What I Wish I Knew: a series of conversations around first jobs
Most of us know what it’s like to have first-day jitters when we start a new job, but the feeling only intensifies when it’s your first job right out of college. So to help steady you for the road ahead, we’re sharing great career advice from our colleagues with career milestones under their belts in our annual “What I Wish I Knew” series.
Erie Stith, who has been with MetLife for 13 years, shares insightful advice from her experience.
What do you wish you knew when you started your first job out of college?
Erie Stith: Careers are not just about working your way up the corporate ladder. They’re about thriving in a matrixed organization and being a sought after subject matter expert (SME).
What are some critical dos and don’ts for starting a career on the right track?
- DO own your voice by leveraging opportunities to present your findings or thoughts to the leaders at your company. The more often you speak, the more confident you will become.
- DO become a change agent, but only after you understand the current state of things at your company. Once you’ve learned how things work and who can partner with you to make the most meaningful impact, you can then proceed to bring about positive changes.
- DON’T let one rotten apple sour your taste of an entire company. Bad managers exist everywhere, but there are more good ones within every organization ready to help propel your goals and career.
What is your current role?
As a Governance and Strategic Planning Director, I interpret operational results into actionable insights. I also oversee health status reporting, financial impact analysis and funding utilization for our Global Operations programs.
What is your background?
I'm the oldest of three girls. I grew up in the Midwest and relocated to Florida when I was in High School. I earned my accounting degree from Florida A&M University (Go Rattlers!). I also hold an M.B.A., with a concentration in International Business from Keller Graduate School of Management.
What did you picture yourself doing after college?
I could see myself as an IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent, following the money trail of potential crimes violating tax code. I enjoy fact-finding and problem solving, so it seemed like a natural fit.
What was your first job?
MetLife recruited me at my college career fair for a role on the Finances Bank Reconciliation team as an Associate Accountant. I enjoyed reconciling accounts and I was also asked to support our first global offshoring efforts. This is where I found my passion for working on global teams.
What qualities do you most admire in leadership?
It’s important that leaders are passionate about team growth and development and are able to lead effectively during times of uncertainty. I believe these traits help to bring out the best in members of any team.
How do you approach networking and career growth?
As an INROADS and MetLife Americas Leadership Development Program alumnus, I’ve learned that networking is a two-way street. When you think you are picking someone's brain, they are learning just as much from you. And to grow my career, I like to set 1 / 3 / 5 year career goals – I’m thinking about what can I do in my current role that will leave an impact? What transferrable skills can I leverage in my next role? How can I strategically align myself with growing business markets?
How do you manage up?
By understanding my leaders’ goals, anticipating their needs, delivering information so that they can make faster decisions and escalating issues when needed. But career success is not just about managing up, it’s also about managing the work in a matrixed environment to help deliver strategic goals.
How do you ensure you continue to learn and grow professionally?
Early in my career, I leveraged Employee Resource Groups (ERG) like MetLife INROADS Alumni Network, Toastmasters, Women's Business Network and MetLife’s MyLearning courses for continuous learning. And as I transitioned into management, I took on roles that required me to quickly develop new skills that would help me succeed at my work.
What do you find here at MetLife that embodies the culture you have looked for?
Maintaining work-life balance is important to me and MetLife’s flexible work arrangements and generous paid time off gives me the freedom to embrace my passions, which are traveling and learning about cultures outside of the U.S.
What styles of leadership do you see at MetLife?
I have the pleasure of working with transformational leaders whose work and management styles inspire employees to think differently about strategy execution.
Do you have a mentor or a champion? If so, how has this relationship helped you progress in your career?
Yes, my mentors at MetLife have helped me navigate the company and have been an invaluable sounding board throughout my career. My champions at the company have advocated on my behalf during performance reviews, career opportunities and they continue to provide guidance along the way.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Hungry for more career advice? Click here for more from our What I Wish I knew series.