What I Would Tell My 21-Year-Old Self?

Dawn KellyDawn Kelly, VP of Global Communications at Prudential, has been recently announced NABJ’s 2013 Pat Tobin Media Professional of the Year. Much like Pat Tobin, Dawn Kelly is a visionary who understands the power of partnerships and a mentor who ensures that women of color gain their seat at the table and occupy the C-Suite. As a member of BPRS-NY, Kelly decided to pen a few points of what she would tell her 21-year old self – points that any reader can take away to climb the same successful ladder as she did.  

Mistakes happen.  Failures are inevitable.  Keep in mind that what’s most important in life is how you respond to challenges.

Remember life is a journey complete with u-turns, full stops, moments where you are parked and then other moments when you are moving fast without obstacles.

Have faith that everything will work out.

Get to know yourself first, understand what you enjoy; what motivates you, what makes you happy and fulfilled.  Figure out what you would do if money were no object.

Believe in yourself.

Never stop learning.  Be well read. Remain open to opportunities — explore the world, learn about other cultures, evolving technology and communication methods.

Stay relevant by investing in yourself — take classes, study languages, consider obtaining a MBA. Knowing how business operates, what drives revenue and what is important to the bottom line is integral to helping clients win in the marketplace.

Be observant.  Introduce yourself to other experts in the industry and ask for guidance and counsel.  Listen more than you speak. 

Commit to stay in touch.  Cultivate relationships with members in your network — keep lines of communication open by following up with others regularly, sharing your ideas and perspectives, experiences, and talent.

Practice reciprocity.  Offer to help.  Activate your network by engaging your network whenever possible, as speakers, vendors, and experts.

Always leave a good impression.  It is not about whom you know, it is who knows you and will vouch for you.  Join industry associations and groups, participate and take on leadership roles.

Think like an entrepreneur.   Brainstorm regularly and think creatively.

Do your research and be prepared. Always develop a plan A, B, C and D.  Consider the seven or eight different ways you can tackle a task. Deconstruct ideas.  When undertaking a new project or managing a task, begin with the end in mind and work backwards. Break projects down into incremental steps.

Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  Don’t shy away from disagreement or conflict.  Oftentimes, difference of opinion helps make plans stronger and more strategic. Remember, it takes tons of pressure to produce a diamond.

Start saving today for a rainy day and even for retirement.  Compound interest is the key to building wealth over time.

Wake up every day grateful to have another chance to make a difference.  And above all else, have fun!