I recently had the honor of speaking to a room full of women at Fordham University on taking charge of your career. The topic was selected specifically in recognition of Women’s History Month and to further gender equality. Women — and men — I encourage you to commit to helping yourself, and the women around you, to realize your ambitions, achieve gender-balanced leadership, value contributions equally and fight conscious and unconscious bias.
Related: 7 Myths About Career Transitions That Are Keeping You Stuck
Through intentional action, each of us can increase our impact and success. You can become a leader within your sphere of influence. You have the ability to take control of your career and your own advancement!
Here are the top six intentional actions you can take to advance yourself (and other women):
1. Develop yourself continually and purposefully
Great careers don’t happen by accident. Craft your own personal career development plan and ensure that you are developing your skills continually to stay on track. Seek out learning opportunities that excite you, and not only ones that are for your job. If you need ideas, ask co-workers or friends for recommendations. Ask them how they have developed themselves. Remember, developing yourself should be holistic. So, consider adding in an art class, a yoga class or something to enhance your creativity.
2. Seek out mentors
Mentorship is critical to your career development. I recommend selecting mentors based on the skills, qualities and experiences you want to emulate in your life. For example, if you want to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and have a balanced family life, then find someone whp has both! Today it is more effective to have a team of mentors that you can regularly consult to get advice and feedback. Gain useful insights from other women leaders by incorporating them into your Personal Board of Directors.
Related: 4 Powerful Ways to Prevent Burnout
3. Embrace networking
Make time to build and nurture your relationships. Consider organizing and tracking your communication to make networking easier. Use a tool, like Excel or color coding your contacts, to make it easier to recall details and dates. But remember — networking isn’t one-sided. So, before you approach your contacts, consider what you can offer them or how you can assist them in their career, business or personal endeavors.
4. Ask for what you want
Bosses aren’t mind readers — so, it’s important to ask for what you want. If you believe that you are ready for promotion, then ask for one, or ask what you need to do to be promoted. But whatever you’re asking for, make sure that you are thoughtful and intentional about your asks: (1) Be clear about what you want; (2) Consider who, when and how you will ask; (3) Identify potential barriers and work to remove them.
5. Say “yes” to opportunities
Typically when people say “no” to an opportunity, they convince themselves of why that was the right thing to do by creating a list of reasons. By fearing failure or anticipating the worst, we let our fears dictate our lives, rather than our desires and aspirations. So, make sure that you say “yes” to new opportunities that will grow, challenge and enrich you! By doing so, you will open more doors, meet new people and create change for yourself and others.
6. Give back and pay it forward
As women, the more we advance, the more opportunities we have to inspire and guide women in their careers. Remember the times when you received the support of women and how their help enabled you to get you where you are today. Make time to share your learnings, support other women in their careers and celebrate their success.
Each one of us, women and men, can create change. Every day is just another reminder to take pragmatic actions become a leader, elevate others and to take charge of your career!