Black Wall Street Veteran Tells Her Story

Carla Harris broke through the glass ceiling on Wall Street. The financial services veteran offers career advice and strategies for success in her new book, Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet.

Harris talks about her book, the financial crisis and challenges she faced as a woman of color on Wall Street.

Excerpt: EXPECT TO WIN: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet

By Carla Harris

EXPECT TO WIN Book cover
Hudson Street Press

AUTHENTICITY: The Power is You

There is only one you!

The day your company hired you, someone else did not get the job because you were the best candidate. They hired you because you had the best combination of skills, personality, and potential and a unique blend of values and abilities. Over any other person they interviewed, the company felt that you could best execute the job, fulfill their need for talent, and satisfy their specific need for a discrete skill set. You got the job because you had a competitive advantage over all of the other candidates. That important competitive advantage? You. No one else can be you the way you can; that is your source of power within the organization.

One of the keys to your long-term success in any organization is to own the person who you really are. If you bring that original, best you to work every day, the one that interviewed for and got the job, then you can maintain your competitive advantage in the organization now and, more importantly, over time.

Bringing the real you to work allows you to be free! Free to learn new concepts, free to be creative and responsive, free to take risks—all of which helps to enhance the professional that you are and makes you valuable to the organization. In today's competitive environment, the person who learns new concepts quickly, who can adapt commercially, or, in other words, can apply those lessons in a way that can make money for the firm, and who is also client-oriented, is the person who moves most quickly in a company and is most handsomely rewarded.

If you are preoccupied with trying to play a role or trying to behave, speak, or act the way you think others want you to, your mind won't be free to perform at your highest level, be flexible, and be able to adapt to changes. Putting on an act eventually becomes exhausting and uses up valuable mental capacity that could instead be directed toward making important contributions at work.

The reason that I am such a strong advocate for being who you really are at work is that doing so gives you confidence. When you are comfortable with who you are, you exude confidence, and that's attractive to clients and to colleagues. Others want to listen to confident people; they want to hear your ideas, they trust your judgment, and they will buy what you are selling, whether it is a product, a financing pitch, or a decision.

When you are not being who you really are, at some point you will begin to appear uncomfortable to others. Especially in client-facing businesses, such as investment banking or sales, trust in relationships is an important element of success. When you act and speak with confidence, it contributes to your performance. If you appear to be tentative or apprehensive (which usually happens when you are lacking confidence), then you open the door for your clients to doubt what you are saying, you potentially lose the opportunity to win business, and you open the door for a competitor to get the upper hand in a relationship.

A lack of confidence can also hurt in your internal interactions as well. When you are confident with who you are, it helps you to build trust in relationships with people you work with. Especially if your work environment is very competitive or has a relatively flat hierarchy, which also tends to intensify internal competition, then it is imperative that you have confidence in who you are and what you are doing. If you are in a competitive environment where the rule is "up or out" (either you move up within the organization over a period of time or you have to leave the organization) and your colleagues realize that you are not comfortable with who you are or in your work, then they will actively try to find ways to make you doubt yourself.

If you are constantly questioning your abilities in the workplace, then sooner or later your boss is likely to notice and their trust or belief in you will be impaired. And when you boss starts to doubt whether or not you can do the work or have the ability to sell your ideas, then you are very likely to be viewed as someone who cannot or should not move up within the organization or get the opportunity to have bigger and better clients or other responsibilities.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents. Have the confidence to play up yours. Be proud about what you do will and who you are. And work to improve your weaknesses whenever possible. You don't have to wear either on your sleeve, but don't suppress what's good and interesting about yourself either.

Excerpted from EXPECT TO WIN: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet by Carla A. Harris. Published by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright Carla A. Harris, 2009.

Books Featured In This Story

Expect to Win

Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet

by Carla A. Harris

Hardcover, 223 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Expect to Win
Subtitle
Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet
Author
Carla A. Harris

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.