By Carla Cooper, President & CEO, Daymon Worldwide
You will hear a lot of advice during your working life, just as I have during my time in Corporate America. Not every piece of advice made sense or was relevant to my situation, but there are three core truths that I find myself returning to time and again over the years. Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.
My first piece if advice is Know Who You Are. That sounds easy, but it’s not. You have to become a student of your own strengths and weaknesses, and you have to be especially honest with yourself about the weaknesses. It may take you some time in the workplace to understand the complete picture, but actively pay attention to what goes well for you and what doesn’t. Seek feedback often from diverse sources and points of view. By the time you are thirty, you really want to have a strong handle on what makes you special, and what areas still need some work. I cannot overstate the importance of self-awareness. It will point you toward appropriate opportunities, and help you avoid preventable mistakes.
My second bit of wisdom is Know Where You Want to Go. There is nothing sadder in corporate life than someone whose ambitions are out of whack with his or her talents or work ethic. If you truly aspire to the corner office or the C-suite, pay close attention to how hard those people work, and what kind of lives they lead day-to-day. The fact is, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. I can tell you that the days are long, the work is hard, and the pressure is real. But I can also tell you that these jobs help you discover talents you didn’t even know you had, and are endlessly interesting. If your career targets are not that lofty, that’s great, too. There are almost infinite ways to make a big impact on an organization in other roles, and that may also allow for a greater work-life balance.
My last piece of advice is simple: Make a Plan, and Act on It. Once you have assessed yourself honestly, and decided where your ultimate ambitions lie, then make a plan to get what you want. This is not rocket science; it is simply applying smarts and determination to your career path. Cultivate the experiences that will add to your portfolio of skills. Seek out and develop the relationships that will help ensure your name is in the mix when the right job opens up. Be your own advocate at work every day. I know there are some who shy away from calling attention to themselves, but there is no shame in taking credit for your legitimate contributions. Ambitious people are the lifeblood of any organization.
There are a fortunate few whose careers just happen for them by accident of birth or inheritance. For the rest of us, the architect of our own path is the person staring back at us in the mirror. If you focus on my three pieces of advice, you are well on your way to becoming a very successful career architect.
About Carla: Carla Cooper has been President and CEO of Daymon Worldwide since January 2011. She is also a member of Daymon’s Board of Directors, a position to which she was appointed in 2009.
Prior to joining Daymon, Carla was senior vice president, Quaker, Tropicana, and Gatorade Sales for PepsiCo Inc., the 10 billion retail sales “warehouse delivery” division of PepsiCo.
Carla joined PepsiCo from the Kellogg Company, where she was president and general manager of natural and frozen foods, with responsibility for the company’s Worthington Foods, Kashi Company and Eggo businesses. Carla also spent twelve years working in both the food service and retail divisions of Coca-Cola USA, most recently as vice president, customer marketing, managing the all-channel, all-national customer group for Coca-Cola before they were transitioned to CCE in 2000. Her other Coca-Cola USA assignments included serving as vice president, Coca-Cola fountain national chain accounts, and area vice president, USA Fountain Division. Before joining Coca-Cola USA, she worked in sales and management assignments for The Procter & Gamble Company.
Carla is an active board member for Ruth’s Hospitality Group Incorporated (RHGI), the publicly traded parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses and Mitchell’s Fishmarkets, the Food Marketing Institute, the Culinary Institute of America and the Women’s Foodservice Forum, which she chaired for three and one-half years. Additionally, Carla was the first female Chairperson of the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA).