Closing The Gap

The NFL's first female CEO attributes her success to ignoring this common piece of career advice

CBS Sports football analyst and former Raiders CEO Amy Trask. 
Credit: Amy Trask
CBS Sports football analyst and former Raiders CEO Amy Trask. 

Amy Trask knows when to throw away the playbook.

Trask is a football analyst for CBS Sports, board chairman of BIG3, a 3-on-3 basketball league that founded by rapper/actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, and from 1997 to 2013, she served as the CEO of the Oakland Raiders. She was the first woman to hold this position in the NFL.

Trask says that after graduating from University of California, Berkeley, she got lots of advice about planning her career. But she knew exactly what she wanted to do and where — so there was a common piece of advice she made sure to ignore.

"Someone whose judgement and advice I cherish once said to me, 'You need to have a five-year plan,'" Trask tells CNBC Make It. "I looked at him and said, 'I don't want a five-year plan. That's not the way I want to go about my career.'"

Ice Cube aka O'Shea Jackson poses with former Oakland Raider CEO Amy Trask.
Kirby Lee | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Ice Cube aka O'Shea Jackson poses with former Oakland Raider CEO Amy Trask.

Trask, who is the author of "You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League," says that she knew since college she wanted to work for the Raiders. She was offered an internship with the organization in 1983, and then a permanent position with the team in 1987. Instead of developing a five-year plan, Trask says, she placed all of her focus on mastering whatever job was in front of her. She believed that if she did that, she says, everything else would fall into place.

"I could have been told that my job was going to be alphabetizing envelopes," says Trask, whose first full-time job with the Raiders was in the legal department. "And I would have said 'yes.' I'm not for a moment suggesting that the way I approached my career is necessarily right for everyone, but it was the right way for me."

As she climbed the ranks, Trask realized how being laser-focused on a long-term plan can make many people lose sight of what they want to achieve and experience in the short-term.

"As I advanced within the organization and started hiring, I noticed how people came into the organization already looking to move up," she says. "I remember interviewing people for positions you can tell they weren't interested in or even focused on, and that's because they were already looking steps down the line."

A five-year plan may work for some people, but Trask prefers to live more in the moment, professionally.

"I'm not going to judge others and say that a [five-year plan] might not be right for them," says Trask. "But I'm very pleased with the way I went about my career."

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