As women of color, Black women have faced countless obstacles to leadership and decision-making roles in their respective fields, including navigating systemic discrimination and microaggressions. One of the critical factors that can make all the difference in enhancing professional development and growth is building a solid support system of allies, mentors, sponsors, coaches, and managers.
A support system is a group of people who can offer guidance, feedback, and encouragement to help you overcome obstacles and advance in your career. These individuals can come from various backgrounds, professions, and experiences. They should be people with your best interests at heart and willing to invest time and energy into your success.
This blog post will discuss the importance of building a robust network and provide practical strategies for Black women executives to create meaningful relationships that support and champion their growth.
Identifying Your Support System
The first step in building a powerful support system is identifying the individuals who could best support your career goals.
- Consider the types of people you need to connect with to advance your career, such as mentors and coaches who provide guidance and feedback or sponsors who have the power to advance your career through endorsements and exposure.
- Consider individuals from diverse backgrounds and professions to broaden your network. Building relationships with individuals from different backgrounds and experiences can offer a unique perspective and insights that can further your career development.
- Look for people who share your values, vision, and goals to help you create a community that can support and uplift each other in the journey to success.
Cultivating Meaningful Relationships
Building relationships takes time, effort, and mutual trust. To cultivate meaningful relationships:
- Take the initiative to reach out to potential allies, mentors, sponsors, coaches, and managers.
Attend networking events and participate in webinars or online communities to connect with individuals who share your expertise.
- Take the time to learn about your connections’ backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
- Ask relevant questions and listen actively to understand their needs and how you can offer support in return.
- Be willing to offer help when needed and be responsive to requests for assistance.
- Ensure that the individuals have your best interest at heart by getting to know them and understanding their reason for helping you. And be wary of those who only seek to take advantage of you for personal gain.
Leveraging Your Relationships
Once you have identified and cultivated relationships with those in your support system, it is crucial to leverage these connections to advance your career.
- Your support network can open opportunities, provide feedback, endow new ideas, and introduce you to new professional resources.
- Maintaining an open communication channel and providing updates about your professional growth will keep these individuals abreast of how they can help you further.
- Keep an inventory of how you can support your network members, this highlights your commitment to the mutual success of everyone, and it helps to solidify the partnership and increase mutual respect.
The Role of Your Manager
Although the above three points focus on external support, it’s essential to note the role played by your manager as they are a critical component of your support system.
- Building a positive relationship with your manager can make all the difference in your career growth and development.
- Managers are responsible for providing developmental opportunities, supervising your work and giving feedback, advocating for resources you might need, and offering general guidance.
- Stay in close communication with your manager, ensuring that you align your career goals and developmental needs, and communicate about your personal needs, such as working from home because you have young children are are a caregiver.
Building a solid support system is essential for the career success of Black women. It takes work to achieve success on your own, and everyone can benefit from having a group of people who champion their goals and vision. Take the time to identify, cultivate, and leverage your relationships. Remember, if you want to succeed in the long term, it will require a long-term investment of time and energy. Don’t go it alone; seek the community to inspire and be inspired.