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Tips For Successfully Navigating The Workplace as a Person of Color

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

By Latifah Miles, Redbook

Everyone is faced with certain trials and roadblocks as they navigate their career path, but people of color encounter daily challenges in the workplace that are completely unique from many of their co-workers. Utilizing these small but decisive actions at the office can help you establish your individuality, let your talents shine and ensure your voice is heard.


Find your tribe.

© Tim Robberts - Getty Images

As one of the few people of color in your workplace, you might feel alone and isolated. Linking up with other people of color in your office can give you the space to air out your grievances, talk about relatable topics that don’t require a pre-explanation, and shut off the code-switching and just be you.


Address racial insensitivity head-on.

© Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

Being accused of constantly “pulling the black card” can feel like being branded with a scarlet letter—but if you allow racially insensitivity or downright discriminatory behaviors to slide continuously, it’ll only get worse. Addressing these issues head-on can be done in a non-confrontational manner and help you maintain your sanity.


Be an individual.

© Luis Alvarez - Getty Images

While there is a comforting sense of unity involved in being part of a culture, all people of color are not the same. We don’t all like the same things, or eat the same foods, or act the same way. Individualize yourself so that your coworkers can see you as you—not just your color.


Find a mentor.

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

It is beneficial for anyone in any career to find a person who has travelled your path successfully and is willing to help you navigate the rest of your way. Finding a mentor of color can help you acquire tips and tricks on how to get over tough hurdles that are bound to pop up in your career journey.


Take a seat at the table.

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As a person of color working in a field or workplace dominated by people that look nothing like you, you might sometimes feel like you just want to survive without ruffling feathers along the way. But truth be told, you weren't hired to sit down and shut up. Take your seat at the table, raise your hand in meetings, accept projects, and pitch ideas. You didn't seek out this career just to fly under the radar.


Speak up.

© Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

Deserve a raise? Say something. Need to leave early to go to a doctor’s appointment? Request the time off. Tired of being passed over to take on more intense projects? Have a conversation with your boss. Don’t shy away from the tough conversations because of fear that you’ll come off like the "angry brown person."


Support other employees of color.

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

Some people assume that when a person of color finally makes it to the top of the ladder, they don’t want to help any other person of color climb it. They’d rather be the special black person in the room. That is totally false, and you can prove it by welcoming new employees of color with open arms. That doesn’t have to mean following each other on social media—a smile and "good morning" can go a long way.


Practice workplace self-care.

© Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

Guess what? Being around people that are culturally and racially different than you are can be taxing on the brain—and that's okay! Make time for some workplace self-care. Sometimes, I want to put my headphones on and listen to my rap music on full blast, without being talked to—and I do just that. The 20-minute recharge keeps me going.


Choose your battles.

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While I encourage you to speak up and address racially motivated inequalities in the workplace, like everything in life, it is important to pick your battles. You will drive yourself nuts trying to fight every small injustice that comes your way. Choose them wisely.


Encourage conversations about inclusion.

© Luis Alvarez - Getty Images

If there is a severe lack of diversity in your workplace and inclusion is high on your priority list, speak on it. Figure out how you can start a conversation about inclusion and what your company is doing to address it.


Be a mentor.

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

You’ve finally made it to your dream career—congrats! Sure, you aren’t the CEO or anything, but you are in a wonderful position to take another person of color under your wing and help guide them to success. That can be the most rewarding task of all.


Don't forget to unplug.

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

After a long day of code-switching and explaining what natural hair is, you deserve to go home and unplug. Go and be in your element with your non-work friends and talk about things that you enjoy and can all relate to.


Make them say your name.

© Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

Not all people of color have ethnic names (like mine, Latifah). But, for those of us that do, make your employer and your colleagues say and spell your name correctly. They are capable of doing so, and by making an effort to say and spell your name correctly, it shows a sign of respect that we all deserve.


Establish boundaries.

© Hero Images - Getty Images

For some people of color, race jokes are hilarious and totally okay, no matter who they come from. For others, it’s not cool and is absolutely not tolerated. It is important to establish those boundaries as soon as possible to avoid future conflicts.


Take days off.

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After George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, I had to go to work. I was angry and really should have taken the day off to regroup. In the social and political climate that we are in, it is totally feasible and understandable to request a mental health day when you need one.

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