This article originally appeared on Neon Notebook.

Nicole Rodrigues has been in the PR and social media industry for for 14+ years and now has her own firm, NRPR Group, in Beverly Hills.  She helps big consumer, entertainment and sports brands really shape their image by using great strategy and very “human” tactics.

What sets her apart from other professionals is her path to becoming a CEO: Early in her career, Nicole spent 2+ years as a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, while working internally on the PR team. She’s also a mother, and has had to balance being a mom and having a career since she graduated from college. She continues to mentor everyone on her teams with great wisdom she learned from her time working with The Raiders as well as big companies such as Sony Playstation, Hulu, Dolby and YouTube.

1) Hard work really does pay off. In my 20’s, I used to get upset a lot when I’d see my friends out partying while I was working. I knew I wanted to be successful but, was it ever going to “really happen?” The answer was yes. The long hours and extra projects put me ahead of the game. I was learning how to be better in my profession and am now able to enjoy myself more in my 30s because I’m not still trying to climb “the ladder.” Now I’m just working hard to build my own business. There are still parties and outings that I skip now, but I don’t mind at all. I know in the end it will always be worth it.

2) Nice girls don’t finish last. People used to tell me that I’d be taken advantage of in the professional world because of my niceness. The way I see it, no matter what, there will always be people who try to take advantage of you. That’s just life. What I did learn is that my “niceness” helped me truly build a strong network of people I could trust because they knew I was trustworthy. People like doing business with people they like. Period. Being nice has gotten me awesome clients, equally nice employees and a great circle of friends. And, just because I’m nice doesn’t mean I’m a pushover. I definitely have a tough side, as every woman should.

3) Always save for a rainy day. Jobs are not guaranteed forever. It’s also not guaranteed you’ll like a certain job and want to stay forever. What I learned over the years is that so many people will stay at jobs they hate just because they need to pay their bills. That leads to a lack of passion and motivation. I learned the hard way that I needed to save. When I finally made it a habit, there was never a job that had a hold on me because I “had” to be there. In fact, I left two positions because I was very unhappy and knew I didn’t see myself there in the future. When I knew I had money in the bank, I had confidence that I’d be OK because I had great skills to help me land a new position. Yes, I walked away from those positions and landed great new jobs in a heartbeat! I walked away from dead end jobs and terrible management that made me miserable. It’s a powerful thing to “own your future” and not have a job dictate it. SAVE. It will always give you leverage so you ensure you’re working where you’re happy.

This article originally appeared on Neon Notebook.

Now we want to hear from you! Is there anything YOU wish you knew as you were starting your career? What advice would you pass along to up-and-comers? Let us know in the comments below and stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest news from NRPR Group by signing up for our bi-monthly newsletter, HUSTLE WITH A CONSCIENCE!