On Nov. 20, Karen Civil, the social media & branding guru behind the online campaigns of some of our favorite celebs & brands–Little Wayne, Mary J Blige, Beats by Dr. Dre and others, brought her #LiveCivil tour to New York University. #LiveCivil, a hashtag campaign which started from a series of inspirational tweets, is a fresh perspective on finding purpose and creating your own opportunities.
While it may be celebrities who represent the glitz and the glam of the entertainment industry, Karen exemplifies a new league of game changers who shows what it takes to master relationships, speak up in the boardroom and drive new levels of engagement with various audiences.
So, how does a 30-year-old woman without a formal marketing education land a position responsible for multimillion-dollar ad campaigns? She kicked off the evening sharing her childhood story, and how she found the courage to define her own rules for success. Here are some highlights:
On finding her calling: Karen was raised in Elizabeth, NJ. Throughout her childhood she was teased about being “weird” and struggled with self-doubt. Karen felt she did not “fit –in” with her peers but the Internet was a constant connection to the hip hop culture. She leveraged the Internet to build relationships and create her own opportunities–building a Backstreet Boys Geocities fan site, and entering an apprentice contest to be Angie Martinez’s intern at New York’s Hot 97, to name a few.
On setting yourself apart: “Instead of making an impression leave your mark” said Karen. Dress unique, be diligent and hustle to the top. She learned this very early on while working at Hot 97 as FunkMaster Flex’s intern. Be the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave.
On getting ahead: “Let me figure this out,” Karen’s infamous response to her client’s pressing challenges, has catapulted her career to incredible levels. She builds organic relationships and is consistently focused on going above and beyond what she is asked to do.
On intention: “Understand why you do what you do.” Karen told a great story about how she came out of her “disease to prove her success” to the peers that teased her throughout her teens. When she was initially offered a position to work with Beats by Dre, she turned turned down the offer because she wanted the people she grew up with to witness her success first hand. “I wanted to be everything but myself; I wanted my high school peers to see me in my nice new house and car, but that wasn’t me.—Your intention should drive you.”
On handling distractions: “Be selective with the energy you let near or around you.” You don’t have to attend every event.
On support from family and friends: Strangers are going to support you before some of your friends.
On taking risk: “Look at every opportunity as if you only have this one last shot to make it happen.”
On having patience: “Everyone doesn’t need to see your vision or dream, protect your energy.”
On rejection: Have patience and understand when its your turn, your light will shine. Although Funk Master Flex terminated Karen’s position, he contacted her years later to help him navigate the digital space; she continues to support him today.