When I graduated from law school in 1977, i never dreamed my professional life would be so varied and so rewarding. i began my career as a legal aid attorney for legal services of upper east Tennessee, working to provide legal services to those who need help but cannot afford it. My next job opportunity—working as a law clerk for Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit—opened the door for where I am today. Judge Widener was a mentor who taught and practiced standing firm in support of your values and beliefs, doing the right thing, and always looking at the big picture. He suggested I consider working in the legal department of Eastman Chemical Company because he liked the people who worked there. I applied and have been happily employed at Eastman for the last 22 years.
When asked what I have learned throughout my career in both the public and private sector that I share when mentoring to others, I provide the following:
- Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because someone is watching.
- Like what you do at work and like the people you work with. At Eastman, I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a team of extraordinarily talented and caring people working together toward a common goal. Judge Widener had it right years ago when he said he liked the people who worked at Eastman.
- Know yourself and be yourself. Be genuine. Decide who you are and what you need, desire, and dream of, rather than what others expect you to need or desire. Know what you do well and what you don’t do well; take advantage of the former and find help for the latter.
- Be proactive—don’t wait for opportunity to knock. Seek it out—volunteer for assignments. Broaden your horizons.
- Be patient and learn from opportunities that do not come your way. Figure out what you were lacking and focus on filling the gap.
- Actively seek and value the feedback you get. Hear what someone is saying, and receive it as a gift that was very hard for the other person to give.
- Remember it’s not about you—it’s about us!
- Enjoy today—tomorrow will take care of itself.
I it all comes down to enjoying what you do at work, and helping others do the same.