From entry level to senior manager: 12 tips on how you can advance your career
Many people will tell you that to advance your career, you often have to job hop from company to company whenever it's time for the next step. Adele Marlin, a vice president and talent acquisition director at Leidos, however, has been with the company for 18 years. She's proof that you can start out entry-level and be rewarded for good work without having to start over at another company.
Growing with a company can be underrated, according to Marlin. When you choose to stay at one company, "you establish credibility and build a knowledge base over time," she explains.
"Because I've been at Leidos for so long, there is a greater chance for people to consider my ideas. Working well in teams has helped me build a good reputation over time, so my credibility is established."
How did she do it? Let's take a look at her career journey.
A Temporary Assignment
After graduating from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in 1996, Marlin traveled to California and never left. In late 1997, she accepted a temporary role with Leidos (then known as SAIC) as a recruiting assistant. The role was to last four months.
Temp Turned Full-Time Employee
Marlin turned her temporary role into an opportunity. "I was energetic and approachable regardless of the situation," she says. "I really was willing to do anything they needed – even if the work wasn't always rewarding."
Because she was willing to do any project and had modern computer skills, she was hired as a full-time employee in 1998 after her temporary assignment.
Marlin's first project as a new employee had her bringing the organization forward when it came to technology. Her work helped implement an automated job posting process, including monthly metrics reports – all tasks that had previously been done manually. This project helped raise Marlin's profile within the organization and in 1999 she was promoted to recruiter.
Creating Opportunities and Developing Mentor Relationships
During the first few years, Marlin devoted efforts to many corporate initiatives beyond a recruiter's typical day-to-day work.
"I made contacts and established relationships with senior-level personnel in HR, recruiting, and the line," she explains. "I went to them frequently for guidance, knowledge transfer, and more.
"Through mistakes I made in these high-visibility projects, I discovered that I still had to learn, and accepted that by willingly taking on work that nobody else wanted to do."
First Leadership Role
One mentor had told Marlin that she should work at the corporate office at some point in her career to raise her profile. She took the advice in 2006, and the next year she earned her first leadership role as a staffing manager.
As an added bonus, Marlin’s first management role allowed her to work remotely with a geographically-diverse staff. She took the role seriously and excelled. In 2011, her hard work paid off when she requested to move back to Hawaii while retaining her position.
"They agreed as long as I maintained working hours that supported our client base," Marlin says. "I'm now blessed with managing an amazing geographically-dispersed recruiting team supporting positions all over the U.S. from Hawaii. I start work at 4 a.m. Hawaii Time, and I have no complaints."
12 Career Advancement Tips
Marlin notes that the people at Leidos have been a large part of her success.
"If you have a Leidos badge, you're treated like a family member by everyone," she explains. "Leidos is rich with smart, hardworking, loyal, humble employees who seek to do the right thing. The people here have given me good reason to stay.”
Below are some of her tips for advancing your career, whether or not you stay at one company:
- Raise your hand. Make time to volunteer without compromising your core responsibilities. If you haven't been asked, offer yourself where your skills can add value, and seek to learn from the experience. Seize those nuggets of opportunity—they are present even in what may seem as the most dismal tasks to complete.
- Find a mentor. Do your homework on who is knowledgeable and successful in the career you want to pursue, and initiate the connection.
- Share your ideas, but don't force them on others. Make it a point to understand as much as you can about the environment around you so you know how others are affected. This is the key to developing a well thought-out solution and obtaining buy-in. (Marlin recommends reading High Output Management by Andrew Grove for more insight into how to do this successfully.)
- Don't complain, help solve. If you see or have an issue, present the problem with a solution – one that you'd be willing and able to help deploy.
- Respect the chain of command and go through the proper channels.
- Observe, listen, analyze, then act accordingly. Don't let your personal emotions or biases drive your actions. Talk to a trusted, experienced employee to point you in the right direction (hint: your mentor).
- Keep an open mind and embrace different perspectives. Recognize the strengths of others that complement areas where you may need further development. These people tend to make great teammates even if – especially if – you don't think the same way they do.
- Understand the goals and objectives from the top. Let that knowledge be the driver of your daily priorities.
- Don't limit yourself to the information presented to you. And don't expect everything to be handed to you perfectly. Take the initiative to learn more and make the effort to find other resources.
- Respect and appreciate leadership, while also treating everyone with respect regardless of title, job, or level.
- Be yourself while being thoughtful and smart enough to recognize which parts of you should be left at home.
- Don’t compromise your loved ones, core values, and integrity to advance. After it’s all said and done, it’s not worth it.
Marlin is not alone in her lifetime career at Leidos. "I know many people here with stories like mine," she says. Maybe the next one will be yours.