“I want to run a business.” Not an unusual aspiration, except that I was 16 when I decided that was my aspiration. Now, based on my limited life experience at the age of 16 and as a minority female, it was clear to me that the odds weren’t in my favor to achieve this. This was reinforced by the fact that I didn’t see any African American female CEO’s when I started looking at who held these jobs. Heck, I didn’t see them in the executive ranks in general.
So, I needed to figure out how to increase my odds for success. I needed a plan.
- Step one, I needed credibility, so I chose Wharton - check.
- Step two, I needed a growing industry in which to build my career because growing industries create more career opportunities faster, so I chose technology in the ‘80’s - check
- Step three, get hired by a leading tech firm with a good reputation that invests in talent, I chose IBM - check
I won’t take you through all my steps. But I share the first few so you understand the importance of building a plan to achieve your aspirations so that you can actually achieve your goals. The key to building a good plan is doing your homework. You need to research the people who achieve the roles you want, understand their career path and choices. Listen to advice - it’s free and often quite valuable if you leverage it. I wasn’t thinking about what industry to choose until I heard a speaker at Wharton talk about the correlation of industry growth and career opportunity growth. So I applied it to my career plan in Step 2.
Every day, we read about the challenges faced by women and minorities in the workplace. The challenges are real, but they are surmountable. Take the time to do the research, build a plan and then execute on the plan by making choices everyday consistent with the plan. I’m a living proof that this approach can work.