Who’s Got Yo’ Back?

Please excuse the grammatical no-no in the title. But this is a very important post (as the rest of them are.)

Who has your back in your career? Who’s in your corner when you need some advice, insight, support in pursuing your dreams when times are low, or who gives you that extra push off the ledge into facing your fears? Who would you consider as a mentor or supportive friend?

Today, I had a very encouraging conversation with a good friend, Monique McDowell, whom I first connected with while we were both attending Howard University a few years ago. She’s a mother, living in the state of Kansas, and a published author and poet.

I’ve admired her tenacity over the years, going after her dreams even while raising her only son as a single mother. She’s a shining example of a Career Pioneer. 

She’s worked in a variety of industries, from the corporate world to public service, and is now in full pursuit to further her career as a writer and motivational speaker. She’s certainly well on her way.

With her breakout published work of poetry, called Bruised Kisses (Publish America Inc.), Monique shares her gift of writing and uses it as way to creatively and passionately address such issues as love, poverty, spousal abuse, homelessness, racial discrimination and faith. As one reviewer has said: “Ms. McDowell invites the reader to revisit their own life and write an epilogue to their greatest pain, one that affirms insistently, ‘Yes, even misery has meaning.’” Very well said. 

You can learn more about Monique and her book on her website, by clicking here.

It had been a while since Monique and I had spoken over the phone, so we began our conversation by chatting about what’s been going on in our lives over the last year. Then we talked about her publishing experience, because I wanted her advice on which route to take — traditional publishing or self-publishing — as I continued to polish off the first draft of my own book for working moms.

But after that, the conversation shifted and we began discussing the significance of supporting the people who are within your network and the importance of reciprocity.

It was so encouraging because we committed to help one another in any way that we possibly could, and to use our talents to support other Pioneers in their career pursuits.

The agreement to provide support to one another had surfaced when Monique shared how she’s gradually realizing the value of her experience in the publishing world is to others, including me and those who are tapping her for her advice on the matter. But even more importantly, she shared about the need to give to others what she’s learned, not hoarding valuable information to advance her own agenda.

This reminds me of another good friend, Shala W. Graham, who owns her own award-winning communications design firm in the Washington, DC area. She’s another Howard University alumna (H-U!) whose undergone her own personal and professional challenges, but who stepped in to offer me support during a time in my life when I simply wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but also further my career as a writer.

For the past eight months or so, we’ve worked closely on several branding, copywriting and design projects serving a variety of clients based in Washington and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Shala is, without-a-doubt, a Career Pioneer. As the owner and Principal of SW Creatives LLC, Shala seeks to blaze a path not just for herself and her family, but also for individuals who are a part of her inner circle, for the nonprofit community, for the minority community of graphic designers, and for budding designers as well. You can learn more about Shala and her company at http://www.swcreatives.com/.

I can riddle off a host of other people — from immediate family to extended family, to close friends and former classmates, to past colleagues — who have all lent a hand or an encouraging word; who’ve provided great insight or useful information; and who have helped me in the pursuit of becoming a better mother, wife, writer and young professional. Read my article about my dad, the hog farmer, by clicking here.

These individuals are themselves trailblazers in their careers, but who constantly consider ways in which to uplift people whom they encounter on a chance-basis, or who have been a part of their lives over the years.

What’s My Point?

My point is that we all need people in our lives who are sincerely dedicated to our cause — who want to see us as winners, and not losers. We need folks in our corner who are willing to go out on a ledge for us (and with us), who will guide us in stepping off that ledge to face our greatest fears.

Whether you lean on a long-time friend, a fellow church member or spiritual adviser, a professor or teacher, a parent, spouse or colleague, we ought to have people intricately involved our professional lives who will speak the truth to us in love and in faith; and who will be our cheerleaders when times are good, and equally as supportive when our self-esteem is shot and we’re feeling low.

It’s imperative that you have people within your network who will give you the inside scoop on what you’re trying to pursue in your career, and who are willing to be a guiding light when your future seems uncertain.

It is my firm belief that God puts certain people in our lives to encourage us on this journey called life — both professionally and personally. This Labor Day weekend, how about we all remember those individuals and say a word or two in honor of them.

And consider ways in which we can further support those who have helped us, and how we can pay it forward.

Keep the Discussion Going

Take a minute and think about your life over the past five years . . . who are some of the people that pop into your mind when you ponder what you’ve accomplished professionally?

Remember that “no man is an island.” Most of us didn’t get to where we are today by our own good will and effort. While being committed to our dreams is certainly part of the recipe for career success, I’m sure we can all recount at least one person (if not many, many more) who has stepped in to offer their support and who have championed our cause.

And hopefully there are people out there who would consider you as their support during their times of need!

About the Author

Emily Brown is the key contributor and creator of  TheCareerPioneer.com, a blog that delivers articles and posts about job industry trends; plus motivational, retrospective stories about career exploration and discovering one’s passion. A former business journalist at Bloomberg News, her work has also appeared in  The Wall Street Journal,  The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and others. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC. She can easily be reached at info@thecareerpioneer.com. Feel free to drop her a line to say “hello,” suggest an opportunity, or provide news of your own.



  • http://www.thecareerpioneer.com Emily Brown

    Thanks for your support and for reading Barlow!

  • Barlow Flores

    Emily, this was a great article and I especially enjoyed the final point of reflecting upon the last 5 years of my life which have seen monumental changes. You are a very accomplished writer and I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • Karon Moody Harden

    Good read, Emily! This really hit home for me on so many levels. Thank you for the encouragement! Keep up the good work!

    • http://www.thecareerpioneer.com Emily Brown

      Thanks Karon! And thanks for reading. :-)