New Year's Resolution: Refresh Your Career

We all have "out with the old, in with the new" housekeeping rituals as the calendar flips into a new year. Some of us ruthlessly cull our closets; others clean out the freezer. January is also the perfect time to re-evaluate, refresh, and, if necessary, renovate your career: Analyze what you like about it, how you could enhance it, whether you need to change it, and, if so, what steps you can take.

Start by re-examining your basic value proposition: What gives you that sense of fulfillment, intellectual excitement, and sheer joy? How could you get more of it?

New research from the Center for Talent Innovation examines the flywheels of career ambitions for high-potential women: What inspires them to remain fully engaged and on track for leadership roles? Our data shows that well-qualified women have a five-point value proposition. They want the ability to:

Flourish. Women flourish and flower when they feel they have agency and impact: When they have the ability to self-actualize. When women have a real measure of control, they can manage competing demands in ways that sustain their physical well-being, replenish their energy, and fulfill their emotional and spiritual needs. Among U.S. women ages 35-50, 89 percent say it's very important that their work enables them to flourish.

Excel. Women want intellectual challenge in order to master a domain of knowledge and grow their expertise, with 85 percent of women in the U.S. giving this element priority. They also want recognition for their achievements.

Reach for meaning and purpose. Eighty percent of women in the U.S. emphasize the importance of finding meaning and purpose in their career, by doing work that allows them to model success and exceed expectations -- their own and those of their family or community.

Empower others and be empowered. Sixty seven percent of women in the U.S. underline this element in their career value proposition.

Earn well. Fifty seven percent of women in the U.S. say it's important to them to attain financial security as well as financial independence, and to sustain a comfortable lifestyle for themselves, their offspring, and their parents.

Fulfilling your value proposition -- let alone seeking and shaping leadership roles that provide these rewards -- isn't something you can achieve on your own. You need career boosters: trusted lieutenants and a deep bench of talent you can rely on; mentors and, most particularly, sponsors willing to teach, protect and promote you as you navigate the corridors of power.

As I explain in my book, Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, mentors shine as you seek to clarify your value quest. They can see and put into words for you what you may not see about yourself or be able to articulate. They can help you determine your strengths and define the sources of your career satisfaction.

But if mentors help you define your dream, sponsors are the dream-enablers. They don't just advise, they advocate: They open the door to career-changing opportunities by making important introductions to senior leaders, expanding the perception of what you can offer the organization, and offering powerful backing to help you soar and protection when you stumble.

Sponsors and mentors may be the obvious guides on the path to career fulfillment but don't ignore the power of protégés. Building a loyal cadre of effective performers can extend your reach, realize your vision, build your legacy, and burnish your reputation. In today's complex organizational matrix, no one person can maintain both breadth and depth of knowledge across fields and functions. But you can put together a posse whose expertise is a quick IM away.

As you re-imagine your career, sponsors, mentors, and protégés serve as both safety net and springboard. Once you articulate what gives you satisfaction, they can help you achieve it.