Throughout my career I have been fortunate to serve in a range of positions in government, nonprofit, and private industry. Along the way I have learned, grown and achieved, challenging myself and preparing for that next new opportunity, all the while relying on the engine that has fueled my success, mentorship and networking.
Many women fail to actively seek mentoring. Don’t fall into this trap. Ask for guidance, network and collaborate with your peers and seniors, and be upbeat and ethical while you’re doing it. This will bring you success, but not necessarily in the form you may expect.
During my college years, my dream was to be a Foreign Service Officer, but when the Foreign Service didn’t offer me a job I had to quickly recalibrate my dreams. After doing so, I came up with a new focus – national defense. Three decades later, I can’t imagine my life any other way.
A mentor once told me, “Good people are like bars of soap, if you push them under water, they pop right back up.” When life throws you a curve ball, be persistent and open to new ideas; this will serve you well, as I feel it has served me. Of course, learning to have fun and laugh along the way will only make the journey more enjoyable.
Looking back on my career, I have derived tremendous satisfaction from the change in course I took, however unexpected. Watch for new opportunities and seize them when they present.
I was lucky to have good bosses and mentors help me watch for those opportunities over the past 30 years, beginning with my first job as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee. These mentors taught me the importance of being competent and educated, of going above and beyond in all that I do, and of thinking of the team before myself. I have learned that as a leader, you have to make the tough calls, even when they aren’t popular. You also have to be a good listener and ask for the counsel of your people. Don’t charge ahead without them because you can’t achieve great results alone.
In a nutshell, if you focus on priorities and your colleagues, and deliver results, all the while making ethical behavior a top priority, the sky is the limit. And while you’re conquering all of those challenges, don’t forget about yourself. Take time for you and your family, let the little things slide and find something that makes you smile and then go for it!