What I Wish I Knew: a series of conversations around first jobs
In our third installment of our “What I Wish I Knew” series, Brittany Daniels, who has been with MetLife for five years, shares her unique post-graduate experience in hopes that it will inspire recent grads as they forge their own professional paths.
What is your current role?
Brittany Daniels: I am a Supplemental Health Product Consultant for MetLife Group Benefits. I mainly support our Dental Product team in the development of new products as well as enhancing the features of our existing products. This includes working on cross functional teams to develop innovative ideas.
What is your background?
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when I was in grade school. My mother is a teacher and my father is a lawyer, so education was always a priority for my older brothers and me. In high school I teetered between going to college for marketing with a minor in information software management and going into education like my mother. So imagine everyone’s surprise when I graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. It was my passion for helping others that drew me to psychology and what continues to drive me today.
What did you picture yourself doing after college?
I’d always thought I would go to graduate school to study industrial and organizational psychology or counseling after college. But when my father asked me to consider MetLife job openings in Charlotte, North Carolina, I thought it could be a great way for me to gain corporate experience and figure out what I wanted to do next. To this day I am grateful that my father recommended I apply for the position because I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really incredible people and I feel that I learn something new every day. Going to grad school is something that I still keep in mind as I plan for the future.
What was your first job?
Aside from babysitting jobs I had as a teenager, I was a waitress in high school and it was one of the best experiences of my life because it taught me so much about customer service, financial responsibility and time management — all of which were skills that prepared me for my first job at MetLife as a Case Manager.
What do you wish you knew about career development when you started out?
While I’m fortunate to have had many great people at the start of my career who challenged me to take on more responsibilities, network and refine my business skills, I wish I had taken more opportunities to job shadow — there’s no better way to learn about a different role or department.
What qualities do you most admire in leadership?
I admire leaders that inspire their team to go above and beyond their daily duties — it’s motivating to have a leader that challenges their associates to bring new ideas that go against the status quo. From my experience as a team lead, I’ve found that encouraging my team to execute their daily tasks in new ways has helped to build morale and pride in their work.
How do you approach networking and career growth?
- I network when I’m working on a business initiative with other departments or while participating in our Diversity & Inclusion groups — I see it as an opportunity to build comradery with people that are not on my core team.
- I’ve also found that changes in organizations can create networking opportunities — if I see that someone in my network has accepted a new position, I make a point of talking to them about their new role.
- It’s also important to remember that my skills are valuable, so I actively volunteer to help with new associate trainings and mentoring opportunities, that way I can meet people and form mutually beneficial relationships.
How do you manage up?
When I am assigned to a project with individuals that hold a higher position than me, I make it a point to meet with them individually. My goal is to get to know them on a one on one basis, figure out why they have been assigned to the project and what is important to them. By doing this I can begin to form a relationship that allows us to hold each other accountable throughout the duration of the project.
How do you ensure you continue to learn and grow professionally?
I try to take advantage of MetLife’s various online and on-site learning programs, particularly when they feature different departments and skills that I’m not familiar with. Also, reaching out to people who are highly skilled in certain software programs or have experience working in an area of interest for me has been a great resource — you’d be surprised at some of the cool tricks you can do in Excel.
What are some critical dos and don’ts for starting a career on the right track?
Over the years, I have asked my mentors the same question and they all said it’s important to learn about your job, your objectives, the direction of the company and how you fit into that picture. Once you understand your purpose in an organization and the role of each department, you can then begin to contribute towards your company’s success.
What do you find here at MetLife that embodies the culture you have looked for?
As strong alignment and direction are important to me, I think MetLife does a good job of communicating new changes from the top down. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for leaders who encourage their teams to ask questions about such changes in order to understand the bigger picture — when everyone is aligned on what the goal is we take more pride in our work and are more willing to bring new ideas that drive business success.
What styles of leadership do you see at MetLife?
I’ve had the opportunity to work under multiple leaders with different leadership qualities and some of the most memorable ones had transformational and participative leadership styles. Supportive leadership is not only important for the morale of the team but it can also help foster new and innovative ideas that can have a real impact on the business. Encouraging associates to develop solutions for some of the task that may be inefficient or business practices that don’t address the needs of the customer can make the business more competitive.
Do you have a mentor or a champion? If so, how has this relationship helped you progress in your career?
Yes, I do have a mentor and I would like to think that I have a couple of champions as well. I think it is really important to find that one person who is there to motivate you and challenges you take on new opportunities. One of my previous managers was a champion for me and she pushed me to apply for new positions even though getting the job would mean I’d be leaving her team. Although she works for a different company now, we still keep in touch and she is still there to give me advice.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Hungry for more career advice? Click here for more from our What I Wish I knew series.