It’s a simple concept: no two careers are the same because no two paths are the same.
Yet, in today’s professional landscape, it’s easy to see how you might be shoehorned into a career trajectory simply because there’s little flexibility to explore and expand your own goals and skills within a chosen career path.
Because of our diverse manufacturing expertise across four broad industries, Milliken associates have a unique opportunity to chart their own careers while working at the company. From cross-functional jumps to divisional and business changes, our associates are encouraged to discover their path that utilizes their skill set or sparks their passions.
We have asked three Milliken associates to share how they have tailored their career paths so far with the company. Jenna Firmstone has been with Milliken for eight years and currently works as a talent acquisition specialist. Courtney Meeks is a MPS (Milliken Performance System) Specialist who started with Milliken in July 2017. Amanda Reno is a marketing communication specialist who began with Milliken in June 2015.
How did you get your start at Milliken?
Jenna Firmstone: I was in culinary school intending to be a chef and had never considered a corporate position. One of my professors knew the Guest House executive chef, which is how I was initial introduced to Milliken. I started as the pastry and breakfast chef for the Guest House and was training to be the sous chef. I really enjoyed the sense of confidentiality and good leadership exposure I gained in serving our guests.
Courtney Meeks: My career at Milliken started with an internship with Westex while I was in graduate school. After completing my internship, I finished my last year of the Clemson MBA program before I was recruited back to Milliken into the HR department. My first job was in Learning and Development.
Amanda Reno: I started my career at Milliken as the morning guest services supervisor at the Guest House. My day began at 5:00 a.m. when I led the morning servers to deliver wake-up calls to guests, prepare the dining room for breakfast and lunch, and serve the meals. This was the only time in my life I’ve felt like a “morning person” because I loved my job so much that I never dreaded going to work.
How did you progress through the company?
JF: I have always been a people person with an outgoing personality. After I served breakfast, I would introduce myself to our guests and check on their experience. I didn’t stay behind the scenes, which lead to another former Guest House associate reaching out to suggest I might be a fit for a human resources position. She asked if I had thought about a career outside the hospitality sphere since I had soft skills that aligned with HR roles. My colleague opened my eyes to a new career and new opportunities at Milliken. Along the way, I’ve talked to family and friends, along with corporate contacts, to get a feel for the role and the progression path available in HR. I interviewed for a position in HR four years ago have been on this career path ever since.
I joined the corporate team as a recruiting coordinator four years ago and was promoted to talent acquisition specialist a year and a half into the role. Milliken has supported me throughout my time here, even encouraging me to go back to school and obtain my bachelor’s in human resources. I have really enjoyed my time at Milliken, and I enjoy what I do. The people that I have gotten to know over the years have made this a life-altering experience and a career that I am passionate about and intend on fulfilling.
CM: During my time on the Learning and Development team, I was fortunate to work on various projects that gave me great exposure to Milliken’s different divisions and businesses. I was the project lead with the Organizational Health Survey team, where I was responsible for learning more about engaging our associates and working with our associates on training efforts. The success of this project led to my current position as a Milliken Performance System specialist within the Textile Division. In my current role, I work on improving engagement with our associates in our manufacturing sites while finding solutions to improve our training systems to optimize our associate onboarding and retention rates.
AR: My time at the Guest House was pivotal in my career and personal life. My direct manager, Jeannie Fehl, had a big impact on me—she acknowledged my strengths and talents, encouraged me, and helped me see what all I could offer Milliken. After a year and a half of working with Milliken, I was promoted to the Customer Center as a customer experience coordinator. I had numerous responsibilities that led me to interact with people from all levels at Milliken and guests, including Dean Henry Giles of Spartanburg Community College, who encouraged me to return to school to earn my degree. Following this role, I was promoted to my current position in marketing communications for Milliken’s Chemical Division. Despite feeling underqualified initially, I realized this was the dream job I never considered. I have loved being in a position where I could let my gift of creativity loose and use my organizational skills to better processes.
Why is Milliken a unique or an ideal place to “build your own” career?
JF: Milliken is so diverse in its product lines, as well as its associates. There are endless opportunities to progress and move within the company, so there are many places to take your career within Milliken. As a whole, Milliken promotes openness and transparency in having conversations regarding your career. People at all levels are encouraging and want to provide the resources to mentor and foster your career.
CM: Milliken is an ideal place to build a career because you have the ability to pivot into your areas of interest, try new things and truly create your own path, as Milliken believes in the importance of investing in its people. I know associates who have been in almost every division in various roles. I think it is great that Milliken supports career development and growth rather than locking associates into just one path or department. You can learn so much over your career by being in different roles as each role teaches you something new.
AR: Milliken is unique in that the company values movement. I feel like they prioritize associate happiness, their gifts and talents, and finally, their ability to move up in the future. It’s strategic from a business perspective, but it also keeps the associate’s best interest in mind.
How has flexibility in your career path influenced your professional journey?
JF: Milliken invested in me as an associate and has given me the tools to succeed. Conversations about careers or next steps highlight the supportive culture of Milliken. The company took a chance on me, and that is not something I take lightly. In building my career path, I know as long as I am willing to learn and be open, the opportunities are there. I love how Milliken isn't afraid to look internally to develop existing talent.
CM: The flexibility in my career path has allowed me to explore all my options. I love having multiple options versus a fixed path, and at Milliken, I’m allowed to be me. I can try various projects that interest me to see if I could see myself in that role or division. This flexibility is one of the best things that could happen for someone young in their career—you can try new things and see where your passions lie.
AR: I would never have considered a marketing communications position had I not moved around within Milliken. The flexibility encouraged within the company allowed me to “give it a go” and find it was the perfect fit, and I was able to take the chance thanks to supportive managers encouraging me each step of the way.
What is one piece of advice you have to other potential Milliken candidates?
JF: Network! Make sure you are transparent with yourself and with others and communicate what you are looking for. Raise your hand and say I am here to help—I’m willing to learn.
CM: Be open-minded. There are so many paths and options to navigate within Milliken. Milliken has almost every field of interest, so it is a company you can stay at long-term based on your interests and strengths.
AR: Acknowledge that your strengths are different from other people’s strengths, and theirs are different from yours. Disagreements may arise, but we would not have such great success without the diversity of talent and ideas—both professionally and personally. Take time to listen to those you disagree with and intentionally grow from every experience.
Milliken offers exciting career opportunities for a variety of industries and functionalities. Check out our Talent Portal to learn more about working for Milliken.