Jennifer Breithaupt | Crain's Los Angeles

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jennifer Breithaupt


Jennifer Breithaupt is the chief marketing officer of Global Consumer business at Citi. Prior to that, she oversaw the U.S. credit card division, leading marketing and advertising, including global social media and global entertainment. Breithaupt is responsible for a partnership with Live Nation Entertainment and for Private Pass, an incentive offering cardholders access to music events. 

The Mistake:

I believed if you worked hard and had a great attitude, things would just happen for you.

Early on, things worked out that way, so I benefited from just working hard, digging in and raising my hand for things.

Four or five years into my career, there was this big project where [the leaders] pulled everybody together and said, “We have this business challenge, and we need a solution.” I spent time thinking about it, researching, figuring out what others had done, what had and hadn’t worked. I brought this full-blown business plan and presented it. The organization ran with it — and I was sitting on the sidelines.

I did not think at that moment to raise my hand and say, “This is what I’m presenting to your organization. This is what I think our solution is, and I would like to lead this.” I think they would have given it to me if I had said that. [Maybe they assumed] I wasn’t sure how it would come together or who would lead it, so they made those decisions.

It was disappointing. I knew I deserved to be leading that project and getting the credit, and I had to just watch [when] it was executed by a different team.

That happened a couple times before I realized it wasn’t enough to work hard and come up with ideas. 

Don’t assume somebody else will know you want to be involved in something. 

The Lesson:

Don’t assume somebody else will know you want to be involved in something. You have to be proactive and own your career. You have to manage that career — your personal brand — and spend time on it.

I learned the hard way by missing out on opportunities because I didn’t know it’s not just about the hard work.

If the people you work for and work with don’t know you’re interested in leading something or in taking it all the way to the line, you’re doing yourself a disservice. No one else is going to do that for you. People help along the way, but you own your career.

You have to [ask for what you want] because maybe they don’t want to give [a project] to somebody else, but they may not know you’re interested in it.

Build your own brand, and merchandise the work you do. Be proactive, whether in a meeting or a special project or with a client, and don’t expect that someone [else] will pull you along.

Citi is on Twitter: @Citibank.

Photo by Christopher Appoldt