Women who want to succeed in the automotive industry had better be prepared to get a few speeding tickets. That’s one of the key takeaways from “Challenge Accepted,” a presentation that Rebecca Jenkins of Cars.com delivered June 25 at the Women in Automotive Conference.
Rebecca knows whereof she speaks. Throughout her career in automotive, she has always seized the initiative and never looked back, such as when she worked her way up from receptionist to manager at a dealership in Ohio. And she has endured many challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry. During her presentation, she shared some of those challenges and how she not only overcame them but became more successful because of them.
For instance, there was the time when the sales manager of a dealership recommended to the owner that Rebecca become the finance manager based on her qualifications. The owner said, “I will never hire a woman for that position, and you will never make that kind of money.”
As Rebecca told the audience at the Women in Automotive Conference, “His lack of faith in my ability to do the job only strengthened my desire to succeed. Challenge accepted.” And boy, did she ever succeed.
“Less than two months after that conversation in the owner’s office, I landed an interview for a Finance job out of state,” she said. “I put on my only suit, put my hair up, mustered up every ounce of charisma I had in me, and I nailed that interview . . . and at 19 years old, a little over a year out of high school I was the Finance Manager of a small Ford dealership in Southern Indiana.”
From that point onward, Rebecca advanced in the ranks of the automotive industry while being a single mom to her son. For a decade, she succeeded at different dealerships before joining Cars.com and becoming director of sales. While on the dealership side, she also endured experiences that many women in the industry have faced, such as constantly being mistaken for the receptionist even though she was the manager. But she always persevered and now literally stands as a role model at an event such as the Women in Automotive Conference. At the event, she shared three lessons for succeeding in automotive:
- Get speeding tickets, not parking tickets. Move forward with constant, positive motion. Don’t stay put, and don’t be complacent. Don’t wait for permission. “Trust your instincts, trust your abilities, and move forward with confidence and conviction,” she said. “You may get a speeding ticket every now and again, and that is OK — just don’t stay put, don’t settle, and don’t get a parking ticket.”
- Live the 30 Rule. Manage your time, stress, and emotions by applying the 30 Rule. When you are facing a problem, ask yourself this question: will this issue still be a problem 30 minutes from now, 30 hours from now, 30 days from now, or even 30 weeks from now? “Align your energy and time with the severity of the situation,” she said. “If the problem you are facing in the moment won’t still be a problem 30 minutes from now or even 30 hours from now, I challenge you to give it very little to none of your time. Focus on providing solutions to problems that could still be problems 30 days from now and 30 weeks from now.”
- Don’t cheat at Solitaire. Always be honest with yourself – about both your strengths and weaknesses. To be anything less than honest is cheating yourself of the opportunity to grow. “Identify what has to happen in order to succeed and work towards a solution even if it means being transparent about your weaknesses,” she said. “You will find success much faster if you don’t cheat at Solitaire.”
Rebecca also challenged the audience to lock arms and be agents of change for the automotive industry. “Everyone in this room has a say in how the future of automotive looks,” she said. “No one is telling us what path to take. But we need to ask ourselves: are we blazing trails or asking for permission?”
Thank you, Rebecca, for representing Cars.com as a keynote at the Women in Automotive Conference. Meanwhile, if you want to watch Rebecca’s presentation, visit the Women in Automotive Facebook page for a playback of the livestream. Prepare to be inspired!