Transitioning from College to a Professional Career—Tips from Lockheed Martin’s Ashley Lovett
No two days look alike for Lockheed Martin's Diversity and Inclusion Analyst, Ashley Lovett. "I like variety," she says. " If I have the same routine every day, I can easily get bored."
Whether it be restructuring her work day or switching up her workout routine, Ashley always looks for a way to spice things up. "Maybe I'll go running with my dog or go to the gym and do yoga or spin classes," Ashley explains. "It just depends on the day."
Her desire for variety is also what made her want to participate in Lockheed Martin's HR Leadership Development Program, a three year rotational program for early career professionals that provides a well-rounded introduction to different human resources functions.
We sat down with Ashley to learn how her drive to step out of her comfort zone helped her land her dream role and to hear her advice for recent college grads ready to step into the professional world.
From Undergrad to Lockheed Martin
In college, Ashley joined a co-ed professional business fraternity called Delta Sigma Pi. Unlike your average sorority or fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi was focused on business development for students. "A lot of the pledging process had to do with networking, meeting executives, and doing company tours," Ashley explains. "Funny enough, the very first company tour that I did was actually at Lockheed." Little did she know she would eventually start her professional journey there.
Throughout her four years of college, Ashley participated in courses, events, and initiatives put on by the fraternity and even went on to bring in new members as Senior Vice President. "That was by far my favorite role that I held within my fraternity because it had to do with our recruitment strategy," explains Ashley reminiscently. "I absolutely loved recruiting. I'm really thankful for that opportunity because it ultimately led me into HR."
Ashley's newfound love for recruiting led her to pursue an internship at Lockheed Martin. "Through that internship, I got to learn more about talent acquisition, and I was able to start making a network within the company, meeting mentors and other interns that I still connect with today." She continued with the internship her last two years of college and transitioned directly into a full-time role at Lockheed Martin upon graduation. "The transition from college to professional life wasn't as challenging as I thought it might be because I knew who to go to and I had already learned key things about being a recruiter," says Ashley. "I didn't skip a beat."
The three-year HR Leadership Development Program Ashley is doing is designed to meet the current and future expectations of the Lockheed Martin human resources team through rotational job assignments. "Going into this program has been such an amazing opportunity," elaborates Ashley. "We get to touch a lot of different things within our different HR functions and centers of expertise , so I'm constantly learning something and getting pulled into a new project. "
Ashley has quickly learned to embrace the learning curves that define the experience. "We rotate roles once a year, so as soon as you get your bearings and hit your stride, it's already time to move out of that role," she says. "Starting something new is a little bit nerve wracking, but having great leadership helps me navigate areas that are outside of my comfort zone."
Ashley is currently completing her first rotation as a Global Diversity and Inclusion Analyst. Her days are a mixture of team meetings and strategic work, such as completing key deliverable tasks for her director, delivering on our key diversity strategies and initiatives, and putting together executive level presentations. "None of my days look exactly the same," says Ashley, which is just the way she likes it.
In January, Ashley will transition to a new role as an HR Business Partner and serve as a liaison between the business client group and human resources. "I'm excited to learn about a whole new business area and step out of my comfort zone again!" she says.
Advice for Overcoming Challenges as a New Grad
Ashley's transition from college to the corporate world has been relatively smooth, but each learning curve has come with lessons that she'd like to share with other recent grads:
Actively combat imposter syndrome. Walking straight off campus into a corporate office can be intimidating and imposter syndrome can creep in. "Sometimes you get in these nice big roles and you're the most junior employee in the room and you think, 'oh my gosh, what am I doing? Why did they choose me? Why would they do this?' And you forget about everything that you've ever done," explains Ashley. "You have to catch yourself and remind yourself of the reasons why you're here. You are awesome and you are capable."
Sometimes, of course, that's easier said than done, so Ashley has a hack she likes to use when she needs a reminder of what she's accomplished: she reviews her self-curated "success file." "If anyone ever emails me with positive feedback, I go ahead and pull that into my success file," she explains. "If I have a bad day, I'll go in and remind myself of those wins."
Use your voice. When you're the most junior employee in a meeting, your instinct might be to stay quiet. "Something that I definitely had to work on this year is making sure that I speak up and use my voice in any meeting that I'm in." Instead of staying quiet, Ashley recommends challenging yourself to make a contribution to the conversation. "Make sure when you're going into meetings, you have an objective. And even if it's just one small thing, try to bring something to the table," she advises.
Keep your priorities straight. "When you come into a new role, you want to fix everything, you want to take on everything, and you want to say yes to everything," explains Ashley. "And sometimes you can get overwhelmed, you can spread yourself too thin." Coming fresh from school, it's easy to become overly ambitious and bite off more than you can chew. "I've definitely had to learn to try not to boil the ocean and get myself too worked up on too many different deliverables at once."
Navigating priorities can be difficult early on, so Ashley leans on her mentors for clarity. "Mentorship has completely changed my career and I am so thankful for all the mentors that I have within Lockheed," says Ashley. "Find someone that wants to take you under their wing. Someone you can learn a lot from," advises Ashley. "They really can help guide you through your career and after some time, if appropriate, they can become your sponsor and advocate on your behalf."
Want to join a company where you can try new things? Check out Lockheed Martin's open roles here.