Being a Black woman is no easy job. From the insane pressures of being a “strong Black woman” to being written off because we are a part of two minority groups, there is no end. Even in our jobs, there is no escape. We are constantly compared to our colleagues in the workplace and watched under a microscope. This can assist in us building career anxiety and stunting our growth in our respective fields.

What is career anxiety?

Career anxiety is not specific to just Black women. Anybody can experience it. It’s a stressful or worried state that many people face during their professional journeys. Changes in your working life, such as striving to get a new role, management changes, or even wanting to switch career paths, can be sources of career anxiety. Pair all of that with the constant microaggressions we receive at work and it’s just a recipe for disaster. Luckily, we sat down with expert, Reonna Green, to guide us through anxiety and show up confidently in the workplace.

Reonna Green is a trial attorney and founder of She Trademarks, a law firm dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs. She knows about career anxiety all too well. Becoming a full-time lawyer taught her how to combat her own anxieties. Now, she empowers corporate women and small business owners to do the same by teaching the boundaries she created for herself.

Reonna On Career Anxiety in Black Women

Zayna Allen: What are some examples of career anxiety?
Reonna Green: I would say, one of the things that are prevalent with career anxiety is always kind of feeling like you have more things to do or could be doing more. As well as setting unrealistic expectations on what needs to be done on your to-do list. But I think there’s also career anxiety around the forward projection of your career. So where you’re at today, where you should be in 5 years where you should be in 10 years.

ZA: Why do you think Black women specifically fall victim to this type of anxiety?
RG: We are putting so much stress on ourselves in general to be better versions of ourselves. Day in and day out, in our personal life and professional life. I think that that added stress turns into anxiety about your next promotion, your next job placement, your next increase in income. I really think it comes down to ourselves a lot of the time and the high expectations we put on ourselves for our careers.

Her Own Experiences

ZA: What are some of your own experiences with anxiety surrounding the workplace?
RG: When I first started at the DA’s office, which was my first legal job, there were the “good cases” which were cases you could try. One of my issues with anxiety stemmed from not feeling like I was trying enough cases in one given year. As prosecutors, a lot of your statistics come from trials.
So I found myself wanting to network with higher-up prosecutors and putting pressure on myself to get more cases so I could get my trial numbers up. It was very arbitrary. Yes, the more trials you get the more experience you get but it gave me anxiety. Was I getting enough? Did I stack up in comparison to my peers? That is anxiety, that didn’t necessarily need to be there. Are you doing your job, correctly? Are you doing the best at your job that you can do aside from whatever these arbitrary numbers or statistics are?

ZA: How were you able to overcome that and create boundaries in the workplace so that these type of things don’t overwhelm you?
RS: As black women, we have higher rates of imposter syndrome. I think that once you kind of just come into your own and know that you’re qualified to do this job, you are here for a reason and you’re damn good at your job you realize that the numbers don’t mean anything. That’s when you kind of enforce those boundaries.
Things like making the decision to go home at a normal time or not going to work until 9pm helped. I made sure that my focus was to make sure that I’m doing the best job that I can for the people that I’m working for. Then my mindset started to a shift a little bit. I think that really starts to kind of help pull down some of those high anxiety levels.

Tackling The Issue

ZA: What are some tips that you would give to Black women who want to show up more confident in their career?
Talk nice to yourself and celebrate the wins, even if they’re small. Also making sure that you really take time for yourself because anxiety crosses over. You can have career anxiety that then goes into personal anxiety. So, it’s important that you take time for yourself and put up those boundaries so that you can move forward in your career.
I would also suggest getting a mentor if you have some anxiety about where you’re at in your position now, or how long it’s taking you to get to our next position. Network with people who have been where you are now our who are in places where you want to be. That way you can bounce ideas off them because and they can really talk to you from a place of experience. Remember that you are qualified, that you have the skills and experience necessary to do your job to advancing your career and you just have to own that. Once you start doing those things, you can take down that anxiety.
Lastly, I want to mention is just mental health and seeking out therapy in regards to any anxiety that you’re having. It shouldn’t be shameful or something that we avoid it.