With black entrepreneurship on the rise and black women reporting harsher criticism than their peers within the corporate leadership ranks, it may be a more opportune time than ever to make a career change.
Human resources exec Marsha Haygood did it, leaving a 25-year run at companies like New Line Cinema to launch a career-coaching business, StepWise Associates, that would ultimately help women like her do the same.
"As an HR person doing coaching, I could hear a situation, hear what people were going through, understand what their needs were, and come back and help them think of solutions and alternatives," Haygood told The Huffington Post. "What I didn't always have the opportunity to do was [work] with people who were less senior," she said, explaining how her idea for StepWise came about.
Haygood's insight would position her ahead of the curve. Researchers reported this week that a lack of mentorship is what's keeping African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Latino talent from corporate America's top spots.
According to the study, conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, nearly 35 percent of African-Americans, nearly half of Asians and 42 percent of Hispanics are “willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top” compared with 31 percent of Caucasians.
Despite high levels of ambition, however, people of color continue to be under-sponsored with only 9 percent of African Americans, 8 percent of Asians and 5 percent of Hispanics having a sponsor, compared to 13 percent of Caucasians. In addition, a third of African Americans said they believe that a “person of color would never get a top position at my company.”
But Haygood's affinity for helping others didn't turn into a successful entrepreneurial endeavor overnight. "[It] was a build up because I am a planner," Haygood said, recalling how she gave her company six months notice and used the time to make some headway on what she planned to do next.
"I could give notice, still work and help them find a new person ... I could also tell people outside what I was doing so they could visualize it, because I needed clients," Haygood explains.
Here, she details how her dream career ensued and what advice she'd give clients to come.
"[My husband and I] thought about how we wanted it to be when we retired. How we wanted it to be 10-15 years from now. Do we still want to live in an apartment in New York? We decided we want a warm place to live, a place with a beach [and] a business where we can work from anywhere. So we bought land and built a house in Florida, and nobody knew. We did that a couple of years before I retired. That was done already so we wouldn't have to worry about it. When two people have a business and one is just starting out, you can't get a mortgage. I don't care how good your credit is! We needed to do all of those things before hand. It was thinking it out long-term, thinking big, but thinking long-term. Seeing where the gaps were and filling those gaps before I left."
"I talked to a lot of people who have been in business with themselves or have transitioned into doing something different, including coaches and teachers, to see what some of their problems were. I'm big on, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Tell me what the problem is, let me avoid it, and I'll move on and find my own problems."
"I went through a budget of how much will I need, not how much do I want, but how much do I really need. I put a budget together and what I was able to do, unlike some people, is for the last year before I left the company I started putting my whole paycheck away like I didn't have it, just to see. If I really got real freaked out I could go get it or not quit or something, but I started putting it away. That meant no shopping. I started shopping in my own closet."
"I always had my own plan and my husband always had his own plan and we were both healthy. I went on his plan so I wouldn't have to worry about health care, but I also did something, because I knew it was going to change his cost. I started to find out what my benefits really cost. When you have benefits, you just know how much they take out of your paycheck, but you don't really know how much the mammogram is going to cost. Maybe [it's best to] pay for those yourself and just buy a major medical plan if you get hit by a bus, instead of trying to buy a complete plan that may cost three times as much. You might find all those times you go to the doctor they really average out to 800 bucks ... you buy a major medical plan that costs maybe $2,000, and now you're going to spend $2,800 a year vs. a whole package that costs $5,000 a year. It's being strategic and paying attention to the very specific things you need."
"I wasn't real technology savvy and I always had an assistant. The good thing was I always had an assistant, the bad thing was there was a whole lot of things I didn't know how to do that I was going to need. You have to get ready because [certain things] become very frustrating when you don't know how to do that and your business is going to count on them. You can't afford to hire an assistant right away. So you need to pay attention to what you know and what you don't know, and who can help you."
"When you don't have a comma after your name people aren't going to treat you the same. I was now Marsha Haygood of StepWise Associates and they were saying 'Who's that? She can't get me a job. She's not working there anymore.' You have to be ready for that and not let the emotion take over. There are people who I thought were my friends and had my back or who I thought were part of my circle, and I've never spoken to them again because they won't call back because they think I can't do anything for them. There are other people who I didn't pay any attention to that called me up and said 'Hey, I know someone that might be a good client for you,' so you just don't know. You have to be ready for it and you can't take it personally. Goodbye to some people is a good thing, you just don't know it yet."
From how to distinguish yourself from the masses, to the best way to ask for a raise, check back as Haygood offers up her sage career advice. Got a question? Tell us in the comments section below.