As you advance in your career, your attitude and leadership traits will often trump your technical competencies as distinguishing characteristics and define your legacy. The career advice that I generally provide to younger employees focuses on seven key points: be yourself; build your network; solve your boss’s problems; be resilient; reach out; maintain perspective; and do the right thing.
Be yourself. Find the style that is most comfortable for you, and your genuineness will shine through. You will be viewed as a promotable person with whom people will want to work.
Build your network. Treat people well. You never know who you will meet and need on the way up or down your career ladder. Use your daily interactions to build a career support network. Look for that characteristic in those you mentor and promote.
Solve your boss’s problems. As you seek to advance, promotional opportunities may not match your personal timetable for career advancement. Expanding your job responsibilities to clearly demonstrate your initiative to develop and hone your skill base beyond a formal job description will position you to step up to the next opportunity.
Be resilient. A positive outlook is infectious. Think about it. Would you rather work with a complainer with a negative attitude, or with a person who is positive and always seeks to add value? When you approach your boss with an issue, also be prepared to present a set of solutions.
Reach out. One of the most powerful moments in my career was when an executive reached out to give me positive feedback at a time when I was particularly discouraged. He may not remember that conversation, but I certainly do, and I try to remember how a few words can inspire, provide encouragement and change an outlook. As you progress in your career, give back and reach out to younger employees.
Maintain perspective. Know your priorities, keep your sense of humor, and be able to laugh at yourself. Humility is an underrated yet important component of leadership. The ability to learn from your mistakes and to help others to learn from your mistakes is highly valued.
Do the right thing. Emulate honesty, ethical behavior and integrity. Your rewards will be many. As you can see, it’s easy for me to connect my personal philosophy to our core values at Lockheed Martin: “Do what’s right. Respect others. Perform with excellence.”