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How to Build an Empowered Career in 2023

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By Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of The DeBruce Foundation

As you reflect on your career this past year, what were your highlights? What were your accomplishments? How did you grow? Take a moment to give yourself credit for all you’ve done.

As you look ahead to 2023, how do you hope to grow in your career journey? You might be looking to grow in your current job, pivot to a new career, return to the workforce, or even enter it for the first time.

While you dream and plan for the months ahead, I’d love to share with you some research-backed tips to help you build an empowered career this year. 

In the fall of 2020, The DeBruce Foundation initiated research to assess patterns of employment, income, and work conditions in America. After surveying 16,000 people, the research revealed crucial insights on how to build a resilient career, no matter how the workforce is trending. 

What we learned from the research is this: there are two keys to building a career that has higher wages, better benefits, less risk of unemployment, and more. These two keys are career literacy and network strength

In our study, participants who have high career literacy and network strength earn 55% more in annual salary and 26% more of them are currently employed, compared to people who are low in career literacy and network strength. 

This formula, career literacy + network strength = employment empowerment, provides tangible steps for building successful careers. And, the good news is that you can build your career literacy and network strength, and therefore you can change the trajectory of your career. Here’s how you can get started today:

Increase your career literacy 

The first factor in building an empowered career is increasing your career literacy. This knowledge is what helps you navigate a constantly changing employment landscape. When you have high career literacy, you are better able to adapt and position yourself for success. 

1. Gain awareness of your skills and interests

Every day, you use skills that are valuable in the workforce. The key is knowing what they are, and which you best like using. Then, you can figure out how you would like to use them in your career. 

For example, you might have picked up an extra project at work that allowed you to manage a team for the first time–and it was a success! If you liked it, you might want to pursue steps toward a management role. Or, while volunteering at your local food pantry, you might have realized how much you love serving and caring for others. This could help you figure out that you would want to pivot to a new role that heavily uses those skills–such as being a social worker, nurse, or librarian. The Agile Work Profiler can help you get started identifying your work skills. 

2. Communicate your professional value

Now that you have a better idea of your work skills, it’s time to act on them. Get to know the many ways your skills are used in the workforce. When networking, interviewing, or advocating for yourself within your current role, share about your newfound managing skills and your passion for serving others. Highlight your relevant and transferable skills in your resume and LinkedIn profiles, showing employers the value you can bring to their company.

3. Build a vision for your career

As you look ahead, what do you want your career to look like? Especially in the midst of a busy life, it’s easy to forget to think about the big picture. Take some time to consider what your ideal future career looks like. Here are some questions to prompt your thoughts: 

  • What do you spend your time doing each day? Is it alongside a big team or mostly on your own? Does it vary each day or does it have a predictable routine? 
  • Where do you do your work– in an office, classroom, your home? What does your schedule look like? 
  • What do you need to earn, in salary and benefits, to build financial stability and savings? 
  • What role does your job play in you pursuing your interests and living out your values? 

Start building your vision–I encourage you to even draw it out on a piece of paper–so you can take the steps needed to bring your vision to life. 

4. Search for jobs–and explore options outside your current career path

With knowledge of your skills and interests, a vision for your future, and the ability to communicate your value, you’re ready to jump into your job search. Our research shows that the individuals who have empowered careers consider 17% more jobs outside of their current career path. 

If you’ve always been in one type of role, don’t let that pigeonhole you. Our workforce is increasingly seeing that an individual can pivot to a different sector, bringing transferable skills and fresh perspectives to their new role. I encourage you to look into 2-3 career paths that you’ve never considered before! 

Broaden, diversify, and strengthen your network

The next vital factor in building an empowered career is having a network around you that is vast, reliable, and diverse. Why? Because your network can help you see the career marketplace from a vantage point you don’t have. They can make personal introductions to parts of the workforce you may have never considered or experienced. And, you can do the same for them!

This year, I encourage you to meet…

  • one person who has a different education level than you
  • one person who has a different social experience than you
  • one person who works in a different industry than you

Whether it’s connecting via LinkedIn and Zoom, through a personal introduction and coffee, or another way, you both will be better positioned for adding another caring person to your network. 

As you look ahead to 2023, remember that each of the above steps contributes to an empowered career. Remember the value you have and your ability to take steps toward your goals. All of us at The DeBruce Foundation are cheering you on as you build your empowered career in the new year! 

Want to learn more about building career literacy and network strength for an empowered career?

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