As mentioned in my prior posts, HJF embraces an informal corporate culture focused on a transformative leadership style. Employees are encouraged to set personal and career goals and seek out mentors to help realize them. I have had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with many of the executives, often over lunch or coffee, and I thought it would be beneficial to synthesize their advice.
Advice included find your niche, say “yes!”, and maintain your values. I asked a lot of questions regarding graduate education. Multiple said that although PhD’s, JD’s are essential for proving one’s ability and knowledge, they are a dime a dozen. For someone to excel it is important that they find their niche and can be adaptive. Doing so requires picking up knowledge and transferable skills, often from outside one’s specialty. As a Physics and Leadership studies major it was very encouraging to hear this because I believe that I am getting the technical and soft skills necessary to leverage my way into many positions.
Saying “yes!” means being willing to volunteer to take on extra work, even if it may be outside of your specialty, and a drive to move within and between organizations. When taking on work is important to consider one’s mental health and family. Striking a healthy work life balance is essential to avoid burnout. Taking on extra work and the skills you derive from doing so is essential to moving up the latter. One VP bluntly admitted that she wasn’t half qualified for many of the positions she got, but her drive to learn and go the extra mile allowed her to develop the skills necessary within the position. She said that although it can be intimidating that applying to “reach” positions is essential to success, especially for women who are more likely to wait until they are fully qualified to apply than men.
Finally, they emphasized an adherence to their own values and morals. An organization after all is a series of relationships, and a leader must act with integrity and compassion to gain their peers respect. It is important to network and put yourself out there, especially in specialized fields.