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Networking Ethnic Style
Michelle Lawson

We have all heard the saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know." But actually success lies in your experience and your contacts. Minorities may feel their chances for advancement hit the glass ceiling because they don't have the mentors to help them rise to the top. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a good network to build a successful career. Here are four suggestions for minorities interested in building such a network.

1. Get involved with minority professional organizations.

It certainly is important to reach out to professional organizations within your industry and your professional specialty. However, becoming active members of minority professional organizations, such as the National Association of Black Accountants, the National Hispanic Corporate Council, the Asian Pacific American Attorneys, or the National American Journalists Association, is also important. These organizations allow its members the opportunity to meet minorities in other companies with the same interests and cultural background. Members often exchange job leads and the organizations often provide seminars and workshops about issues important to minorities in the field.

2. Volunteer for a cause.

Expand community involvement beyond the Junior League or Big Brother/Big Sisters. What about donating time and talents to such organizations as the Alliance Working for Asiance Rights and Empowerment (AWARE), or the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), or the Urban League. Volunteering gives individuals the opportunity to meet with others who care about the same causes. You never know who you may meet--often someone with the authority or connections to help advance your career. Demonstrating one's altruistic side makes a very positive impression on people about your character.

3. Create a support system for minorities.

Since it may be very difficult to break into the old boys' network, consider creating a new, minorities' network. Reach out to other minorities inside your organization to create professional relationships. On an informal basis, meet with other minorities who are at all levels of the organization to discuss such issues as: 1)Who is about to get promoted?; 2)What programs are being developed?; and 3)How is the company performing financially? But beyond getting information, these networks help to establish allies when decisions such as promotions, raises, or terminations are made at your company.

4.Serve as a role model to other minorities.

As the saying goes, "It is more important to give than receive." Passing along what you have learned about climbing the career ladder to someone at a lower rung is very important. Don't necessarily wait for someone to ask for your help. Often minorities are reluctant to ask for assistance from others higher up the organizational chart than themselves. Providing advice and making introductions for those you mentor may also benefit you indirectly. First, serving as a mentor shows that you are willing to share your wisdom. In addition, when an individual you mentor progresses in his or her, you have a friend wherever they go.

Michelle Lawson is an HR consultant, professional speaker, and career counselor with more than 17 years experience helping people get the jobs they want. Author of the soon-to-be-published How to Get a Job in 27 Days (or Less) Workbook, Michelle provides online career counseling through her website Her HR consulting firm Integrated HR Strategies helps companies and government agencies recruit, retain and manage diverse employees. Michelle can be contacted at or at (518) 209-2284.

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