Four Simple Ways to Dominate in Your Career like Taraji P. Henson

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Over the past few months, throughout the various circles, I roll in and out of, I've heard women of color share stories about their profession. The not so funny punchline is that women in general (and especially women of color) are not being paid what they are worth.

Aside from the situation being unfortunate and unfair; it’s also disgusting and insulting. Period. 

Many of us can lend empathy to these workplace shenanigans, no matter the industry and despite the education and experience. Even Taraji P. Henson can relate. In her autobiography, Around the Way Girl, she shares different experiences that have helped to shape her into the force that she is today but it did not come without hurdles and sacrifices. 

Here are four simple ways to dominate in your career like Taraji P Henson.

Fail fast.

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Taraji is one smart cookie. However, when she was younger she pursued a career in STEM and studied to be an engineer. Although it was not her passion or purpose she felt that she could be good at it. The survey determined that was a lie because she failed her courses. That failure, forced her to realign her life to discover her true purpose and passion. She instead decided to study theater at Howard University (like Denzel Washington and Wendy Raquel Williams She landed her first “big screen” role as an extra in Spike Lee’s film, Malcom X. More or less, her career catapulted from there. 

Take a risk. 

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After graduating from Howard University, Taraji’s father encouraged her to move to California to become a star. With some reluctance, Taraji decided to take a risk and move to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a movie star.  She packed up her car and headed west with only $700, her son in tow and a dream. This courageous risk paid off tremendously! Taraji has earned numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance, has starred as the lead in Hidden Figures and Proud Mary but she is most commonly known for her role as Cookie Lyons on the FOX series Empire. 

Know when to seize an opportunity. 

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After playing the leading role of Yvette in Singleton’s Baby Boyand Shug in Hustle and Flow, Taraji’s opportunities to act began to open up. In the black community, those two roles launched Taraji to stardom and she became a household name. However, in mainstream America she was still earning her stripes; until landing the role of Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where she starred alongside Brad Pitt. While this role opportunity put Taraji on a new level, however, it was met with typical cultural norms around equity in salary. Brad Pitt earned millions of dollars for his role as Benjamin Button; while Taraji earned six figures AND was required to cover her own lodging and meals while filming for three months. The studio could have easily paid her more money but chose not to for the same reasons that many other women are paid less than their counterparts. Instead of walking away from the opportunity because of inequity in pay, Taraji used it to springboard her career into the mainstream. She now earns millions for her acting roles and advocates for equal pay for equal work. 

Iron sharpens iron.

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Relationships are our biggest asset and it behooves us all to have friends that reflect who we are as a person. Taraji has a strong circle of friends that include Regina Hall, Mary J. Blige and Kerry Washington. It’s the friendship goals I dream of at night. Her circle also includes her best friend from high school and a close cousin. These friends push her to become her best self as well as call her out on her bs. It’s important to have a tightknit group of empowering women who can encourage to get the most out of life as well as reciprocate it. Most importantly, our friends contribute to our success in addition to our personal and professional development. 

 What are some ways you dominate your career? Share them below. Check out my past post on Equal Pay.

Love + Light

Ar’Sheill Monsanto