Social Capital is “The New Black”

By: Ericka Spradley

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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 you’re facing a lack of leadership accountability in organizations, management turning a blind eye to bias, or simply no strategic planning that focuses 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.

[Related: How Women Can Create Networks for Success]

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 that 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.

[Related: 5 Challenges Faced By Women Entrepreneurs of Color]

One of those recommended steps is developing 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 that 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, and 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 new black, 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.

[Related: 5 Ways The Incredibly Well-Connected Build Social Capital]

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.

Originally published at

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