Are you hungry for success but lack direction on what steps you should take to get there? A lot of us millennial women can relate. Even though there are so many wonderful things about being Gen Y, finding the path to your passion can be challenging at times. That's why in October 2013, Lauren McGoodwin created Career Contessa, an online platform guiding career-driven women to success.
The site features stories from business-savvy and entrepreneurial-minded women who recount how they got their big breaks. (Our senior producer at POPSUGAR, Donna Lee, was even showcased!) Check out our interview with the 27-year-old founder and editor in chief. From obtaining a work-life balance to hiring people better than you, McGoodwin shares her own journey of becoming a Career Contessa and gives advice for millennial women who are still figuring it out.
POPSUGAR: What defines a Career Contessa?
Lauren McGoodwin: Career Contessas are modern, educated, social- and career-driven women that have found success dominating their professional learning curve. We purposely feature Contessas across a variety of stages and occupations that are relatable at all levels and ambitions. Success occurs multiple times while navigating your career path, and we want to make sure to document that success in order to provide inspiration and direction throughout all stages.
PS: Can you tell us about your "few (tough) years of soul and job searching"?
LM: The journey really started during my junior year of college. I was an education major on track to become a teacher when I suddenly decided to change course and pursue marketing. Because I didn't have time to change my major, I became very proactive about joining clubs/organizations, volunteering, and having internships. My goal was to create connections and gain business experience in other ways. I worked very hard my senior year to land a job — I like to say I was the career center's poster child; however, I still graduated without any offers.
Postgraduation, I moved to Los Angeles and, through a family friend, landed a job working in admissions for a university. I wasn't thrilled about the position, but the reality is your rent doesn't pay itself. Not enjoying my job, industry, or company really pushed me to think about what I did like, what I was passionate about, what would create a more engaging and satisfying career.
The process of figuring out the answers was not easy and, to a certain extent, couldn't be rushed. However, hearing about and reading other women's career stories was very helpful and provided more career direction than any traditional career resource. I ultimately decided to pursue a career in recruiting and credit the informational interviews I conducted with women recruiters for helping me land a job that I love within a better-fitting company.
PS: Was there an "aha" or lightbulb moment when you finally figured out what you wanted for your career?
LM: The "aha" moment came later while I was researching recruiting careers. When I first decided to pursue recruiting as a career, I did what most 23-year-olds do — I turned to Google. I looked online and talked with my parents, but neither resource was able to help with the question I most needed an answer for: what is the job, and how do I get it?
I wanted examples of the backgrounds employers were looking for and what the role called for, so I started reaching out to recruiters on LinkedIn to have informational calls. Having direction and advice was a huge help with editing my résumé, finding out what type of recruiting position to pursue, and, more importantly, it gave me a clear idea of what skills the job required. I had "aha" moments throughout my informational interviews, because I left each call more certain of the career I wanted to pursue and more knowledgeable about the job.
I believe effective changes can come from many different places — from that "aha" moment of knowing what job to pursue to having the courage to apply for a job. These days you can't just wait for a job to come to you — you have to be proactive, and some direction can go a long way in making your efforts more effective.
PS: A lot of women have great ideas for companies but are too afraid to make them happen. Can you give any advice to these women?
LM: The difference between talking about an idea and actually making it happen is huge. For motivation, I keep inspirational quotes within sight. For action, I encourage women to network with as many entrepreneurs as possible and become an expert in your desired field. Next, create an outline that includes 1) where you are now, 2) where you want to be, and 3) your roadblocks. Spend time identifying specific roadblocks and brainstorming solutions.
PS: What is your typical morning routine (before your 9-to-5)?
5:15 a.m.: Wake up, drink tea, read emails and check my calendar
6 a.m.: Exercise — I usually attend a class (circuit training is my favorite!) or run outside
7 a.m.: Breakfast — a green smoothie while I watch CBS This Morning
8 a.m.: Head out into LA traffic for my commute to Santa Monica
PS: How do you balance your personal life with work?
LM: I'm very intentional with my time, and I schedule everything into my day no matter how big or small. I'm more focused and creative in the morning, so I work on tasks that require those skills earlier and leave the quick to-dos for the afternoon. I also schedule any networking meetings for the morning, since I try to leave the evenings for myself. Being so productive during the day allows me to unwind in the evening, which acts like a little reward to myself.
PS: Have you always wanted to start a company?
LM: I've always been an "ideas" person, pitching my latest idea to whoever would listen, but it rarely would go past that. CC was different, because it grew out of a very personal and passionate place for me. Although I didn't set out to create a company, I couldn't stop thinking about the problem with current career resources, and I felt compelled to create the resource I was looking for while job-hunting. It never occurred to me that I couldn't start a company, so I did.
PS: What are some important lessons you've learned along the way?
LM: The best lessons I've learned are to hire people that are better than you and to value the importance of good design. I truly believe we are best when working within our strengths, so I've made sure to hire the experts in areas I know less about such as web development, design, legal, accounting, etc. For design, we made the decision to focus resources on creating a professional and well-organized site straight from the get-go. It required some upfront costs, but our site is the first introduction to our brand and therefore was well worth the investment.
Fun facts about Lauren!
- Her guilty pleasure is hair up, sweat pants on, ginger tea in hand, and a good read in bed.
- Her favorite way to let loose is brunching with girlfriends.
- She reads a lot of magazines including Fast Company, Style Watch Inc., Entrepreneur, and Women's Health.
- While traveling, her favorite phone apps are TripIt and Uber.
- If she could only eat one meal for the rest of her life, it would be breakfast burritos all day long!