Henry Ford III tried his hand at teaching junior high math and history for a couple of years after graduating from Dartmouth College, but there was never much doubt about where his real future lay.
"In the back of my mind, I knew I always wanted to work for Ford," he says. "Our family's legacy and heritage are very important to me and I knew it was something I wanted to carry on."
For starters, he bears a resemblance to his great-great-grandfather Henry Ford, the company's founder. The likeness was so striking that someone at Ford's archives in Dearborn hung large photos of a young Henry Ford and his great-great-grandson side by side on the wall.
Since joining Ford in 2006 as a member of the national collective bargaining team, Ford, who is the son of Edsel Ford II, has touched many facets of the business that bears the family name, including marketing, product planning, purchasing, sales, dealer relations and now Lincoln. He even spent a summer selling cars at Galpin Ford in Los Angeles.
Along the way he has learned to take something away from each experience. Dealing with the UAW is case in point.
"I came away with a new respect for our hourly employees and the UAW and everything they do day in and day out to make Ford a successful company," he says. Ford seems unfazed by his famous name and his family's legacy.
During summer break while getting his MBA at MIT in 2008, he worked at Galpin Ford in North Hills, Calif. "I sold cars," he says.
Asked how customers reacted when they learned their salesman was named Henry Ford, he laughs out loud: "I got a whole host of different reactions. It was pretty funny. Some people thought it was cool and others didn't believe who I was."
He says he sold six cars during a month on the job in that cash-for-clunkers summer.
"It was just about the worst possible time to be selling cars," he says, laughing at the memory.
Beau Boeckmann, vice president of Galpin Ford, says Ford made a big impression on employees at the dealership.
"We took him from department to department so he could understand the retail side of the business," says Boeckmann.
"Every area we put him in, everyone wanted to keep him. Every area he touched, people fell in love with him. He is incredibly bright. He is driven but not in an aggressive way."
Boeckmann remembers inviting Ford to come to his parent's house for a July 4 family gathering that summer.
"I said, 'Henry, come on by.' He said: 'No I've got to work.' He's genuine. He's the real deal."
These days Ford is responsible for Lincoln sales and marketing in California and other western states.
His great-grandfather, Edsel Ford, is considered the spiritual father of the brand.
"Lincoln is personal for me," he says. "To have a role in reinventing Edsel's vision for the brand is a once in a lifetime experience, and I'm very thankful for that."
He is grateful for his mentors. He says they include his father and his father's cousin, Ford Chairman Bill Ford.
"I've learned a lot just by watching my father and Bill and understanding how they interact and operate with people," he says. "They're both humble people, and that's what I try to emulate.
"I try not to have any sense of entitlement or anything like that. I truly view myself as just another Ford employee."