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This month, BlackEnterprise.com presents Month of the Man, where we bring you career features tailored for male leaders of color all over the world.
When he’s not putting in hours as an account coordinator at LM&O Advertising, Alix Montes can be found dishing career advice to professional women at Levo League. Though he has an interest in women’s issues—and thinks other men should, too—Montes also knows a thing or two about the challenges of being a black man in the workforce. Below, he offers tips on workplace advancement that you can take with you to the office and beyond:
Over-communicate in the workplace. “That just means keeping people in the loop,” Montes says. “So when you have someone who’s waiting on something from you—whether it’s another department in the agency, your superiors, a client, a vendor—let them know what the status of certain things is. If something is going to be late, let them know as soon as possible, and give them as much time to prepare for it. It helps manage expectations. Let people know what to expect… so when they first hear something they’re not caught off guard, or they won’t have the wrong questions for you.”
Be empathetic about women in the workforce. “Get familiar with women’s issues,” Montes says. “Know how to communicate with them. … When I went on interviews, there were almost always more women than men there. And all my bosses are women. [You must] be able to be in [that] environment and be comfortable with yourself.” Be conscious of your professionalism and how you interact with women in the office. “Separate [social from professional], and recognize what the right time and place is.”
Talk about race—when it’s appropriate. Don’t be afraid to have conversations about race when it makes sense or when the topic comes up, Montes advises. “I know sometimes you have to worry about, ‘Am I being too black?’ ‘Should I not be true to my culture?’ or ‘Do I have to act a certain way?’ [but] don’t be scared to be who you are and don’t be afraid to have those tough conversations because those are the things that people can learn from.”
Don’t believe the myth that there’s only room for one black man at the top. This is a toxic mentality that could hinder success and advancement. “I know sometimes you can get caught up in ‘There’s only room for one,’ or ‘They’re only going to let room for one, so why should I go after this?’ but don’t let that stop you. We need to be competing against each other more, so don’t back away from [opportunities]. But, in a sense, even if we are competing with each other, [be able] to help each other so we get to the places where we’re competing with each other [at the top].”