Empowering Underrepresented Employees: Carving Out Your Career Path to THRIVE

June 11, 2024
Carving Out Your Career Path to THRIVE

Throughout my career, I have often been a “first,” a “few,” or an “only.” I have been the first BIPOC person in certain leadership roles, one of only a few women in committees, and the only Black woman in the room. Through these experiences (and confirmed by my research), I am well aware that it can be exceedingly difficult to be a first, a few, or an only. Doors do not open as easily; making connections and finding resources can be annoyingly difficult. As I discussed in my last blog post, those in the majority are provided with more opportunities to succeed, including mentorships, sponsors, and access to company leadership.

Though many workplaces are attempting to improve the experience of underrepresented employees, progress can be slow and, at times, it is necessary for the firsts, fews, and onlys to be their own advocates and carve their own career paths. Here are 5 ways to do that:

Determine Your Career Goals

If you want to succeed in your place of employment, it is absolutely essential to determine your career goals. What is your ultimate aspiration? How high do you want to rise? Mapping out your objectives and aspirations will clarify the path forward, as well as what resources and contacts you might need. Defining your goals will also help others determine how best to help or support you.

Communicate Your Goals

Once you have mapped out your goals, it is a good idea to communicate them to your supervisors or mentors. By sharing your career goals, you allow others to understand how they can assist you in reaching them. This transparency can help you garner support, guidance, and opportunities that align with your ambitions. Additionally, it can provide clarity on your career direction to those around you. Remember, advocating for yourself and articulating your aspirations is a crucial step in paving your own successful career path as an underrepresented employee.

Seek Mentors and Sponsors

One of the best ways to advance in an organization is to develop professional relationships with a mentor and/or sponsor. The difference between a mentor and a sponsor is that a mentor provides guidance and advice, while a sponsor actively advocates for you and your career advancement. Seek individuals in your organization who understand your goals, are eager to help, and are well-placed or well-respected within the organization. Building these relationships can provide you with valuable insights, opportunities, and support to overcome challenges and reach your full potential.

Pursue Learning Opportunities

Demonstrate your dedication to your professional growth by actively pursuing learning opportunities and engaging in training programs. Stay informed about industry trends and developments to enhance your skill set and stay competitive in your field. Continuous learning not only boosts your expertise but also shows your commitment to personal development. By seizing educational chances, you showcase your proactive approach to advancing your career and establishing yourself as a valuable asset within your organization.

To get started, check out Uplifting Impact’s workshops and training opportunities.

Network with Other Firsts/Fews/Onlys

It can be incredibly helpful to network with other underrepresented professionals to offer each other support, guidance, and inspiration. By connecting with others who share similar experiences, you can build a community that fosters growth and empowerment. Share insights, strategies, and challenges to navigate the complexities of being a first, a few, or an only. Collaborating with peers who understand your journey can provide valuable perspectives and encouragement. I know first-hand the challenges of being a first, a few, or an only. But I also believe most obstacles can be overcome with hard work, ingenuity, and persistence. Be intentional about your career plan, form strategic partnerships, and don’t forget to celebrate milestones and victories along the way. You have the power to carve your own path.


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