5 Ways To Spur Your Career Forward

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Aug. 16 2019, Published 4:00 a.m. ET

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No matter how you feel about your work-life right now—whether you find yourself in a rut, at a crossroads or progressing smoothly—there’s always room to take the next step in your career. You own your career, after all, and it’s up to you to stay in the game and ahead of the pack. 

But what does it take to make that leap? It means you’ll have to transform your mind and enhance your skills to prepare for an ever-changing world.

Here are five specific ways that you can spur your career forward:

1. Get Rid Of Your Limiting Mindset

Negative thoughts will hold you back in your career before anything else can. So banish “I can’t” from your vocabulary, and stop waiting for things to happen. Instead, become your own advocate and ask for what you want—better opportunities, a pay raise, a promotion. To do that, you have to believe you deserve it and that you can earn it.

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We should all follow actress Gwendoline Christie’s example. Christie played Brienne of Tarth in the wildly popular series Game of Thrones.  Her work was met with huge acclaim, but HBO did not submit her name for consideration for a 2019 Emmy. So Christie did it herself, and now she’s one of six Emmy nominees in the Outstanding Support Actress in a Drama category. We can learn from her example: Christie believed in herself, advocated for her work, and was catapulted forward. This is how you spur your career to new heights! 

2. Go Back To School

Don’t let the lack of an advanced degree keep you out of the room. MBAs are often a prerequisite for a promotion or key to getting a better job, and can help you to build a long-lasting network you can tap into for future growth opportunities. Going back to business school isn’t just about the faculty or the curriculum (although those are great, and will help you learn a ton) it’s about the connections you forge during the process.

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This August, Her Agenda Founder and CEO Rhonesha Byng will appear at the NYC Forté MBA Forum on August 28th. Forté MBA Forums are designed for all women considering career growth opportunities, whether you’re a high-achiever looking to change careers, a college student planning for the future, or a professional ready to take your career to the next level.  And they’re not just in New York: Forté offers a number of free forums across the country. Take advantage of this free resource and use it to help you explore the value of an MBA. You’ll also get application advice, tips on how to finance your MBA and you’ll make critical connections with top business schools. Attend one near you!

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3. Get A Sponsor

Sponsors open doors for you and help you secure opportunities and visibility you can’t get on your own. They’re different than mentors: mentors are advisors who pass along wisdom and tips, while sponsors are advocates who will put your name up for a job or suggest you for a speaking engagement. A mentor is good, but a sponsor changes the game. As women, research shows we are often over-mentored but under-sponsored. So, it’s time to cultivate some sponsors.

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The best way to reach out to a potential sponsor is by establishing and building a relationship with people already in your network—people with whom you already have credibility. Reach out to potential sponsors to set up a lunch or coffee date, and let them know what opportunities you are looking for, which projects you’ve just completed and what skills you’ve just built. Ask them to think of you and recommend you if opportunities become available. Be sure to reciprocate and pay it forward—find ways to be of value to your sponsors, and consider serving as a sponsor to a woman who’s not quite as far along in her career. 

4. Get A Compass, Not A Clock

Be concerned about where you are going, not how long it takes. Accomplishing your goals takes time, and that’s nothing to be afraid of. As Jay Z says, “patience and persistence” are keys to getting ahead.

You may not know what opportunities or jobs you want, or where you want to go with your career but you probably know how you want to be perceived. Do you want the world to think of you as hardworking, excellent, focused, and someone who gets things done? Then put that into practice through your daily tasks—your peers and colleagues will notice, and you’ll earn the recognition and respect you need to progress in your career. 

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5. Keep Your Receipts

Document your accomplishments. You are in charge of your career, which means you keep the receipts. Start a brag book: every time you accomplish something like learning a new skill or completing a tough project, write it down. That way you can easily quantify your achievements and communicate the value you bring to your team and organization. Don’t let other people determine your value, they will get it wrong. Keep track of it for yourself.

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Use your book to send updates to sponsors, so they will know what new opportunities you are looking for. If you don’t have anything to write in a brag book, then it’s time for a change. A winning career often means knowing when it’s time to move on from a job that doesn’t make you feel excited or energized anymore. There’s a level of discomfort that comes with embracing new opportunities. Embrace it.

You own your career, and you get to determine your future. Too often we give our power over to companies or bosses—we sit in the passenger seat instead of taking control and driving our career forward. So put these five steps into action, and you’ll definitely spur your career forward. Remember, you are an intelligent and powerful being. Walk through the fear and claim the career you deserve.


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By: Sonia Layne-Gartside

Sonia Layne-Gartside is an accomplished Global Consultant. She works with C-Suite and senior leaders in Fortune 500 companies as a strategic partner to lead Organization Development (OD), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and HR strategy execution activities. Sonia holds advanced certification in change management from Prosci®, and she is certified as a Master Trainer, DEI Specialist, Case Writer, and Instructional Designer. Her undergraduate degree is in Business Management and her master’s degree is in Education. She is an International Speaker and author of the book Workplace Anxiety: How to Refuel and Re-Engage. In acknowledgement of her work and innovative practices, Sonia was recognized as the 2021 “Leader of the Year” by the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association’s (PHRA). She describes herself as a cheerleader for people and ideas.

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