Skip to main content

Finding Confidence Outside Your Comfort Zone, with Ericka Spradley

Finding Confidence Outside Your Comfort Zone, with Ericka Spradley

Episode 122: Finding Confidence Outside Your Comfort Zone, with Ericka Spradley

As we keep focusing on closing the gender achievement gap, Ericka Spradley, Career Coach/Chief PowHer Officer of Confidence Career Women joins us this week to share her insights about closing the confidence gap as well. Ericka talks about the importance positioning yourself well in job the application process, balancing multiple jobs and responsibilities, and the importance of prioritizing. From shaving her head unannounced to publishing three books, Ericka explains the impact of leaving your comfort zone and truly owning your career for continued success.

Episode Transcript

00:14 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host Maricella Herrera, how are you doing today, Maricella?

00:24 Maricella Herrera: I am okay. I'm tired.

00:28 KW: I think we're both... I was gonna say, I think we're both very tired today.

00:31 MH: Yeah. I don't know, apparently I walked in this morning and I had a dead face on. That's what I was told. [chuckle] I do not know what that exactly means, but it's clearly something I need to change.


00:48 KW: After the podcast you can tell me who said that to you. [chuckle] But... [chuckle] That's awesome.

00:54 MH: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know what it is, it's just...

00:58 KW: Well, 'cause we're getting towards the end of summer.

01:01 MH: Yeah.

01:01 KW: I mean, we're still in early August, but still... That's the reason for a dead face right there.


01:10 MH: I don't know, I'll be honest.

01:11 KW: I know this face right here is not very happy about that.

01:16 MH: So, what's up with you, what are you... How's summer going with the kids?

01:22 KW: Summer's great. Summer is... You know, it's great, 'cause there's more things to do. You can be outside, which is fun. I'd much prefer get up and go with our kids than sit at home, 'cause they drive me and each other nuts. So, we're very active. But... You know, summers... I think about this a lot, actually, and there was recently a really powerful piece in the New York Times that touched on this as well, which is, for parents, the summers can oftentimes to be really difficult, because you need to figure out childcare if your kid's typically in school throughout the year. So, I know for my son, we just cobbled together a bunch of camps. But then, that means each week is a different schedule. And we're just trying to coordinate. But the article just talked about the privilege of that. Because for so many families, particularly lower income families childcare is always year round. Just a big challenge in trying to understand the options and the affordability of it, and which is true.

02:30 KW: I mean, having children today and especially, when you have two parents that work or when all the caregivers' work can be a challenge to understand what your options are and how to coordinate that and how they coordinate that around work hours and whatever other obligations. So, I recognize how fortunate we are to be able to provide our kids with options and to make it through the summer and summer camp period in one piece. But yeah, we were... I've raised a lot of summer babies, they're big fans of beach and outdoors, so we're all loving life right now.


03:18 MH: That's great. I mean, that's a really good point. I can't imagine how that juggling of all the different schedules and everything else comes together, I can barely juggle my schedule. So that's interesting, and you know I know that Benjamin has spent some time calling the office this week.


03:40 KW: He has. For our listeners, I'm trying to instill in him the ability to entertain himself, he's at that age where he just wants to be constantly entertained. So we sat down last night, and we came up with a list of all the things he can do, he can read a book, he can practice soccer, he can play with friends, he can do his Legos, I mean with this whole long list, and so of course, as soon as I walk in today, he's calling me every 20 minutes with questions about the list and how long does he have to read, how many pages should he read? I mean, it was just so many questions, but... You know?

04:18 MH: I was actually very impressed with his sense of accountability. [chuckle] He's like, "How long do I have to read for?" He's taking it very seriously.

04:28 KW: He is... We... Well, and I... [laughter] I don't know if you heard this, you would have laughed, I mean we had... My parent voice at one point... Or not a parent, I'm sorry, my boss voice, or manager. Because he was like, "How many pages do I need to read?" And so, then I went, "Well what do you think your goal should be?

04:47 MH: Oh, I did notice that and I did think I'm like, "That sounds like a similar conversation I've heard before."


04:53 KW: What do you think your goal should be? Let's determine mutually agreed upon goals. How are you gonna achieve these goals? What happens if you don't hit your goals? [laughter] It was just... It was little bit much, but I'm sure he'll be visiting us in the office sometime this summer.

05:07 MH: That's great, he hasn't seen it yet, so.

05:09 KW: I know. I was giving him a little virtual tour on my phone and he... I showed him the couch and he goes, "Ooh, that's my desk."


05:18 MH: He'll have to fight Duffy, the dog for it.


05:22 KW: So Maricella, our guest today, Ericka Spradley has done some really amazing work around confidence and really your power moves. How to be confident in the workplace? Everything from interviews to career change and just had some amazing tips and insights to share when I spoke with her for the podcast. I know that you have some data to share from our community. You wanna...

05:50 MH: Yeah.

05:51 KW: Shall we listen on that?

05:52 MH: It's been a while since we've shared some of the results from our weekly polls. So I have here a question we asked our community recently, we asked, "What helps you decide that a person is an expert who can give you credible information or advice?" 40% of respondents said that it's because they've heard of this person by word of mouth or a referral. So, someone they know has talked about it. 19% said it's people who give a clear mission that aligns with their needs. So, having a very specific branding, I would say. 11% says they have a certification that shows they studied in the field. 8% say they're paid to do it, it's their profession. I mean, I guess...

06:46 KW: Yeah, I mean, if that's your job...

06:46 MH: That makes sense.

06:47 KW: Yeah, and you're good at it.

06:48 MH: But are... Is everyone that's getting paid to do something actually...

06:53 KW: That may be for another podcast.

06:55 MH: Yeah, I think that's another question to ask. But another 8% said, they are tied to a reputable organization. So again, it's sort of that referral from another group.

07:07 KW: Well, that is... Makes a lot of sense and some great insights, thank you to all the members of our community that participate in our polls. We love sharing the results on the Ellevate Podcast. And now it's time to get to my interview with Ericka.


07:31 KW: Ericka, thanks so much for joining us today on the Ellevate podcast.

07:36 Ericka Spradley: Thank you so much for having me.

07:38 KW: We're really excited to sit down with you and to talk about the Confident Career Woman, your career as a career coach, and making moves. To get things started, could you tell us a little bit about your career path up until now?

07:51 ES: Sure, thank you so much. I actually spent most of my career in retail, as a store manager, minus my college degree. I didn't have mentors, and sponsors at the time, and to be totally honest, I didn't even have a career plan or a career strategy. It wasn't until I wanted something different, but couldn't articulate it, that my life shifted. So I, at that time, provided my employer with a six-week notice, withdrew my 401K balance, posted my resume online and went on vacation. That leap of faith made me find that...

08:24 KW: Where did you go on vacation, I have to ask?

08:27 ES: Oh, my gosh, I went to Ocean City, Maryland.

08:29 KW: Woohoo, the beach, alright.

08:30 ES: And it was... Yeah, it was in the winter time of year, so there weren't many people out there and it was just a wonderful time of reflection to say, "What is it that you really want and what do you need to do to get there?" So that leap of faith landed my initial role that I never applied for in banking as a Financial Center Manager, which sparked a life-changing lesson for me, which is that skills are transferable, and I don't know that I had recognized that lesson at the time. So fast forward to relocating to a city where I knew no one and finishing my undergraduate degree while launching a business and working full-time. I have since then published three books in addition to securing a role as an adjunct professor. My degree is not in Education and I have no formal teaching experience. And ultimately, because I believe every woman should excel at work, and know her worth, I'm committed to helping women who want to advance, better manage their career and go further, faster. And so, that led me into my current brand of Confident Career Woman.

09:32 KW: Thank you for sharing all of that, because there's so much I wanna unpack there.

09:39 ES: Sure.

09:39 KW: The first is where you're talking about how skills are transferable and I could not agree more. I think it's something we're not talking about enough, and it's something to be honest that our current work structure, I think sets us up for failure, because we define the candidates we're looking for based on experience and not so much skillset, but talk to me a little bit more about that. I mean, you were in retail, you went into banking, what were those skills that were transferable between two dissimilar industries and how have you continued to evolve in that thinking?

10:20 ES: Oh absolutely. So, in retail and I don't know if you've ever worked in retail, but if you are working in a store, a physical store location you wear so many hats, especially if you're in leadership. So, for myself, as a Store Manager, I was the hiring manager, I was the merchandiser, I was the coach, I was the trainer, I was the person who was responsible for sales along with my team. So the skills that I leveraged when I went into banking were leadership, sales, coaching and development, and customer service, and my resume screamed that, because I had well over a decade in each of those areas as it relates to experience. And even when I mentioned the fact that I became an adjunct professor, my degree is in management with the concentration in HR. So because I create content in my business, and I produce results, and of course I have the facilitation, the speaking skills, I was able to leverage those skills into a two-year tenure as an adjunct professor in a college, and career readiness department.

11:24 ES: So I think it's really important. I don't think I actually know that it's extremely important for women to be sure that they're clear on what their skills are and that they position them properly, especially during the hiring process, so that they can create career options that maybe they haven't considered. I know at least for myself, I was so comfortable and complacent in doing what I knew to do. I thought that the way for me to experience upward mobility was to just continue in the same area, the same industry moving upward. I didn't think about other organizations necessarily, or making a lateral move that could set me up for future success. So, leveraging those transferable skills are extremely important, as far as advancing your career, is concerned.

12:08 KW: Yeah, I agree. I waitressed for years. I actually loved it and I'm convinced that that set me up. 'Cause you had to think about many things in your head at once and prioritize the best order, which to do things to be really efficient and you're dealing with customers. And anyway, I actually loved... I'll shut out Bono's in Seattle City, that's where I was a waitress for many years and it doesn't exist anymore, but it was a great restaurant. You're talking about at the same time you're writing books, you're going to school, you're working and teaching. And just as we oftentimes think of career paths being this straight line upward mobility that you talked about, we also think we can only do one thing at a time. And sometimes that's the case. Sometimes you're in a role or a career that is all-consuming, but there's some power and excitement about doing many things, wearing many different hats. This gig economy where maybe you're working at one place but building your business or building a different career, doing something else at the same time. And that to me is really exciting and where I see a lot of the women in our community moving towards to really provide themselves with that financial and career independence. So how did you feel about that experience in your life wearing so many different hats and how did you make it work for you?

13:29 ES: It is empowering and exhausting. I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you that sometimes I put myself into overwhelm, sometimes I was extremely tired but I felt for some time that there is just this movement trap inside of me, and so being the goal-oriented person that I am, I want to achieve those goals. So being able to say, "You know what? I know that I need to do this business not just as something to do but to help people in the process, but also in understanding too, when you talk about the financial piece of it, there's this huge challenge that we have and I'm sure you're aware of this, in our community, and as women that we don't always ask for what it is we want, especially as it relates to money. We talk a lot about salary negotiation. When we get this place we're devastated because we put all of our eggs into one basket, and now the one source of income that we relied upon is no longer there. So while having the business and working full-time is beneficial from a financial standpoint, this balancing act is a constant.

14:43 ES: And one of the things that I read recently when I was reading this book called Essentialism that really helps me create balance. And there was this one sentence that really shifted me and it was, "If it isn't a hell yeah, it's a no." And what that does for me is it minimizes decision fatigue because they are very few things in my life that are a hell yeah, lot of yeses but not a lot of hell yeahs, and that helps me create balance.

15:08 KW: Yeah, that's powerful advice. Where did you get this confidence? This confidence in your... And I feel it and I feel it in such a powerful way as you're talking and you're sharing your story and your insights, it's exciting to hear about you and the impact you're having on others and how you're going about that. So where did that that confidence come from?

15:33 ES: Thank you, and that's a great question. I don't think anyone has ever asked me where my confidence comes from, and it so timely you would ask me this question. I celebrated my birthday last weekend and a day or so before that, I have my head shaved bald, so...


15:49 KW: What! Oh my goodness, I love it.

15:52 ES: So it... It's so funny because of course, we as women, we love our hair. And so when I showed up to my grandparents' house, with no hair, my grandmother, her mouth just hit the floor and I had an aunt who said, "I don't have the courage to do that, but I recognized going in to have my head shaved that it would be a conversation starter amongst the women. And so that was part of the catalyst that led me to doing that. But to answer your question, my confidence started as a child and that was from the people around me. I have an aunt who I'm so grateful for to this day, my aunt Debra, and she used to always tell me, "You are so pretty. You're such your pretty little girl. You're such a smart little girl." And so, I can remember even in elementary school, if there was someone that didn't like me I thought something was wrong with them, because at home, I was always told, how smart I was, how pretty I was, how I could accomplish things, and so I held that belief to be true. While I understood that I would make some mistakes or that I wasn't perfect, I just always thought that I could accomplish my goals if I tried and if I didn't, I would learn along the way.

16:58 ES: Also, my faith plays a tremendous part in my confidence and also an understanding that we're all imperfect individuals, but we have a unique set of gifts, talents and strengths, and when we leverage those things, they can not only change our lives, but positively impact the lives of others as well.

17:16 KW: Yeah. That's amazing insight and thank you for that 'cause I've got kids at home and hearing you tell that story and how that has impacted your life just made me smile.

17:28 ES: Oh, thank you and thank you for being intentional and having the awareness to know that that's something that needs to be done for your children. And it will stay with them just like it has stayed with me.

17:39 KW: So you've written quite a few books. What was the catalyst for that? How did you get it off the ground? And clearly it was a great experience 'cause you kept doing it, so...

17:49 ES: Yes.

17:49 KW: What insights do you have to share with our community?

17:51 ES: Well, what I'll tell you is, in another point of transparency, I had not intended on becoming an author. One of my LinkedIn connections and his name is James Reed, he would say, "Ericka you have to write a book, you have to write a book." And I would say, "I'm not writing a book, I'm not writing a book." And so I actually scheduled a call with him to let him know for the last and final time that I was not writing a book. And during that conversation, of course, he encouraged me, told me why he thought it would be a great idea for me to publish and how easy it was, I said, "Okay" the next day I literally logged on to a self-publishing platform, and self-published because I'd already had the content, it was in a downloadable PDF and I thought, "Oh my God, I just became an author." So that was my first book. The second one was more intentional, which is 30-minute Career Coach: Interview Basics for High School Students. I'm extremely passionate around mastering the interview, preparing people for the interview, so they can secure and sustain employment. And so I feel as though a part of my legacy will be creating an online course so that high school students across the country can access an interviewing training without having to pay for it.

19:06 ES: And that was my second book. The third book is, Confident Career Woman: Ditch Perfection, Play Bigger and Make PowHer Moves. And this too was more intentional than the first book that I published. It is amazing to me, over the years, just in terms of speaking with women and observing women, I've seen so many women define who they are in relationship to someone else. Meaning, I am a mother, I am a wife and nothing's wrong with those things, but there's so much more, and the more a lot of times speaks to our competitive advantage and the things that we're truly passionate about. So I really wanted Confident Career Woman to speak to every woman who reads it so that they'll know you don't have to be perfect, you can define success on your own terms, you can play bigger and you can make power moves based on what it is you say that you want. So in terms of publishing, I believe that anyone who truly wants to publish can because it's easier nowadays than it has been. In years past, you needed money to publish a book. That's not the case, you can actually publish for free. And I took advantage of that to not only get my message out, but this will be a part of my legacy when I'm long gone.

20:21 KW: Yeah. In your book, so... Your book was released in January and you outline some power... PowHer... Power. You know?


20:30 KW: It's power, but it's pow with a her principles...

20:35 ES: Yes, with the her.

20:36 KW: Designed to help women take control of their careers. So I'm not asking you to give too much away, but can you give us a couple of thoughts on where to begin to break away from your comfort zone?

20:46 ES: Oh absolutely. In order for any of us to begin to break away for our... From. Excuse me, our comfort zone, it's really important to know what we don't want. And so at least for myself, what I found was I experience clarity through understanding what I did not want. And the second part of that is being confident enough to go for what it is that we want. In the book, I talk about some of the results when I surveyed my clients, 60% of my surveyed clients say that they lack confidence. I also looked at KPMG Women's Leadership Survey, where they interviewed women between the ages of 25 and 64, and those women stated that 48% of them will not ask for a flexible schedule, they don't feel confident asking for a sponsor. 92% actually said they didn't feel confident asking for a sponsor. 61% don't feel confident asking for a raise, 73% won't pursue roles beyond their experience. So while we need to be really clear on what we don't want, as well as what it is we want, I outlined in the book PowHer Principle 19: Stop sitting on your ask. We will not ask for what it is we want because we lack the confidence to do so and that is within 100% of our control, the way we see ourselves.

22:13 KW: Yeah, that's powerful and it's so true. Ask for what you want, go for it... What's worse that can happen? They say no, right?

22:23 ES: Right and there's a 50% chance you'll get a yes.


22:28 KW: But...

22:28 ES: It's still worth it.

22:29 KW: Let's figure out how we can improve those odds.

22:31 ES: One of the ways that you improve those odds and I mentioned it in the book, is asking increases your stamina. So the more you ask, the easier it will become for you. It may be a little unsettling initially, and I understand that, but the more you do it, just like with anything else, the easier it will become. And I personally practice detaching myself from the outcome. I can control the effort, but I can't control the outcome. So while yes, I have the faith to believe that what it is I want to see come to pass will happen but at the same time, if it doesn't, I'm okay with knowing that I gave it my best.

23:07 KW: Absolutely. So what's next for you as we're talking about goals? Anything else on the horizon for you?

23:13 ES: You know, I want to travel more. I told myself that I want to visit every state in the country, every continent on the globe and just being able to have that kind of flexibility and financial stability will also allow me to spend more time with family. I recently received the gift of a new niece Zoey, and she was born in December and I told my sister and anyone else who would listen, I said, "I have to homeschool Zoey, so I may have to move back to Virginia." So what's next for me is balancing what it is I love with those that I love who are close to me and also continuing to do this work, so that I can help women around the globe maximize their career and define success on their terms.

24:01 KW: That's fantastic and as is the name Zoey, my daughter's name is Zoey. So it's a...

24:07 ES: Really?

24:07 KW: It's a strong name for strong little girls.

24:10 ES: Yeah.


24:10 KW: Well, thank you so much Ericka, for joining us today. I really enjoyed this conversation, I think we've covered so many topics relevant and important to our community, so I appreciate you sharing all of that with us.

24:22 ES: Thank you so much for having me.

24:28 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate, if you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at Ellevate N-T-W-K, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website,, that's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katherine Heller, she rocks. And to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much, and join us next week.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook:

Start your day off with The Morning Boost, our newsletter with everything you need to take your career to the next level – all from members of the Ellevate community.

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy


Thank you! Career advice and opportunities are on the way to your inbox.

Add your zip code, so we can invite you to our local events!