How to Reach the Next Level in Your Career

By: Ericka Spradley

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I find it interesting that people will make assumptions on the current chapter of your life without fully understanding how you landed “here.”

Although my bio reads well today, that wasn’t always the case. I actually struggled with complacency for most of my life because I didn’t realize I was in my comfort zone. I managed to progress within the walls of various organizations while I subconsciously remained confined to the limits of my mind, as well as my zip code.

My career didn’t “take off” until my late thirties. I started a business at 38 and graduated from college at 40, only to become an author and adjunct professor shortly thereafter. This article is written for those of you who feel “it’s too late,” for those of you who are wondering what it takes to accomplish success “later in life,” and for those of you who may be feeling discouraged professionally.

Here are the five things I incorporated that not only changed my career; they actually changed my life.

1) Expand your thinking.

I can remember reading Black Enterprise prior to starting my business. I would ask myself the “tough questions” about my bank account, my goals, and my choices.

It was then I recognized I needed to unlearn some things I’d held as “truth” for far too long. By reading my Bible and books such as “The Wealth Choice” and “The Success Principles,” I was able to renew my mind, create a new reality, and think beyond my current environment.

[Related: Five Signs You’re Already Successful]

2) Use fear as fuel.

Not only did I withdraw the balance of my 401k without another job in the wings in 2006, but I actually relocated eighteen months later to a city where I didn’t know a soul!

At some point, I had to believe in myself enough to know that even when things don’t work out as plan, I learn along the way. I also recognized that I could choose fear or faith, that they don’t co-exist, and that one yields way better results than the other. Now it’s onward and upward — faith forward.

3) Create a vision.

Did I mention I was the planner who didn’t have a plan? I spent way too many years winging it! What I can share with 100% certainty is vague goals produce vague results; distractions are plentiful and it’s easy to remain off-course if you haven’t charted a course to begin with.

If you haven’t identified your career goals both short- and long-term, today is the best day to start. Simply make three columns; in the first column, capture your goals; in the middle column, number them by priority; and in the third column, capture the completion date. You now have a vision — take action.

[Related: How to Take Back Control of Your Life for a Happy Career and Balanced Lifestyle]

4) Stay abreast of trends (industry and hiring).

You have mastery within you. You do something so well that it takes minimal effort to achieve success in this space. Whatever that “thing” is, operate in that space and own it as if it it’s your first name.

In addition, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your organization as well as your industry. At any point in time, you must be able to engage in a business conversation and articulate how your role impacts the organization, as well as what your strengths are.

Let’s not forget your resume must be current and your interviewing skills should be stellar. It’s nearly impossible to land your next role without a resume and the ability to interview with excellence.

5) Have support.

I am eternally grateful for my family, friends, mentors, followers, advocates, and sponsors. I decided my dream was too important and that I couldn’t let it fail because approaching strangers was uncomfortable.

I surround myself with those who “get it,” meaning my purpose and goals. I surround myself with people who “get me,” meaning those who love me enough to support me, tell me the truth, and hold me accountable. I also surround myself with those who complement my weaknesses, meaning individuals who are strong in areas where I need assistance.

Build your success team from the ground up if need be, just don’t attempt to reach your next level alone, because success is never a solo act. Also, understand that you are the CEO of your life. As Tony Gaskins says:

You decide who gets to be promoted, demoted, and terminated on your success team.

By incorporating these simple strategies, I became so self-aware that I was able to launch a business and finish college, all while working full-time.

These strategies not only took me to the next level in my career, but also elevated who I am as a person. Just know: It’s not too late for you to reach your next level — your time is now!

[Related: Strength in Numbers: Find Your Squad!]

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. She 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

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