Today, I’d like to share aspects of my story that have led me to the confident career woman you know today. What you’re about to read has made a tremendous difference along my success journey and can do the same for you should you decide to not only digest; but to also execute. This blueprint will encourage you to not only make 2022 your best year ever; but will also encourage you to live your best life ASAP!

Full disclosure: I’ll begin by saying I am someone who started in retail and stayed in that one industry for well over a decade. Yes, in leadership folding clothes at the Gap, straightening plush mountain aka the stuffed animals at The Disney Store, selling Bose speakers and surround sound systems as a Store Manager. I am someone who didn’t have a degree; who was stuck and dissatisfied personally as well as professionally. I am someone who did the opposite of what everyone around her was doing; which ultimately produced the life and career that I have today.

I switched industries for the first time in my career when I went from retail to banking. As a full-time employee working in banking, I started my business and completed my undergraduate degree. I also published 3 books, created online courses, wrote articles, became a College and Career Readiness Adjunct Professor, secured 1:1 clients as well as organizational clients, spent time with family and friends, took a few trips along the way plus I volunteered in my local community! After years of pursuing my definition of success, what I will say is: (1) lean into the possibility of living life by design instead of default (2) ask yourself the tough questions (3) have the courage to answer then make the necessary adjustments so you can experience life in ways that works best for you.

Here are my 5 personal and 5 professional tips that when applied, can make this your best year EVER:

#1) Invest in yourself and continue to do so. I purchase physical books and audio books. I attend trainings and workshops. I secure a therapist and coaches. I participate in fitness programs and mentoring programs. Why? Because I recognized that my identity had to change internally before I could ever experience the outcomes I truly desired. You will get to a point (if you haven’t already) where you’ll hit a ceiling and become stagnant because you’ve gone as far as you can go with the existing information you have. I even told myself at one point that I couldn’t afford to invest in my development…..until I realized I could no longer afford NOT to.

#2) Social distancing can limit exposure to COVID as well as people you need to disconnect from altogether. Bishop TD Jakes said something in a sermon titled Commitment that I watched several years ago: “Any relationship without reciprocity dies.” I was always the one checking on people; making sure that when others needed me, I was there. I was wearing myself out! As much as I loved everyone that I was self-sacrificing for, I decided to love myself even more. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help others or that you shouldn’t give and sometimes expect nothing in return. What I am suggesting is if you’re connected to an employer or an individual who consistently leaves you feeling empty – that’s a definite sign that something needs to change.

#3) When those closest to you don’t understand your ambition, find a tribe who does. If your family and friends aren’t throwing you an “I’m glad you’re changing for the better party”, find those who will. I promise if you’re trying to get to the next level and you’re surrounding yourself with others who are doing the same; they won’t criticize you for wanting better nor will they prefer to see you stuck, living in the past and settling for less than what you genuinely want and/or deserve.

#4) Have a plan for your what you’d like to achieve – that’s true for your personal desires as well as professional pursuits. I’m the planner who didn’t have a plan. It’s true and it’s on my website. I know what it’s like to live in absence of strategy. I know what inaction produces. I can assure you success requires strategy. Elon Musk at 50 years old is set to be the first trillionaire in the world! His results aren’t haphazard nor random. He planned; he strategized; he took some risks and more importantly he took action. I recommend that you do the same.

#5) Prioritize your health. Well-being is a trending topic now but this was a weakness of mine for YEARS! It wasn’t until I approached my 30’s when I started to seriously consider my physical health and my spiritual health. I then took a deeper look at my relationships and defined my criteria for healthy relationships. You will not find me around those who lack integrity, gossip, talk negatively about others, thrive on drama and prefer toxicity. I am surrounded by those who hold me accountable, who love me unconditionally and who are fierce protectors of me. Next, I evaluated my money; my financial health meaning my mindset in conjunction with my choices and the model I’d had the most exposure to.  I eventually begin to prioritize self-care – leaving myself on my to-do list and making sure I had fun on a regular basis. I even secured a meditation coach! If you’re going to live a life that you enjoy, you’ll need to give careful consideration to your: spiritual, physical, financial and emotional health as well as the overall health of your relationships.

As far as your career is concerned, here are 5 things I recommend:

#1) Brand yourself inside of the walls of your organization and in the marketplace. Your greatness should not be hidden; it should not be limited to one seat; on one level of one organization in one line of business. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we should seek opportunity and that’s true. What’s also true is that opportunity should find us! Trust me, someone is looking for what you have to offer but when you’ve become an invisible woman, you’ll be hard to find and will potentially miss out on beneficial opportunities.

#2) Build a team that will help you succeed. I made the mistake of performing well in absence of adequate support. I didn’t secure my first mentor until I was in my 30’s and that was after I relocated! The environment I was accustomed to achieving in wasn’t known for mentorship – you received an offer, performed well enough so you wouldn’t get fired and if you chose to, you would advance your career. You need a success squad that will hold you accountable, encourage you, challenge you, help you experience growth, advocate for you and ultimately help you reach your next level.

#3) Ask for what you want, need and deserve. The Great Resignation that’s currently being talked about has another side that we don’t talk about enough and that’s The Great Attraction. Employers are offering retention bonuses and are paying not only to retain top talent; but to incentivize candidates to join the company. What I can tell you for sure is that your work will not speak for you. You will need to ask for the promotion, the raise, the new title, the flexible schedule, the higher salary, development and training.

#4) Abandon any organization that does not reward and recognize you in a way that you feel is appropriate. I’ve worked for employers who failed to realize that my relationship with them was a partnership because their perspective was one of ownership. I totally understood there were rules I would need to abide by. However, once the wins were no longer mutual – it was time to break out my exit strategy. I’ve helped too many women over the years who were so excited about their new role (as they should be) but when they were ready to transition, they had no strategy and no social capital to accelerate their next move. Success has always required strategy and always will.

#5) Have boundaries. I made the decision in my 20’s to prioritize family. It’s a non-negotiable for me and one of the reasons I decided against the C-Suite. My observation of senior leadership at that point in my career was they were always on. Because I take my commitment seriously, I knew with zero doubt I wouldn’t be available when I was off and more than likely, I would definitely be unavailable after 9pm EST!  I am the employee who didn’t take her laptop home nor her work phone. I refused to log on Sunday evenings to beat the rush or spend an extra 30 min to knock something out real quick because I could work from home. The extras become excess over time and those exceptions that start out small become the expectation. If you want a better quality of life, less stress and prefer to prioritize self-care, say no more often so you can say yes to yourself.

Let’s make 2022 the best year of our lives – personally and professionally! We’ll have opportunities to make another dollar but what we don’t have, is the opportunity to make another minute.

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