When determining your career path, sometimes you have to try many different avenues before you’re completely satisfied.
Margaret Mattix can certainly attest to that. Mattix is a vice president at Exxon Mobil Corp. and recently assumed leadership of an integrated talent management project for the corporation. She has 36 years of experience in the chemical industry and has seen her fair share of job titles.
Mattix addressed attendees at Women’s Energy Network luncheon Tuesday, sharing her career experiences and encouraging them to key in on their behaviors to help define the types of career best for them.
“My career is a series of unexpected challenges that were either tossed at me or that I nominated myself for that took me in different directions and allowed me at the end of the day to have this amazing fabulous career,” she said to the women, adding “you have to feel good about the company you work for and the industry you serve.”
She stressed the importance of young people being open about different career moves.
“So often, young people today are too worried about having a plan than really knowing what the plan is and worrying that the plan is perfectly matched with their lifetime objectives that they probably prohibits things they can do,” she said.
Mattix started her career at Monsanto Chemical in St. Louis, Mo. and did a little job hopping – in her first seven years, she held various positions in engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing.
While Mattix was a skilled salesperson, it wasn’t what she loved to do. And with each career move she made, she was told by her bosses that she was a quick learner, but said at the time she grew frustrated with “always being the new kid” on the job and not being an expert at anything.
“Really pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like about your different assignments, not your job title and not the position you’re working in,” she said. “What about the actual work do you like and what don’t you like?”
Looking further than just the measurable, quantifiable things such as technical skills, Mattix said it’s important to go a step further and identify your own behavioral strengths and preferences to consider different career paths.
She offered the following examples:
- “I’m creative”
- “I’m adaptable”
- “I have perseverance”
- “I’m collaborative”
- “I prefer reflective work”
- “I’m an adrenaline junkie”
- “I love to create order out of chaos”
- “I hate the status quo”
- “Don’t mess with my status quo”
“These really help us define what kind of work is going to make us tick,” said Mattix. “The good news is companies need all of this. The tough part is that companies don’t always understand who you really are, especially if you’re not willing to have the necessary conversations.”
Technical skills alone are not going to be the recipe for a long, successful career.
“We hire a ton of smart people – the best of the best from the best schools in the country,” she said. “But how different do you really think they are in their technical skills? The differentiators are always on the behavioral side.”
Looking back at her broad beginning in the industry, Mattix realized what she once found frustrating – being told she was a quick learner – was actually a great foundation for general management and marketing, where she spent the later part of her career.
“It’s not rocket science. People do the best when their roles leverage their capabilities and passion,” she said. “I’m 57 with 36 years in this industry and now I’m heading up this incredible project that’s actually leveraging most of what I’ve done along the way in those 36 years.”