From Hooters girl to company president: 5 lessons from Kat Cole

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From Hooters girl to company president: 5 lessons from Kat Cole
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Kat Cole’s smile tells you everything you need to know about how enthusiasm for helping others, passion for your career and a willingness to change the world can pay huge dividends for you both professionally and personally.

Kat started out as waitress at Hooters and rose through the ranks to become VP of the company. Now 38, she’s Group President of FOCUS Brands. She oversees a portfolio of restaurant properties that includes Carvel, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Cinnabon and more.

Read more: 5 lessons from a man who retired at 33

Meet Kat Cole

The oldest of three sisters, Kat’s parents divorced when she was nine. But Kat says her mom never faltered.

‘She worked multiple jobs and was, to the best of my recollection, so happy and so kind,’ Kat says.

That work ethic and positive outlook inspired Kat to begin working at Hooters in high school. She soon distinguished herself by being willing to pitch in on any job big or small.

Her ‘can do’ attitude led to more responsibility within the company. Soon she was asked to go to Australia to help open a Hooters restaurant Down Under. Next came the opportunity to help open a location in Mexico City.

By the age of 26, Kat became VP of the company and worked alongside people twice her age.

Need career or life inspiration? Here’s what you can learn from Kat…

Start early

Kat started working as a waitress almost as soon as she could. That ‘early bird gets the worm’ approach to life has paid off handsomely for her.

As for you, whether it comes to planning for retirement or saving for a child’s college, the key is to start early!

Be a utility player

In whatever your given career, strive to always learn more and be more. These free options for continuing education can help you achieve those goals.

Kat was the textbook definition of a utility player in her early days at Hooters. That’s what got her noticed within the company.

‘When the cooks quit, I went back and fried chicken wings. When the bartender needed to go home, I made the drinks. When the manager needed help, I helped the manager,’ she recalled to Clark.

Gain experience outside your field

Kat says her leadership experience was not exclusive to her paid job. She did everything from fundraising to community work in her early 20s.

Now 38, her LinkedIn page reveals an eclectic array of experience—everything from serving on the United Nations’ Global Entrepreneurship Council to working as a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum and much more.

Be gracious in all you do

‘I wake up every morning with this deep—really deep—sense of gratitude,’ Kat tells Clark.

Let that be a lesson to us all. Sometimes the best asset one can have is a gracious attitude through all the ups and downs of life!

Don’t overthink things

Too often, we get too wrapped up in our heads for our own good.

‘Don’t spend too much time trying to think your way into success,’ Kat advises. ‘Just start. Act your way into whatever the next thing is you’re going to do.’

As Clark notes, the key to Kat’s success is hard work and determination. Nobody ever got in her way, but she never pushed anybody out of the way.

And’s that something we can all learn from!

Read more: How much to save each month to have $1 million in retirement

Success story: From Hooters girl to company president

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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