This post is in partnership with Forté. All opinions are my own.
After graduating from college in 2011, I dove headfirst into my first role in corporate America. As a young Black woman fresh out of college, immediately starting work at a large company where many of my colleagues were older white men was a huge culture shock. From the day I started, I immediately felt different, and like I didn’t belong, even when I was among my colleagues who were also new college grads. I experienced severe imposter syndrome, questioning if I belonged there and feeling limited in how much I could achieve.
The glass ceiling was always there. Although I couldn’t see it, I could feel its presence.
There was a major tension point between the potential I possessed, and my ability to leverage and harness said potential to help me progress in my career. While my intelligence and ability weren’t in question, I was often left wondering if I was the “right” kind of smart or if my skills had any value in the corporate setting. I wondered if my professional interests and passions could lead me to the right role within my company. I struggled to find connections and mentors who truly understood where I was coming from. Navigating these feelings and questions on my own was incredibly challenging, and created a major barrier in my career.
I eventually realized I was forcing myself to fit into a workplace that wasn’t built for me. That although my skills, interests, and passions weren’t suited for the environment I was in, it didn’t mean my career options were limited—it meant I was looking in the wrong places for guidance. It wasn’t until I began expanding my network outside of my company that I connected with other women who had navigated similar situations in their careers. These connections helped me understand the wide range of opportunities that were available to me.
When I first started seeking connections outside of work, I challenged myself to attend local networking events in my area and started introducing myself to anyone and everyone (as a reserved introvert, this was NOT easy). While this was a great start, old school networking was just the tip of the iceberg. There are incredible organizations like the Forté that can help you succeed in your career and provide the resources you need.
Forté’s community of motivated and inspiring women is changing the balance of power in the workplace. They connect talented women, influential companies, leading universities and business schools, and pioneering donors to help women change their career trajectories. Through webinars, networking opportunities, leadership skills development, and MBA program prep and support and more, Forté provides women at all stages of their careers with skill-building opportunities and experiential resources.
I love that I felt like I belonged with Forté’s community right away. Nearly 42 percent of their members are under the age of 30, and 58 percent of their members are women of color. Connecting with others who could relate to my life experiences has been huge, and has opened my eyes to all that is possible in my career.
If you’re anything like me and are seeking out a community of strong women to learn from, consider joining Forté’s free community. No matter where you are in your career, from college to CEO, you’ll find events especially for you as you build your network of like-minded women. You can learn more here.
Taking matters into my own hands, seeking out community, and skill-building on my own have been the biggest game-changers of my career and have helped me break through the glass ceiling to take my career to greater heights.
Photos by Sarah Wolfe Photography.
Lestraundra is the founder of Balanced Black Girl and the host of the Balanced Black Girl Podcast. She’s a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, and natural beauty junkie who loves 90’s R&B, trying new skincare products, and creating recipes in the Instant Pot. She created Balanced Black Girl to provide content and experiences empowering women of color to live well.