As far back as I can recall, my parents encouraged me to go after my dreams and to always do my very best. Our family placed a high value on faith, love, hard work, and perseverance. These values are woven into my DNA. In high school and college, I played sports where I learned first hand the importance of working as a team, focusing on the positives, and building resiliency.

I’ve learned equally important lessons by contributing the best I have to offer to both winning and losing teams. If you are a young professional just starting out, I recommend that you take time to reflect on what’s important to you and get a firm grasp on your inner compass to chart your course.

Building a career is a journey filled with many people and a wide variety of experiences that shape you along the way. My professional career started at the U.S. Department of the Navy where I entered their contracting intern program right out of college. I learned from one of my earliest supervisors to seek out how to do things from those with experience. I sought out the experts in the group when I needed assistance, and found that an appreciative attitude was often met with generosity of time and a willingness to share.

When I graduated from the intern program and was advancing to more challenging assignments, I recall feeling pressed to use aggressive tactics in negotiations with suppliers to extract concessions. I sought the counsel of a respected woman leader on developing my negotiation style. She encouraged me to identify my unique strengths and use those to my advantage, knowing that I would achieve better results by being myself and not by trying to act like someone else. She reminded me to be genuine and true to my values – valuable advice that has stuck with me to this day.

After joining the U.S. Postal Service,I continued to seek out opportunities to learn as much as I could by obtaining assignments in various areas. Cultivating a broad network of supportive relationships is important to being an effective leader and developing mentor relationships with experienced managers provides a nurturing place to explore yourpotential.By knowing yourself and drawing on your strengths, you not only bring out the best in yourself, but also the best in those around you.