Whenever you hear the phrase “the new black”, understand that it’s typically synonymous with “the hottest new thing.” Unfortunately, what isn’t new is the lingering trend reflecting the absence of Black professionals in the C-Suite in conjunction with ongoing challenges that hinder advancement. Whether it’s a lack of leadership accountability in organizations, turning a blind eye to bias or simply no strategic plans that focus on the development of minority talent into senior leadership, there is one aspect of your career you can focus on that will provide a positive ROI. That one thing is social capital.
Social capital can be defined as the practice of developing and maintaining relationships that form social networks willing to help each other. Now more than ever, you’ll need a team who can help you succeed professionally because opportunities for upward mobility in companies nationwide are still extremely limited for us in comparison to our counterparts. Whether it’s mentorship or an advocate opening a door you can’t access, climbing the corporate leadership ladder cannot be a solo venture. With this in mind, investing in social capital must be as intentional as exceeding performance expectations. The undeniable reality is your network can take you places your education and experience won’t; yet we have a tendency to pride ourselves on doing the work in the absence of building, cultivating and sustaining relationships.
Recently, The National Black MBA Association published “A Preliminary Report On The State Of Black Professionals” detailing factors that impede the success of Black professionals as well as the strategic steps individuals can take that serve as a catalyst for change in levels of representation. One of those recommended steps is to develop an aligned strategic support system relevant to the professional’s career objectives. As you consider your social capital strategy this year, I suggest soliciting individuals based on the following criteria: members, mindset and mutually beneficial outcomes.
• Members: The individuals in your network should include Peer Mentors, Senior Mentors, Coaches and Sponsors who can role model behaviors, expose you to opportunities and offer feedback that accelerates your success. It’s no longer optional that you have a portfolio of relationships at every level of your career who can help you clarify your brand and leverage your leadership voice; it’s a requirement.
• Mindset: Growth, impact and acceleration must be top of mind for you as well as those you surround yourself with. Aligning your relationships with your career goals should be a deliberate practice as you seek self-awareness so you can execute with clarity while abandoning complacency.
• Mutually beneficial outcomes: According to Bishop TD Jakes, any relationship without reciprocity dies. While your relationships may introduce wisdom, guidance, feedback and can help you establish a clear model of success, you must be willing to give once you position yourself to receive.
I was once told black never goes out of style. If social capital is the newblack, we can’t afford to neglect the one aspect of our careers that we not only have 100% control over, but that will also accelerate our professional success for years to come.
Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHerOfficer/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