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Dana Weston Graves, FACHE – Balance Self-Promotion and Humility

Dana Weston Graves, FACHE

Dana Weston Graves, FACHE

Sentara Princess Anne Hospital
Virginia Beach, VA

Balance Self-Promotion and Humility

Q: Do you sometimes find that people of color – and particularly in healthcare—are maybe a little too humble and a bit hesitant to put themselves out there as subject matter experts and speaking and doing the things that one might feel are ego driven but very necessary for their career, and also necessary for the betterment of the entire industry?

A: I have found two things to be true. One: We are more humble in doing these things because a lot of us are first generation executives. Often, when speak at an event, I say that I am the proud daughter of a janitor. I learned so much from my father and the work that he did. But I did not have anyone to show me or teach me what promoting yourself looks like because my father was in a career where the best ones are actually invisible. You don’t know that they’re there. They’ve done their work, and you’ll never noticed them. We were raised by parents who taught us to be humble. So we don’t promote ourselves. More importantly, we don’t have sponsors who are promoting us because that’s the reality for those who are getting mentors and sponsors earlier on. It is that sponsor that is recommending them for things and putting their name out there that’s saying, “I can’t make it to this speaking engagement, but this young man or young woman who works for me can go in my place.” We’re less likely to have people setting us up for those opportunities, which is really how you get your name on a shortlist for more opportunities.

The second thing that I’ve found is really somewhat of the opposite. It’s that most of us—and I can speak only as a black female—we’re told, from such a young age, that we have to work twice as hard and be twice as good. So, we have our nose down doing everything that we can to work twice as hard and be twice as good, when really what is promoting folks and getting them ahead is the networking and the personal connections. We’re in our offices being twice as good, and it’s the folks that are forming relationships over dinner or on the golf course that are being tapped for the next opportunity.