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Set S.M.A.R.T. career goals

Career goalsBe S.M.A.R.T about your career goals.  

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk” ~ J.C. Penney

Set career goals. Write them down.  According to research from Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University, individuals are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals by writing them down.  There is also a 78 percent increase in achievement when sharing weekly progress on goals with a friend. 

Goal setting is one of those things I ask about when I have career conversations with people. It’s interesting, but I have found many people talk about their career wishes, but never actually set any goals.  Routine career actions like getting a professional certification, taking a class or creating a LinkedIn account don’t have to take a lot of time.  However, as simple as those actions might appear to be, without actually making it an actionable goal, it may never happen.

The SMART technique is simply a framework for thinking about your career goals.  It doesn’t just apply to career planning and it certainly is not my original idea.  You will see the SMART goals concept everywhere.  SMART is actually an acronym where the meaning of the letters stay pretty consistent. Expect to see some slight variation in what each letter stands for depending on what you read.  

Using the S.M.A.R.T. framework your career goals are supposed to be:

Specific (S), Measurable (M), Attainable (A), Relevant (R) and Timely (T)

Set your career goals, but at the same time, become comfortable changing, tweaking and modifying those goals as time goes by.  

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Positive Attitude is Key to Career Success

Positive thinking and career successStart Positive – Nothing really happens without that!

We use National Career Development Month to help people recognize the importance of life-long career development and professional growth. This month gives all of us an opportunity to assess our existing jobs and career situations, explore alternatives, and develop plans that will better prepare us for the future we want.

Whether you feel stuck in your existing career; satisfied, but still exploring or just thinking about a transition, or want to set some new goals or measure yourself against your New Years resolutions, this is a good time to begin.

First off, on day one, we want to start the month by emphasizing the importance of a positive attitude.  John Maxwell, world famous leadership expert says that “successful people don’t have fewer problems than unsuccessful people – they just have a different mindset.”

That positive mindset begins with you. Some quick ways to do that:

-Reaffirm to yourself that being positive is a choice that will make a difference and that it is your responsibility to do that for yourself.

-Surround yourself with positive people.  Find a way, if only for the month, to separate yourself from people who only spew negativity.  If you can’t avoid them, then tell them – “I’m taking a break from negativity this month.”

-Know what triggers negative thoughts around your work or career goals and what you need to do to change channels mentally when those thoughts seep in.

-Understand the role that negativity plays in elevating your stress levels.  People can have physical reactions to stress which can’t be ignored.

-Add some inspiration to your workspace. Print out a inspirational message. Yes, it’s on your phone, but seeing it written is impactful too, because others see it and better know who you are.

Bottom line is that it’s hard to stay in a place you hate whether it’s school or work. However, only positive thinking can change that.

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Sexual Harassment and Emerging Professionals

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o speaks out about Weinstein

Sexual harassment in the workplace is real and emerging professionals and new graduates are sometimes the target.  Workplace predators are counting on the naive responses, fearful attempts to push back and lack of knowledge about sexual harassment policies. Often, these emerging professionals, who are new to the workplace, don’t even fully know what is acceptable behavior or expected of them and of co-workers just yet.

When you read the op-ed by Lupita Nyong’o in the New York Times, about her encounters with Harvey Weinstein, you really get some insight into her thinking about how to interpret the actions that she sees coming from him.  Keep in mind that she is an emerging talent who wants to succeed as an actor.  She recounts Weinstein rattling off the names of other actors who had “dated” him and the success he was able to bestow on them as a result.  That can be a very seductive proposition for someone who is trying to break into a career.  Fortunately, Nyong’o appears to have kept her wits about her and left that “relationship” with her values intact.

As Nyong’o describes her own responses, she is giving insight into some of the actions that new professionals could take if they face similar sexual harassment situations.  Make no mistake about it, Weinstein’s behavior is not just limited to the entertainment industry.  The well-publicized cases of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News or Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein stories, might lead some people to think this only happens in the world of entertainment or media.  That is not the case.

Some advice and tips for emerging professionals to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace:

Listen to your gut and pay attention to your instincts. You are probably right about what you think is happening.

Inform the harasser that the his or her behavior is unwelcome and must stop.

Tell someone outside of work. A mentor, a mature friend, a parent are all good options.

Keep notes and document activity and dates especially if you find yourself being left out of things or included in things when others are not.

Try to avoid being alone with a person if you feel uncomfortable.

Plan an exit strategy if you find yourself alone with a person. I remember having to lie about being somewhere else in order to get out of an uncomfortable situation several years ago.

Report the uncomfortable behavior to human resources. This one is tricky because you might not be guaranteed anonymity if this is something that needs to be dealt with.  If it ever becomes a legal issue, you will need to have evidence of reporting the matter within the company.

Watch for and document retaliatory behavior if you do decide to speak up. Retaliation is equally bad.

Read the company’s sexual harassment policy. Follow the policy on reporting.

Look for somewhere else to work.

Learn more about sexual harassment:

In a 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan Magazine, a third of the women responding said they had been sexually harassed in the workplace. Thirty-eight percent said the harassment came from a male boss and 70% of them said they had not reported the activity.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

US Department of Education Safe & Drug Free Schools Program (Sexual harassment happens on college campuses too.

Feminist Majority Foundation

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The HBCU Career Center

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Tougaloo College – This HBCU has a civil rights legacy

Tougaloo NineEvery Thursday, we honor the history of institutions designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through the #TBT hashtag.  For those who don’t know, the #TBT hash tag means “Throw Back Thursday” and on Thursdays, social media lights up with people sharing images of the past.

Today our #TBT celebration is all about Tougaloo College  which was established in 1869, in Mississippi and is affectionately known as – “The Loo”.  Their tag line, quite appropriately, is “Where History Meets the Future”.

HBCUs, including Tougaloo College, have played a significant role in building America’s diverse workforce.  Look at their list of notable alumni and you will see judges, lawyers, artists, sociologists, musicians, healthcare professionals, politicians and civil rights activists. However, these schools were not just about in-the-classroom efforts to educate professionals, they were also about the advocacy needed to change the world into which these students would graduate and build careers.  The photo here is of college students known as the “Tougaloo Nine” as they attempted to integrate the Jackson Municipal Library (Photo – The Clarion Ledger).

Some alumni, like Annie Devine, quit her job in insurance sales to join the civil rights movement.  Devine along with Fannie Lou Hamer and Victoria Gray Adams, became the first black women to speak before the United States House of Representatives.  When Devine was threatened with eviction from her home for attending a meeting, she said “I think I made a decision right there. If I was going to be harassed, be made to move just because I went to a meeting, then I was already in the movement” (Houck and Dixon, 2009, p. 289).

Fannie Lou Hamer gets Honorary degreeTougaloo College recognized the work of Fannie Lou Hamer by awarding her with the doctor of humanities honorary degree in 1969. (Photograph courtesy The Tougaloo College Civil Rights Collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History)


Houck, D. W., & Dixon, D. E. (2009). Women and the civil rights movement, 1954-1965. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

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Rail Careers are Worth Exploring

Rail careersDid you know that median wages for rail careers last year was $57,160?

I would guess that most people don’t know that. In fact, I have found that most people don’t know much about careers in transportation at all. As a former Air Traffic Controller myself, I have participated in the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) sponsored by the Department of Transportation, many times. The goal of the NSTI is to expand the awareness of secondary  school students, about careers across transportation, including rail careers.  Those NSTI sessions, often had panels or presentations with rail professionals and sometimes students would even have tours of transportation facilities.

That’s why we are excited that Canadian Pacific Rail is partnering with The HBCU Career Center to get the word out about rail careers.  Visit our job board and click the CP red bar to explore careers in both the US and Canada.

Some of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that ran NSTI programs this year were:

Alabama State University

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Florida A & M University

Morgan State University

What does the Department of Labor say?

Although overall employment in rail careers is expected to decline by a small percentage over the next decade, there are 3 reasons to explore rail careers at this time:

i) Rail is not going away! Certain types of rail jobs might go away because of the advancement in rail technology, in the same way technology is impacting other industries.  In fact, the Department of Labor says that an increase in “intermodal freight-the shipment of goods through multiple transportation modes-may increase demand for some [types of] railroad workers.”

ii) The need for Transportation, Logistics and Supply Chain experience is not going away or disappearing.  Just consider how online shopping has changed product delivery over the last several years.

iii) Baby boomers are retiring from the rail industry. This I know because I have heard it at NSTI events and from a colleague in my doctoral cohort who is doing his dissertation on exactly this subject.  With a 30-year career in the industry, he is researching how rail companies are ramping up on-the-job training programs, such as apprenticeships, for those interested in rail careers.

Hopefully, this post will help you expand your career and industry awareness around transportation options.  Find out more about rail careers here at the Department of Labor.

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Campus Leadership is Something to Brag About

Dillard University Fall 2017Congratulations to the new batch of student leaders on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities this fall! As a former college Dean and HR Pro, I never miss a chance to congratulate students who have the courage to not only participate in campus organizations, but to step up to leadership roles too.

Walk around any college campus and you will find tons of information about campus involvement opportunities.

Look for:

1. Organizational membership fairs (Photo from Dillard University)

2. Invitations to run for office and hold leadership positions

3. Congratulatory messages for new organization leaders

4. Training for students in campus leadership roles

There are several reasons why campus leadership and involvement are so important and such a critical part of student life.  One BIG reason is that organizational participation really gives a student something to brag about!

College is more than academics

I know you have heard that before. The fact is, building your academic credentials is only a part of why you go to college. Yes. You want to excel in the classroom. In addition, you definitely want to develop those other skills that employers look for every year including teamwork, collaboration, self-motivation and interpersonal maturity.  These are behaviors that employers and graduate schools seek when they evaluate applicants.  Campus organizations will allow students to build these skills that are very much aligned with the workplace skills employers demand from today’s new college grads.

I’ve been working with college students and graduates for almost two decades and I always talk about the three things I believe students must do before they graduate, especially if they are on a HBCU campus.  Campus leadership is always on my list, not only because I have heard it personally from hundreds of employers, I have seen it in many lists of workplace skills employers want as well as in workplace trend research.

If you want something to brag about when you are looking for internships, applying for grad schools or jobs after college, campus involvement and campus leadership have to be on your list of priorities while you are in college.  The fact is simply that campus leaders land more job offers after graduation. They just do and I have seen them to do it. If you are not already involved in a campus group or organization – find one. Join. Participate. If your campus doesn’t have one you like; start one!

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(Photo courtesy of Dillard University).

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