Grandma’s advice may be holding your career back

By Letisha Bereola

Generational habits show up at work, too—and they may keep you from making the necessary connections to get ahead in your career.

Growing up, I heard the term “break generational curses” a lot; always in reference to poverty or fatherless children, and I was the one being called to break the curse. Quite a heavy load to place on a 13-year-old girl right? Well, by the grace of God, the “curse” was broken and my adult home and life are intact.

What I didn’t hear much about was the idea of “generational habits”—and how they can carry over into the workplace. That concept was introduced to me recently by Watchen Nyanue, founder of the Chicago-based career consulting company I Choose the Ladder, and I was instantly intrigued. How is this different from the spiritual context of generational curses? And how does it show up at work? Nyanue says there are some cultural or familial habits we’ve likely picked up that we should consider breaking for the sake of our careers.

For example, many of us were urged to “keep family business to yourself” growing up. Nyanue says that’s not a helpful habit when you’re trying to climb the ladder of success.

“In corporate, It looks like building a network. You are required to share parts of yourself in order to connect with people, right? Because people give opportunities to people who they feel they know, they like, and they trust. Whether that’s fair or not, that’s the culture that we’re in. And so if you come into a workplace and you’re like, ‘I’m not telling these people nothing. I’m here to work,’ you can do that. But professionally, there are consequences,” advisedsNyanue.

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Nyanue says the things that we’ve learned, or the things that we are led to believe, don’t always remain in the privacy of our homes. They don’t stop at the door when you get to work.

“The things that we’ve been taught to prioritize or taught to think about, or how to behave, those things come with us. And for a lot of us Black folks, specifically, it doesn’t help us,” she notes.

But just as there are some things we’ve learned that may hinder us in a corporate environment, there are other things that will catapult us into success. I know you’ve heard “closed mouths don’t get fed!”; believing that in the workplace may just be the x-factor that separates you from everyone else. You’re willing to ask for what you want.

“If you’re someone who now realizes that you have some professional gaps and you see someone in the workplace, whether they’re a Black person or not a Black person, have the courage to ask for help. And you may not get the type of help that you initially want or desire, but you will get the help that you need,” says Nyanue.

Watch the full conversation with Watchen Nyanue and Letisha Bereola above on this week’s episode of “The Reset with Coach Tish.”


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