Kid standing on stepping stool dressed as superhero
By Erin Peralta Nov 20 2015

Five Tips to Fast-Track Your Career

At 26, I’m still at the beginning stage of my career in advertising. Yet, as cliché as it may sound, I wish I knew then, what I know now. At least in regards to what I learned during Kelly Wenzel’s presentation at the annual Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) Advertising Career Conference earlier today. As the CMO at Centro, Kelly hasn’t gotten to where she is today without hard work and a few obstacles along the way. A vice president of marketing by the time she was 30, her career path has been one that many dream of – myself included. Which is why her presentation on the “Five Tips to Fast-Track Your Career” seemed to truly resonate with the 400+ crowd of young college students and recent grads eager to get their feet in the door and on the path toward a similar road to success. Awe-inspired by her strong physical presence and executive level title, they were keen to take advice from a seasoned marketing maven. And so was I. So for those still in college or maybe at the brink of their careers, or even just for anyone needing some third-party career guidance, here are Kelly’s five tips (plus one!) in a quick recap:

#1: Amp Your Empathy
The heart is the most important muscle in the body, but did you know that it’s also the most important in advertising? After all, advertising is a business powered by people. And in order to be successful, you need to know your customers – their wishes, wants, pains, and preferences – and be able to paint a picture that truly matters to them. Empathy is the key to making that connection – to telling that story. Put yourself in other peoples’ shoes. Because how you treat people in life matters. Relationships matter. Your skills might be the thing that gets you in the door, but relationships will be what lifts you up.

#2: Cultivate Curiosity
Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Asking questions is key. Because in order to succeed, you need to be constantly learning and sharpening your skillset. Think of new ways to cultivate your curiosity. For instance, instead of sitting at home watching Real Housewives of Orange County, invest your time in advancing your skillsets, finishing up an important presentation, or reading a good book. Time is the great equalizer. Everyone (you, me, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg) gets access to 24 hours in a day – it’s what we do with those 24 hours that truly matters.

#3: Be a Go-Giver
You’ve probably heard the term go-getter before, but maybe not the term go-giver. In any case, pick up Bob Burg’s, “The Go-Giver,” a story about an ambitious young man named Joe who yearns for success. Without giving the entire plot away, here’s the story’s overall theme: change your focus from getting to giving – putting others’ interests first and continually adding value to their lives – and it will ultimately lead to unexpected returns. Always give more than you can receive and constantly ask what you can do to help. You’ll reap more benefits in the long run.

#4: Do Good Work
Stop worrying about promotions and pay raises and start focusing on what really matters – the work that you are doing. Good work gets you noticed. And good work gets you those titles and pay increases. Do what you can to make your boss’ job easier – and then some. And more importantly, everything that you are doing should come from a place of purpose. Don’t be afraid to ask why. Why am I doing this? Why does this project need to get done before that other project? Why is that the business process and not this?

#5: Dress for Tomorrow
You’re getting ready for the first day at a new job. When picking out your attire, ask yourself this: are you dressed for the part? Or are you dressed like you’re going out on a date? Only you can decide how you want to show up in the world. So show up like you’re there to take your job seriously. And it doesn’t have to be a suit and tie or fancy dress kind of attire, but it should look polished and put-together. If you have a goal to become a vice president of marketing by the time you’re 30, then dress like it.

Bonus Tip: Feedback is a Gift
Feedback is a gift, so don’t take it like it’s a knife to the stomach. Shift your mindset to take the emotion out of it. Because nine times out of ten, feedback is almost always about the other person than it is about you. And whether positive or negative, the best thing you can do is to learn and grow from it. It will make you a stronger person in the long run.