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The Road Not Taken: Being CEO Doesn’t Start Where You Might Think

“The road not taken: being CEO doesn’t start where you might think” was originally posted by hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here:

When I was 15, I became a buyer in a toy store.

The owner, Nancy, initially allowed me to do some work on weekends – it was just supposed to be a weekend admin job. But when people would come in, I would ask them questions and offer advice: “What does your son like to do? Does he read a lot?” I got to know the customers really well just by listening—which is important in any business. Although people were surprised I was there because I looked so young, it went well.

After awhile Nancy said, “You need to come with me to these buying events because you know what kids want.” My friends were all doing babysitting. Nobody else was doing this kind of job. But I wasn’t afraid to jump in. There was a great lesson in that I still use today. Ask the right questions and be able to listen to customers, which is exactly what I did when I founded Hint.*

I also learned that when you get an opportunity to take on new responsibilities, at any age, just do it. I learned a similar lesson during my first job at Time Warner. I was working in circulation for a boss who is still a mentor to this day. She’d been going through a life change when I was hired; her husband had passed away. What she needed me for me to do to in that moment is jump in and figure something out.

Both of those people taught me that if you see an opportunity to help someone who has the authority to boost your career, jump in and get it done. That’s a really important piece of advice, especially for people who are starting jobs. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Sometimes you have to look for the opportunities where you can show you’re smart and responsible. You may not do everything perfectly, but showing initiative goes a long way.