Navigating Corporate America Through Authentic Relationships and Social Capital

Being good at your job is always a precursor to success. 

But is it enough? 

Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder to an executive position or simply want to learn new skills, career progression takes strategy. 

To unlock the club and achieve career success, you need to be strategic about building relationships, leveraging social capital, and remaining authentic to who you are. 

We talked about what this all looks like with Amelia Hardy on episode 9 of the Unlocking the Club podcast. Amelia is the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Best Buy, taking on the role in 2020 after a 20-year career in multiple positions across Fortune 100 companies. 

You can listen to her full interview on the podcast, or keep reading here for some of the key takeaways from our conversation. 

Prioritizing Self-Care in the DEI Space 

Two black women smiling and laughing with their arms around each other

Amelia stepped into a formal role in the DEI space in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. As her own community crumbled down in pain, questioning, and grief, Amelia saw an opportunity to offer real hope and change. 

Amelia was approached by leadership at Best Buy to take the DEI portfolio. Because she knew Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, and other leaders, had a commitment to both DEI and inclusive leadership, Amelia took the leap to align her personal passion with her profession. 

Amelia’s role in the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) space requires a firm commitment to caring for herself and leaning into a supportive community. 

Each day she deals with other people’s questions, confusion, and biases—these are hard conversations to have, and can lead to diversity fatigue. Amelia stays grounded by remembering her purpose, which is to help people and make a better future for the next generation. 

Amelia keeps the courage to press on by channeling both the past and the present: 

  • Remembering her ancestors: Amelia often reflects on the bravery of her ancestors, the people who came before. They took brave action through marches, protests, and continually fighting against injustice. She sees it as her honor to continue this legacy into the present day.
  • Keeping eyes on the future: Amelia is equally inspired into courageous action by looking forward. She dreams of a day where her children and their children do not have to deal with what her generation and those in the past have. 

Being aligned in passion, profession, and purpose helps Amelia thrive in her role. It gives her the strength to do hard things—including taking care of herself and pulling support from her networks.

Using Your Voice

A group of women sitting at a large conference room table listening to a presentation

Amelia has unlocked the club to corporate America. She’s a high-ranking executive at a large company—she has a seat at the table. 

But sometimes, she’s lonely at the table. With few other women of color as her contemporaries, Amelia is often the only one to represent diverse voices. She knows that because she has a seat at the table, she needs to speak up and advocate for those who are not there. 

Speaking out and using your voice is not always easy. In fact, Amelia recalled a time early in her career where she was frequently spoken over or her ideas were taken without credit. But, she had a mentor come alongside her and affirm her voice and opinions. It was the start of developing her voice and learning to speak out. 

Speaking up is one thing, but having your voice heard is another. Here are some ways Amelia does it:

  • Story: When people are quick to dismiss racism or injustice, Amelia can share her own experiences. Learning to tell your story is so impactful; narratives are powerful and can have significant impact. 
  • Data and facts: Amelia is always quick with the data that supports DEI initiatives. While we want people to understand the need for DEI from a simple human perspective, she knows that the business case is often what gets her foot in the door. 
  • Relationships: Building a strong and diverse network of relationships is key to Amelia’s professional success. We’ll explore this more below. 

Amelia’s approach to raising her voice, then, is to be herself, get to know others, and always be equipped with the facts. The rest is courage to speak up. And that is the ongoing journey all of us are on. 

Cultivating Relationships for Professional Growth 

Two women sitting on a window ledge and talking

Every relationship matters. Each one is intentionally built. 

And yet, they’re all different. 

Amelia fosters strong professional and personal relationships, each with a different role or purpose. When it comes to work, she believes you need to be strategic about broadening your community and network of people. 

Why? Because relationships are everything. 

Corporate America is not a pure meritocracy. At the top rungs, relationships are the most important thing you can have in your corner. Through relationships, you can: 

  • Find allies, sponsors, and mentors: By broadening your network, you find people who support you and are for you. 
  • Challenge your ideas: Intentionally connecting with people who look and think differently than you is key to personal and professional development. You will grow your mindset by challenging your ideas and staying open to new information. 
  • Network to new opportunities: More connections means the opportunity to find new roles or projects that meet your passions and skills. 
  • Receive support: There are people who can and want to help you in your journey. They may be colleagues or mentors, but also your friends and family. Find those people and accept their support to make you stronger. 
  • Pave the way for others: When you have a seat at the table, you’re making it easier for the next person to get there. Through relationships, you can support and lift up other marginalized people so they, too, can have their voices heard. 

While prioritizing relationships, you also need to prioritize being yourself in those relationships. Amelia noticed that people received her much better when she was authentic to who she was and didn’t try to be someone else. 

Relationships are the key to unlocking the club in corporate America. But, more than that, they’re really the key to unlocking life, aren’t they? Relationships add a beautiful, much-needed dimension to our lives and it’s important that we prioritize them. 

There was so much more wisdom from Amelia in the interview. Go back and check out episode 9 of Unlocking the Club podcast to hear it! You can also keep up with Amelia on LinkedIn.