Starting a new job and navigating the workforce, no matter what your age, education, or job level can be daunting. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had experiences that didn’t go exactly as planned. Here’s some simple advice that’s been helpful to me in my career journey.
Create Strong Relationships
Success at work has everything to do with relationships and how you interact with your coworkers and leaders. Being self-aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and leveraging my strengths appropriately in my interactions with my peers, is a skill that’s helped me build and sustain meaningful relationships. You don’t have to be a formal leader to carry yourself in a professional manner and be recognized as someone people want to work with, not run away from. Practicing these tips and behaviors has also helped reinvigorate and reconfirm why I love coming to work every day. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Strive to be the best version of you every single day
- Surround yourself with people who support and challenge you
- Every interaction and person should be handled with respect
- Listen to understand, not to reply
- Set a goal around your own personal learning/development and stick to it
- Be open to new opportunities
I use an exercise that I learned about more than 10 years ago to remind me to be the best version of myself every day. The idea is to break down the different roles and relationships you want to focus on in your personal and professional life. I list mine on a colorful chart on my fridge that reads:
- Mom/family fun coordinator
- Friend extraordinaire
- Business innovator
- Community influencer
- Lifelong learner, and
- Personal health advocate
Every day, the list reminds me what is important to me and it helps me maintain balance and regain my focus on areas in my life that need and deserve my attention. By putting this exercise into practice, I’ve been lucky enough to maximize opportunities in both my job and in my personal life. When I joined DTE Energy four years ago, an immediate focus for my personal well-being was to find a sense of community at work, so I joined several of our company’s employee resource groups, which we call “energy groups.” In them, I found other co-workers who shared similar passions and interests. During my first year, I volunteered for the company’s largest annual networking and charitable auction event as a committee member. Now, in my fourth year of involvement, I’m the overall event lead & project manager, overseeing ten committees and 70 volunteers from various business units across the company. Last year, as event co-lead, our team surpassed our goal and raised more than $38,000. With additional help from the DTE Energy Foundation, we ended up donating more than $77,000 to HAVEN, a local organization which supports programs to promote violence-free homes and communities. It experiences like these that reignite my passion for my work and my desire to strive for bigger and better opportunities.
Find a Mentor
One of my co-workers, Farah Ahmed, is also a young professional who is passionate about growing and learning. She began her career at DTE eight years ago in positions in Field Operations and then Electric Strategy. Today, she is a senior strategist on our Distribution Operations team and is pursuing a masters of business administration degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Farah shared her advice with me:
“No matter what stage I’ve been in my career at DTE Energy, having a good mentor has been valuable. I’m fortunate enough to have a few mentors who have helped me grow as an individual and professional throughout my career. These mentors have challenged me not only to develop new strengths but also reaffirmed and expanded on the strengths that I already possess.
Looking back, finding a mentor seemed extremely daunting and uncomfortable. The feeling of being exposed and discussing perceived weaknesses was extremely frightening. However, I was acutely aware of the significance of building an engaging relationship with a mentor to develop in my career. A few things to keep in mind as you explore your potential mentor is to take time to evaluate the opportunity and your willingness to commit. Finding a mentor who is engaged in your development will provide a strong foundation from which you both can grow.”
Finally, make sure you are challenged. Find work that stretches you to do your best or a group or project that keeps you energized. Making a commitment to my own personal growth and consistent learning was the best choice I made for myself and my career. Often, your professional journey can get lost in the importance of titles and hierarchy. That’s where having a personal commitment to yourself is vital. Vince Lombardi was quoted as saying “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Whether it’s trying to set personal goals or finding a mentor, challenge yourself to be the best version of you today. And, be willing to take a risk or learn a new skill. You might be surprised about what happens next!
About the author: Shannon Brodie has been with DTE Energy for four years and currently works in the HR Organizational Effectiveness & Learning team as a business technician. Brodie also worked in Investor Relations and Corporate Strategy. Prior to joining DTE, she worked for 13 years in the healthcare industry as an organizational development and continuous improvement consultant. She is currently pursuing a masters of business administration in Human Resources and Management from Wayne State University.