Image via osgapusgov

The most important thing a  can Black woman do besides the acquisition of wealth and power is to cultivate and define our image. I do not care if you’re rich or poor your image is what can make you or break you. It can create opportunities or it can be a hindrance. If you are seen as trust worthy, credible or dependable people will be drawn to you. If not, folks won’t give you the time of day. I don’t care if you stand on the street corner with a bottle of Colt 45, if you are seen as someone who demands respect people will respect you. You can be the kindness human being ever but if you do not project that you demand respect human beings will walk all over you like a wet door mat on a snowy day. All sad but true. Well cultivating your image to me is like tending a garden. You have to plant a seed, nurture and prune it, remove all the weeds that pop up, feed it, give it time and allow it to blossom. The first thing you have to do is accept that you are the gardener and cultivator of your image.

I have been in politics for years. I have watched most the successful politicians get elected or reelected not because of their ability to create great legislation or their ability to bring home pork (even though both are important factors). It’s because of their image. Ever seen that employee that produces mediocre work but moves up while others get left behind. Politicians do the same thing. Even with a 3%  Congressional approval rating politicians (referring to congressmen) get reelected because they have carefully cultivated and tailored their image to their constituency. The constituents know their pols and the pol knows them. Politicians have a wide range of images to project. Some project intellectualism, common sense values, competence, street smarts, passion, warmth, loyalty, experience or all of these qualities combined. If you knew some them in real life you would be like how in the world? Well it is because most of us political junkies know the Chief of Staff is the brains of the operation. Anyway, projecting those qualities can open doors for you. If you do not , it does not matter how well intentioned you are your career could be limited.  So here are some tips:

  • It takes years to become an expert at something. If you haven’t start now. Make sure you are not so ingrained in one subject that you neglect everything else. Dibble and dabble into other areas to become a well-rounded person.
  • Earn a qualification. Take a course. Join a club. Just get active!
  • Know how to make a constituent, reporter, lobbyist, or the most savvy business person feel like the most important person in the room. They connect with their audience by using warm nonverbal cues, becoming active listeners and refraining from negative language.
  • Be selective about your activities and how you use your name. If you have joined a crazy club that posts your name and your pictures on the net I bet someone has seen it. It can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. So be careful. And if you need to do dirt make sure you have control of the situation. Tell other people NO PICTURES PLEASE  and please don’t post shirtless/naked pics on Craig’s List, twitter, FB, etc. if you are trolling for a hot “date.”
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy and that will benefit you and your career. Anyone can spot someone who has just shown up just to show their face. They reek of phony. Show up, offer to volunteer and be there because you care.
  • If you have done dirt in the past own up to it and tell the story on your terms. Write a book about it. If asked about it be honest and discuss it. Acknowledge your frailties.  Explain how the deed made you a better human being. Frame the situation as a lesson learned. If you have to ask for forgiveness and understanding.  Human beings are for more forgiving than we care to believe. We all love a good come back story.

Think about the image you want to project and begin working on it as soon as possible. Find someone you admire. Watch and model what they do. If you have any questions please post below.