I stood in the office of my then boss at FedEx and told him I wanted his job one day.
There I was, a 22-year-old recent college graduate, making a bold claim to a man 20 years my senior. After rightfully kicking me out of his office and telling me to get back to work, he said something that I will never forget: “You show me that someone is willing to follow you — then we’ll talk about leadership.”
That statement stuck with me, and for the next several years we met every month to discuss everything from technology, to leadership, to life. His mentorship propelled my career.
My 16 year professional rise through FedEx Services began in 2004, where I was hired as a logistics operations manager after my internship. In 2006, I was promoted to a support manager, and then to a manager of strategic planning in 2008.
In another two years, I was promoted to director of IT helpdesk operations, then I became director of IT operations in 2013, and I was given the very office where we stood on my first day. I quickly took on the responsibilities of director of workforce strategy and analytics in 2015, and finally was promoted to my current position as the vice president of human resources in 2016.
To understand my journey from IT intern to vice president of human resources, where I lead a variety of HR functions from compensation to recruitment, you must first understand my path. I was a C student — not from lack of work ethic or ability — but because I had other priorities, priorities that rapidly revealed a career I originally had no intention of following.
As a senior in high school, I was a proud member of my family. We worked hard together: Both my parents had two full-time jobs, while my brother and I went to school and each held down two jobs of our own. Coming from a blue-collar family, I understood the necessity of hard work. Unlike some of my peers, my parents needed me to take on extra responsibilities to help our family succeed.
Taking on two jobs caused me to skip school. My grades suffered. It wasn’t until the INROADS scholarship committee, which is a nonprofit organization that provides paid internships for undergraduate students, visited my school that someone asked why I had poor grades.
It was the first time anyone had ever reached out. I never forgot that simple interaction and that someone cared. Throughout my career, I would look back at this moment in time with admiration. I aspire to display that same level of passion. It eventually became one of the main reasons I made the jump from IT to HR. Based on my experience, I discovered that I wanted to help young people find their own profession. When my passion, profession, and purpose fused together, I realized that my IT skills could translate into being a successful human HR manager.
Since the INROADS program is structured for selected students to intern every summer during their undergraduate career at the same corporation, it allowed me to acquire the necessary skills for a more successful post-graduation career in management. I was given the opportunity to intern at FedEx during college, while also helping to pay for my education. It was an experience that changed the course of my life, and would have never been realized had I not met the INROADS team that day.
I learned so much during those four years as an intern, and I was able to parlay that internship into a full-time career by following what I have coined “C-4”: consume, connect, communicate, and coach.
It all starts with a goal. Once you decide the goal, you consume all the information necessary to achieve that goal. Information is in the palm of your hands — what you know matters.
Create opportunities to share your knowledge. Networking becomes a lot easier when you have something of value to share. Connect the dots between what you know and what others need.
Create a narrative around your goals and be able to purposefully communicate. People don’t always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. Learn to galvanize people through storytelling and they will follow.
As you continue to build connections, create an environment that consistently coaches others forward. Incite service within your community of peers. By giving back, you propel yourself forward.
I’ll never forget the connection I made that day in high school. The INROADS advisor had simply questioned me on my grades and attendance, but it showed me that I had much more to give. Eventually I was able to leverage C-4, which not only guided me through my internship at FedEx, but enabled me to turn that internship into my career.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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