The Black In HR (TM)'s weekly column with Ayesha J. Whyte, JD, SPHR is an opportunity for our readers to ask questions important to them to a skilled and experienced HR executive and attorney. Ayesha is a strategic human resources leader and seasoned attorney who has served in leadership roles at The Walt Disney Company, Amtrak and WeWork. This week, Ayesha provides guidance and answers questions important to our readers on transitioning careers, climbing the corporate ladder and increasing personal marketability.
Question: Greetings Ayesha! I have 12 years of federal labor and employee relations experience (total of 22 years federal time) and I am ready to retire from the federal government - as late as Dec 2021. My life after the federal has me considering something aligned with employment/labor law and mediations serving the private sector. I have served as a tech rep for third party hearings (arbitrations/EEOC) and would be open to performing such contractually. What advice c/would you provide to me as I begin this journey?
Ayesha: Congratulations on retirement! Meditations and arbitrations are becoming far more utilized especially in employment disputes. So, what you are speaking of sounds like a wonderful transition that can provide a nice supplemental income and you can do at your leisure.
First, make sure that you officially create a business for your service, including a website which speaks of your experience with tech representation in mediations and arbitrations. Then, contact JAMS Mediation, Arbitration and ADR services and the American Arbitration Association about becoming a vendor. If you choose to provide these services more regularly, definitely connect with the Small Business Administration to become a certified minority owned business and preferred vendor for government mediation and arbitration matters.
Good Luck and Enjoy Retirement!!
Question: What was essential in your rise up the corporate HR ladder? Any resources, tools, organizations that assisted in your success?
Ayesha: Ahhh, the rise up the corporate ladder. I am going to be super honest and real here. The rise is about mentorship and sponsorship. Who do you have in your corner that will vouch for your skills and your “fit” within the existing corporate culture? Likeability is a HUGE factor in corporate success. That is definitely beginning to change with corporations on a journey to embrace diversity and individual authenticity, but currently likeability and sponsorship are incredibly important for corporate ascension.
Separate from that, I found networking and my HR credentials (through SHRM/HRCI) invaluable when beginning in HR. I attended a SHRM conference and learned so much, connected with great people and kept in touch. Right now, there are so many free and virtual resources during the pandemic to increase knowledge, stay on trend and connect with other HR practitioners. If you are interested in DE&I there is a free virtual certificate course being offered by the University of South Florida. More details can be found at https://www.usf.edu/business/certificates/diversity-equity-inclusion/index.aspx.
Question: What is the best way to become more marketable?
Ayesha: Great question and an important one. Marketability is all about branding. So first, you have to determine what your brand is. My brand is as a subject matter expert in all things HR and employment law. I made a conscious effort to become skilled and learned in all HR matters and to stay abreast of trends and a part of the conversation through school/certifications, research and networking. I, in turn, established that brand on LinkedIn and through writing articles in Forbes and similar publications.
Additionally, a key part of marketability is the companies you choose to work for. Working for high profile companies (even if you are not in a leadership role) creates instant recognition and marketability for greater job opportunities or if you want to launch into consulting.
So to recap:
#1: Decide what you want your brand to be and to say about you
#2: Make sure you have or acquire the skills to solidify your brand
#3: Choose to work for companies that only enhance or are in alignment with your brand
#4: Network or create a network with those with a similar brand
#5: Market you brand (for free) by effectively utilizing your LinkedIn profile
From Ayesha: Advice & opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.