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A Conversation with a Career Strategist

Sonia Alleyne, author and career strategist, recently sat down with Bronze Magazine to discuss life as a career strategist, the inspiration behind her work journal, and strategies for achieving success in the workplace.

How did you become a career strategist?

I was offered the position of Careers Editor at Black Enterprise Magazine and I accepted it. I knew nothing about how to effectively manage a career at that time, but I got to work with and interview some of the most powerful executives and coaches in corporate America for several years. Once I realized that there were specific strategies that professionals could apply to transform their work experiences, I redesigned the content to offer these strategies to our audience, but I also began sharing this advice with mentees and friends. Because of my position, I was offered speaking engagements and then I got the opportunity to co-author a book called, “Good is Not Enough: And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals.” I was also asked to join the launch team for the Women of Power Summit, and became one of the founding editorial directors. It is a conference that was designed to give black women the tools they needed to advance their career goals.                 

Share the inspiration behind your work journal for women called “I Kick Ass At Work!” What kind of information is in the journal?

I was feeling ineffective at work. In fact, I was beating myself up that I hadn’t been as productive as I felt I could have been. This feeling prompted me to create a list of accomplishments. When I completed the list, I was in awe of all I had accomplished. My response to myself was, “I Kick Ass At Work!” In that moment I was inspired to create this journal that is the first of its kind to help women document their accomplishments as they happen. The further you move away from an achievement, the less you remember about it. This journal would provide a dedicated space to tell a complete and accurate professional story. Secondly, I wanted women to journal about their work experiences so they could be held more accountable for their actions and behavior at work. I call it a strategy journal because it has tactical advice and information to guide readers while they are journaling and documenting their professional journey.

I was inspired to create this journal that is the first of its kind to help women document their accomplishments as they happen.

What are the strategies that promote career success?

There are many, such as understanding the culture of your organization, knowing the difference between a mentor and sponsor, developing a strong network, and the importance of seeking feedback. In the journal I also talk a lot about managing emotions and knowing that through the power of choice, women have much more power and many more options than they are sometimes willing to own.    

How do we stay at the top of our game working our jobs from home during COVID-19?

It is important to be aware of how these changes in society are affecting your organization and your industry and then equip yourself to be more valuable in those areas as your organization makes its adjustments. This is also a great time to take classes. Many schools, including Stanford and Harvard, are offering free online courses. Some of them charge a small fee for certification. This is the perfect time to enhance your skill set and make yourself more valuable in the workforce.

What is the purpose of regular journaling in the work place?

It allows you to examine your emotional and practical patterns so that you can make smarter decisions about what needs to be changed or enhanced. It helps you be better prepared to discuss work evaluations. Most importantly, it forces you to be more deliberate and accountable in the parts you play in reaching or sabotaging your goals.

What are some behaviors/actions that can sabotage your goals?

Some of those behaviors include not understanding the culture of your organization, not being clear and decisive about your professional goals, allowing your emotions to dictate your behavior, allowing fear to stop you from exploring new opportunities, being distracted by workplace drama, and not playing the game. It is a game. You don’t have to play dirty, but you do have to engage.

Why is it important to be recognized in the workplace?

It is only important if you want to advance in your organization. There are many people who are satisfied with doing a job and going home. They don’t want added responsibilities. That’s fine. If you are interested in being a VP, SVP, or an EVP, the recognition of your talents, skills, professional presence, and demeanor will determine your value in an organization.

What is the best advice you have been given in reference to achieving success in the workplace?            

You are responsible for your success in the workplace. You have to manage your career and all the elements of it.

Shanessa Fenner About Author

Dr. Shanessa Fenner is an elementary principal, writer, TV show host, former radio personality, and songwriter.

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