I was asked the following 5 questions during a recent interview. While answering the questions, I was reminded of the moments when I lacked clarity; how much effort it takes to be seen as credible, the role confidence plays in goal achievement and that pivoting properly in your career can result in long-term success. It is my sincere hope that as I share an aspect of my journey, you will somehow be encouraged and/or inspired during this season of uncertainty.

Why did you decide to earn your degree? I grew up with the success blueprint that included: go to school, get a good job, save some money and you’ll be fine. When I graduated from high school, I was working but online classes weren’t an option at that time. After several unsuccessful attempts of balancing full-time work as a leader in retail with physically taking classes on campus, I chose full-time employment. I later returned to college as a non-traditional student taking advantage of online classes so that my education would align with the many years of leadership I experienced post-high school.

Are there any “seminal” moments from your educational journey? When something just clicked, or when you were able to immediately apply something you learned to your career? I would have to say there are both seminal and intentional moments from my educational journey. Because I pursued my degree later in life when I had clarity, I selected classes that would serve as a foundation for both short-term and long-term success. From the perspective of intentionality, my elective courses were centered around entrepreneurship. Having to write and submit a business plan that I would refer to many years later greatly influenced the success I’m experiencing today with my business Confident Career Woman. I’ve revisited that business plan multiple times over the years; it has served as both the foundation for my professional success and the fuel that has accelerated the growth I’m experiencing today.

–How has your Strayer degree served you since graduating? As a Career Coach, having the experience as well as the education has made me more credible. When I started my business, I anticipated the question “What qualifies you to do this work?” Because I didn’t have my degree at that time, I had to be clear on the value I bring to the marketplace; not only with individual coaching clients but also with organizations and corporations who partner with me to facilitate workshops. In addition, when I secured my role in academia as an Adjunct Professor, having a degree was a requirement for the role. My degree has positioned me to strategically advance both my business and my career.

–Tell me a little about your company: how it got started, what you love most about it, your mission, etc. I realized the blueprint that worked for previous generations wasn’t working for me. My lack of success at that time wasn’t because of my work ethic; it was due to a lack of information. Entrepreneurship wasn’t taught but neither was interviewing skills. I started my business from a place of pain and purpose; pain in understanding that although interviewing is something I do extremely well -that’s not true for others. It is the one skill needed to secure and sustain employment, but isn’t necessarily taught. What happens when a person can’t land a job because they don’t interview well? How will they sustain themselves? Where will they live? How can they build wealth? The painful reality of knowing this sparked a business idea, but it also led me into my purpose.

My company is a consulting firm that partners with organizations and individuals by providing strategy, guidance and interview mastery for professional women who are looking to advance their careers. I am now on a mission to help 1M women around the globe advance their careers through my online course platform Confident Career Woman.com. My free courses: SWOT Your Way To The Top, Ditch The Downplay and How To Communicate With Confidence And Credibility tackle 3 of the most common barriers to workplace success for women: failing to manage their career like a business, avoiding self-advocacy (downplaying their value), and strategically preparing for interviews from a communication perspective.

If there’s one thing I love about this work that I believe God created me to do, it’s being in the background. As an introvert, I’m perfectly fine not being in the spotlight. However, I love equipping, empowering and encouraging others to experience professional success. Whether it’s my books, my podcast, a social media post, a coaching session or a workshop, I truly enjoy seeing others grow, achieve their goals and succeed.

What do you think the most important thing is when it comes to career planning? Your one piece or advice? I would have to say when it comes to career planning that everyone should understand and leverage the power of transferrable skills. When you can identify your skills and articulate the results they produce that benefit an organization, you can expand your career options AND increase your salary. An example of this would be when I transitioned into banking from retail as a Financial Center Manager having never worked in the industry. I transitioned a second time many years later when I became a College and Career Readiness Adjunct Professor and my degree isn’t in Education. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say there’s a difference between career planning and career management. Unfortunately, the mistake people make is they stop at career planning and in essence, they fail to manage their career. Career planning by definition is the process by which one selects career goals and the path to achieving these goals. Career management on the other hand, is a process of investing resources to accomplish your future career goals. It is continuous and it encompasses: self-awareness, career development planning/career exploration, life-long learning and networking.

Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: ErickaSpradley.com