Through more than 25 years with Highmark, I’ve learned to focus on the importance of working with people. My advice to women who want to advance their careers is to carefully develop “people skills,” including interpersonal, leadership, and self-evaluation skills.
For example, be inclusive. I believe in the power of many perspectives and contributors. As a leader, I embrace the opportunity to bring people together who have ideas different from mine. This way we can look well beyond our own viewpoints and incorporate the best ideas. With the collaboration of others, there can be bigger, more exciting accomplishments.
Welcome the opportunity to work with as many different people as possible. I began my career with Highmark in prescription drug administration. I’ve since worked in various administrative divisions—information technology, customer service, strategic development, many parts of operations, sales, and account management. It’s true that I’ve gained a lot of cross-functional knowledge. I now have the ability to connect how the organization works, but most importantly, I’ve learned how to work with many different kinds of people. I’ve learned how to build confidence and trust with the people in our diverse work force, as well as with customers, suppliers, and the people with whom we partner in the community.
Also, be critical of yourself by doing self-assessments. ask yourself: Who am I? How am I doing? What is going well? Where can I improve? Then go to others peers, mentors and managers—and ask them the same questions. You’ll gain valuable insights about how you’re perceived, you’ll open empathetic ears to your ambitions, and you’ll build advocates. In addition, when you’re in a leadership role, turn around and make sure that those you want to be following you are. If not, gain their buy-in.
And finally, always look for new opportunities. I’ve found that corporate leaders are constantly on the lookout for talent; you should be on the lookout for opportunity. I’ve been proactive in my career about seeking new challenges, and I’ve been receptive when asked to accept new assignments. Look ahead and form mutually beneficial relationships that will move you in the direction that fuels your passions. Also, don’t be afraid to try new, unexpected challenges that are perhaps outside of the box from where you thought you’d be going next.