We’ve all had moments where we thought back on our career and either smiled with a sense of pride and achievement, or scoffed out of unmitigated frustration. In either case, our career progression can be a source of confusion when thinking about the long term goals and how to go about approaching the next level of success—especially as a womxn of color, this path forward can be even more unclear.
I’m also willing to bet that you may not be thinking beyond your next raise or promotion. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with short actions for quick wins. In fact, I’m a huge fan of this approach in the right context. But what happens when you move from job-to-job, employer-to-employer, and you look back to only see you’re doing the exact same thing you were doing seven years ago, making only $10,000 more than when you first start and you’re not even entirely happy doing your current job. I mean let’s be honest, you can probably do your manager’s job better than her on your worst day. This is not an uncommon occurrence. It’s really hard to keep prospective over a long period of time. It’s easy to set into a place of complacency which hinders growth. Life isn’t built pre-programmed with reminders for professional and career up-leveling which is all the more reason to take extra consideration when thinking about “what’s next” after this.
Here’s the good news!
Not all is lost, I promise. No matter how far you’ve gone down an unintended career path, or how long you’ve been occupying your current job, your next move is only as good and as aggressive as you make it (or don’t make it). You are literally the gatekeeper to your future. This is why having a robust, thorough, thoughtful and intentional career strategy is absolutely essential, it’s really a non-negotiable. If you’re looking for a tool that will keep you honest and accountable, this may be just exactly what you need. However, I do caution, that implementing this only works if you’re willing to keep this at the forefront of thought consistently. Because this strategy doesn’t take into account daily or even monthly actions, your career strategy may simply be forgotten or deprioritized in the haste of life.
So, what is a career strategy?
Quite simply, it’s a plan—not just any plan but one that outlines both a long-term goal outlined with smaller short term milestones leading up to your end result. A strong career strategy will also speak to what it will take for you to make it to the next milestone and how long. Your strategy could include things like securing a certain level of education, obtaining industry certifications, advancing to a senior-level position in two years, or even becoming an expert with a specific skill set or knowledge base. Your strategy will be completely varied from everyone else and entirely customized to you. There’s no right or wrong, it’s all about getting you to the next step. I always encourage several iterations especially as you think about what you ultimately want to do.
Does this all sound great, you but you still aren’t sold?
No worries, I completely get. Instead of me convincing you why this is a good idea, it might be worth explaining why NOT having one could be more detrimental to your career progression and growth.
You risk leaving $$$ on the table. Yep, I said it. Okay, money isn’t everyone’s motivator, but for women and black women especially, there’s a good chance you’re already underpaid largely due to the pay gap that unfortunately is inherent in today’s workplace. Therefore, even if you aren’t chasing the American dollar or wanting to climb the corporate ladder, you should still demand to be equitably compensated for equal work. Full stop. Having a career strategy will account for this variable because you will have performed the market research for your current and future jobs. You will understand what your peers in the industry are making agnostic of their race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity which in turn will enable you to move accordingly. You can give yourself the advantage of understanding what certain employers are paying, what industries compensated better than others. Your analysis could even delve into what regions and countries you can expect a higher salary in should you be open to relocation.
You nip stagnancy and boredom in the ass. Yep, I said this too. Let’s be real. We all get bored at work. We all get unmotivated at times. We all enjoy the regular pay paycheck. We all find some sort of comfort in things being the same in consistency. None of this is bad.You should be striving for a certain level of comfort and complacency before seeking out a more difficult role. In fact, that probably should be your naturally-occuring nudge to start to seek out something more challenging, or at the very least something different. Your career strategy should acknowledge your innate inclinations, meaning, if you know after one year you will likely master your job and boredom starts to creep in, your strategy should plan for the “next thing.” Perhaps, a small promotion, consider a lead role, mentoring or junior-level management opportunities, or something more based in educational advancements, again this can get as creative as you make it.
You’re challenging and changing stereotypes and the prevailing order. Uh huh, I’m going here, too. Let’s acknowledge stereotypes exist for better or worse, and I know you’re not ignorant to the few that work for and the many that work against black women. I completely understand the mere fact that your having a career strategy doesn’t mean the universe will automatically fall into formation and things will align perfectly. It’s not lost upon me that your career trajectory may not be what you planned and won’t be able to do what you set out to do, but what if you not only accomplish what you set out to do, but you progress faster than what you planned and you’re ready for the challenge. This is the prevailing order I want you to dust. As you advance and make those strides you are slowly chipping away at an unfair system that has been placed on you. This is a right you are owed.
At this point, I can only hope I’ve convinced you enough to at least consider making a plan. If so, I hope you’re thinking about next steps.
Since I’ve become an action-oriented person at my old age, I would never allow you to walk away from this conversation without having a tangible, yet, pragmatic action item for you to enact upon.
So first things first on creating a career strategy. If you haven’t DOWNLOAD MY ULTIMATE CAREER PLANNING GUIDE. It has twelve tabs of amazing content and worksheets to help you flush out your plan.
Here’s what I want you to think about two-ish things next:
In five years what JOB or POSITION do you see yourself holding?
If it’s in your current industry or domain, what (additional) education do you need to get there? Does it require a career transition?
What preparatory roles will it take for you to get there?
What’s your time frame for reaching these short-term and long term goals?
Does your current job lend to this goal? Do they have the tools, resources, and abilities to make this happen for you?
Do you want to consider working there?
If not, what companies or industries do you want to consider next?
How do you break the barrier there if it’s new to you?
What does your professional network look like?
What salary do you want to make?
Is it “realistic” given the nature of the position, your location, experience, education, company, industry, and parity?
This quick outline is a super quick approach that anyone can apply right now. The idea is for you to keep drilling down into the details until you have a timeline, ONE goal, miles, an approach, and your contingency plan woven into it.
One thing to note is that this is an evolving exercise. You will revisit this in 3-6 months and realize you’re ahead or behind schedule and you’ll have to adjust and pivot. Hopefully you’ve accounted for it in your overall strategy, but if not that’s okay. You can course correct! That’s the beauty of this all. YOU control this, no one else.
You just have to get started and I’ll be right there to support you!
Meet you at the top!
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Chief Everything Officer/Only Operating Officer at The Cultured Career and Workfluence; Tech HR Executive; Forbes HR Council Member, Human Resources and Personal Branding Expert, Diversity, Equity + Inclusion Enthusiast. Your personal hype woman—I unabashedly bully you into believing your dopeness, potential, and greatness. Somewhere comfortably located between glitter and gangsta where my black girl magic is shining.