Three Simple Work Practices That Will Help You Advance

Being at the right place at the right time. You hear this a lot from successful people talking about their careers. But luck isn’t all of the story. It also doesn’t make for helpful career advice.

Enter Amy Trask, former CEO of the Oakland Raiders. It could be said that with the NFL team, she got lucky: she landed an internship in the front office the summer before her last year of law school, a job that required legal expertise opened about a year after she graduated, her boss was supportive and did what he could to help her advance within the organization.

But Trask, who is now CEO of new basketball league Big 3 and a football analyst on CBS Sports, will readily describe her actions that led to her being at each right place and time. She cold-called the Raiders and talked her way into an internship, and she worked tirelessly for the organization, happily doing anything to learn more about the business, which is why the front office remembered her a year or so later. “I would have played tackle if they’d asked me,” she says.

Trask also acted fast when she accepted on the spot the job that would launch her to CEO in her early 30s. “I didn’t even ask what the salary was,” she recalls. “It turned out to be a substantial amount less than what I was earning at the law firm, but this was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Here, the author of You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League, shares her top career advice:

#1. Do the work above and below your pay grade.

“I cringe when I hear people say that some task is beneath them or not in their job description. If you’re employed, your job is to do everything you can to help your organization succeed. When I started out at the Raiders I regularly went from department to department to learn all about the organization and offered to help, to the point, in fact, that I was warned that I was stepping on toes. Even as CEO, during football season, I could be found in the ticket office alphabetizing the envelopes. I’m a big believer that hard work matters.”

#2. Keep a special cash reserve for tough times at work.

“My husband and I called it our f*** you fund. We started the fund after I shared with him that at some point, Al Davis was going to say f*** you one time too many, and either I was going to quit or he was going to fire me. It was liberating to have the fund. You may never use it—we still have ours—but if it is possible to have one, and I recognize that it is not always possible, it’s a wonderful thing to have the freedom to make decisions without regard to economic considerations.”

#3. Stay true to yourself.

“As my mother always said, ‘To thine own self be true.’ If you follow only one tip here, this is the one to follow. The only business decisions or deals that I have regretted were when I didn’t follow my mother’s advice and instead let someone else dictate how I conducted myself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. For example, don’t slam your hand down on a table and declare ‘nyet, nyet, nyet’ during negotiations, which is what Al instructed me to do. Don’t behave the way you think business people behave. Trust yourself. Be true to your values. I do things my way—and I am satisfied with the results.”

Amy Trask will be speaking on a panel about imposter syndrome and leading a workshop on negotiating at the 2018 Watermark Conference for Women on February 23.


  Read more from the October 2017 newsletter