of that because I will eventually want to use that maternity policy leave and I want to be around that table when that conversation is happening, right?

18:00 Monique So when you think of individuals who are not of a diverse population, what are your thoughts on how they could show their commitment to, you know, inclusion and belonging to help kind of expand the tent for others?

18:15 Nadia: Yeah. I really challenge people, all people, personal, professional, I have my private practice and I teach in a university as well. Is that on some level all of us have some degree of privilege and all of us have some degree of challenge, right? And one of the exercises that I do with my business students is when we walk through, you know, mentally we walk through a day, right? so you get up, you hear your alarm clock go off, you get out of bed while hearing is a privilege, being able to walk and get out of your bed is a privilege, going and taking a hot shower is a privilege, right? And so my biggest advocacy and challenge to folks who are not of either visibly represent, you know, you can actually see your diversity or the otherwise are the kind of, hidden diversity of folks, that everybody’s got something, right? And I may not understand what it’s like to have your lived experience being a person of color and all the things that you just outlined, right? But i have an experience of my own that I can say “ well I know how that made me feel” when people don’t say my name right or people presume, you know, my LGBTQ status by my short hair or that I have a hyphenated last name or what people think of me when they find out that I’m a professor at a university, they’re like, “oh, well that’s a thing isn’t it?” Right? Like all of these biases and stereotypes and then the subsequent microaggressions that come with that. That can be applied to any of us at any time, in any context and any environment, right? Just even going to the supermarket and buying healthy foods, there’s always going to be someone around you that’s like “oh isn’t she just, you know, feeling herself some type of way because she’s eating healthy this new year like she’ll be back eating her chips by February”Right? You know and it’s one of those things to say exactly what you advocated for like don’t worry about the other people, focus on yourself and how you can be that change, how you can make contributions in spaces that you otherwise, you know, wouldn’t have the opportunity.

Getting feedback from the folks that you serve and the folks that you interact with are really great ways to understand, you know, of what you don’t know, you don’t know what you don’t know so ask people. It’s like what you said, lean into the books, there are so much good scholarships and so much good dialogue coming out in the space right now where 40, 50 years ago, 10, 20 years ago it really didn’t exist, right? People weren’t willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable and not to say that we’ve fully swung in that pendulum but we are making some very small and incremental progress, you know, to being comfortable with that dialogue. I mentor manage a lot of first time managers and exactly what you said, you know, people, you know, read a leadership book and they go “I’m going to do all kinds of these leadership principles and I’m going to get my team to love me and do all these things” And the strongest pieces of advice that I can give is view your positioning on that team as a facilitator and a supporter, so how can I facilitate your success as a team member how can I support you as a team member because once you have your teams buy-in to seeing you walk the walk in terms of your support and your advocacy and your expertise in an area that’s going to inform the, you know the validity cycle of saying “you know what? Mo may actually know what she’s talking about in this space because I’ve heard her and a few others say that. I think she’s onto something here and I’m going to believe what she says”, right? So, understanding the value of followership and really seeing yourself like I said, not so much with the person with the answers, not the person who’s got all the learned experiences, all of the lived experiences because you can’t be everything to everyone you cannot be an expert on everything, right? And as a leader, as a manager your role isn’t to be an expert on everything, it’s to figure out how to leverage the people who are experts in their functional areas so that the entire team is raised up.

22:43 Monique: Yeah, absolutely. And to add to what you’ve just said around the commitment to inclusion, belonging, diversity, if you are of the majority in your organization and I’ve had some people ask “oh what can we do to better understand, you know, the lived experience of black americans?” Go to a black community or a black church? I mean there’s so many things that we can do to be deliberate in how we tap in because yeah, like you were saying, we can’t represent a whole group of people, we’re individuals and so if there’s someone in the workplace, who’s trying, let’s just say like a Jamaican, for example, they’re like “oh I want to learn everything I can about Jamaican from you my Jamaican, you know, associate” And it’s like well there’s a Jamaican food fest happening this weekend, just what are some things you observe and don’t believe that whatever you see means that’s representative of me that’s culturally there maybe some shared things but every individual has an opportunity to pick up a book and go to different museums, to engage in communities that are unlike yours and put yourself in that position of being someone who’s the only one and discover what that experience is for you.

23:55 Nadia: Absolutely. And I’m always, you know, quick to differentiate my opinion as me Nadia on something and the entire LGBTQ+ community, right? And when I do get asked questions that I haven’t inkling and, you know, you and I have been around again long enough, you know why we’re being asked the questions that we’re asked saying basically how does your community feel about this? I will say that, I will say “you know for me, personally, this is what I would do or this is what I wouldn’t do or this is what I would buy or this is what I wouldn’t buy and how I would have approached this” But that does not extrapolate to all queer people, right? And recognizing that I’m some dimension of my identity, I am in the majority in some dimensions of my identity, and in some dimensions of my identity I am in the minority, right? And so differentiating yourself from your community is really hard for a lot of people because they have such a broader identity to that, like you talk about, you know, you say go to black church, that’s a huge identity and when you say “ hey I’m a future skater you know, this is the church I go to. Yes! right, like, that means something to people, right? And so the terminology, the verbiage that we use, the things that we say and how we say them in our in group and how we say in our outgroup so code switching, right? Those are all things that diverse people have to navigate in a professional workplace. The way I talk, the way that I dress I have to be very aware of how preachy on DEI I get because at a certain point people just tune out, right? If it’s not relevant to them, if you don’t personalize it to their experience, if you don’t humanize it it just sounds, you know, this is me just lecturing at you which I already do at my full time job, right? So make it personal, you know, and like you said it’s okay to ask someone from another diverse identity “ hey, would you go to this Jamaican food festival with me because A) I think you would just enjoy it as my friend and also B) I think it would be a really cool opportunity for me to experience something that’s of meaning and value to you, right? And to have that approach where you say like “ hey, I know this means something to you” like, i often get that with, you know, pride and, you know, and june is pride month and people saying like “ hey, I really hope to see you at pride” “hey, is it okay if I come up and say” you know my students “say hi to you in pride and stuff like that” Absolutely, right? Like that’s something that’s meaningful to me and my community and to invite folks to be part of that is fantastic, right?

26:43 Monique: And you’ll find people are humans, right?

26:44 Nadia: Yes.

26:46 Monique: People are humans. And along those lines, I know we’re drawing to a close. I so appreciate you being here joining me here on Tuesdays with Coach Mo Podcast. This is something that may be worth Google-ing for our listeners but I learned of what’s called “The Human Library”. How familiar are you with that?

27:06 Nadia: No. The verbiage has not gone beyond that.

27:12 Monique: Yeah, okay. Because I learned that and I was like, “Wow, what a cool thing.” but that is a notion of you talking about books and about the opportunity to learn is the research of “The Human Library”. This is an opportunity where they have small conversation groups virtually, with people around the world who just come on and share their story, their human story and it is a safe space to ask questions. So if there is a queer artist out of the Netherlands, who’s also a horticulturist to us. You know, they have interesting profiles, these individuals who take part in this and speak about themselves, their story. And you can join when they’re speaking and just ask questions. And you know, it’s a safe space to do that. I just find that so interesting. It’s a forum that looks like it came out of the North East but the opportunity to just say, you know, we can all do a better job learning about one another and that in itself. We all choose to be better and be better in the workplace and the work environment as opposed to it as being a program or, you know.

28:18 Nadia: Yeah.

28:20 Monique: .. a one time event. So thanks again for sharing your expertise and your experiences and for being here.