The pressure of finding a job that aligns with your goals, strengths and passions has never been easy. Lauren McGoodwin, founder and CEO of Career Contessa, started a career resource hub specifically for women in 2013. It literally answers every and any career question you’ve ever had. Since she started, the site has expanded into a thriving business of online learning for women everywhere.
She is the #LadyBoss of insight for those who are job searching, soul searching, or trying to find new ways to advance in their career. I had the chance to ask Lauren 11 questions about her experience – the good and the bad. I even had the chance to rattle some live-saving career tips from her. Here is what our Lady Boss of the Month for January had to say:
1. A career site dedicated to women is genius and quite frankly, necessary. Can you explain the a-ha moment that led you to start an empowering site for female professionals?
Career Contessa started as the project for my master’s thesis. After college I’d found myself struggling in yet another job, and I was shocked by that because I’d been so proactive throughout college. After all those hours in the Career Center, I still felt poorly equipped. Even after I went back for my masters, I couldn’t let go of that frustration —so I decided to use it.
We’re so lucky that there are so many different types of jobs and companies out there, but all those options can feel paralyzing. It’s no longer simple to answer “What do you want to do when you grow up?” you know?
Career Contessa was my alternative approach to answering that question. In 2013, I started the site—although it was more like a blog really at that point—while I was still working at Hulu and after I had tested the idea of a site like this with focus groups for my master’s thesis. Back then, we only had our career interviews, and I’d hoped that by reading about the career paths of successful women, our audience would find inspiration and direction for their own careers.
Almost immediately, those interviews sparked endless dialogues and debates. Our readers sent us questions about informational interviews, networking, personal branding, etc. They needed so much more help than those profiles could provide. That’s when I started to realize that Career Contessa had the potential to be much more than a passion project or a weekly interview series.
In 2014, I left Hulu to focus on building Career Contessa into a full-fledged career resource for women.
2. You graduated with a degree in Communications and formerly worked as a University Recruiter for Hulu. How have your past experiences prepared you for your role today?
Working in recruiting definitely gave me a unique experience with both startup life and being on the other side of the hiring table. Prior to Hulu, I had a very arduous job search so, after becoming a recruiter I was able to learn how companies review resumes, conduct phone and in-person interviews, work with hiring managers, and it was also fascinating to see how each candidate acted and negotiated throughout the process.
3. In the age of social EVERYTHING, this an important one: Which social media site do you think is the most beneficial for your business and why?
Hands down—Instagram. Instagram is the new business card and can help make sure your audience can find, engage, and even make purchases from your platform. We just started hosting Instagram Live’s each Monday where we answer career Q/A’s from readers and it’s been a great way to introduce video into our content.
4. It takes strength and courage to create your own company, let alone keep up with it while it thrives. What advice can you offer to others to get past internal doubts, and believe they can accomplish their own dreams?
It can be a very overwhelming big picture so; my best advice is to make some short-term goals and work on completing smaller tasks first. Build your way up to the larger tasks and be kind to yourself in the process. It took me 1.5 years to go from an idea to launching the first version of Career Contessa. Also, don’t worry about having it all perfect when you first launch—your goal should be to learn as you go and constantly adapt as you learn.
5. Whether it’s lifestyle or professional related, what do you think is an important part of career growth that is often overlooked?
Progress is more important than perfection. We get so caught up in having a perfect plan for our career that we can miss potential opportunities. It’s important to have a vision for your career, but don’t be too strict about the methods you use or the path you take to get there.
6. By browsing your team page, it seems you’ve employed a small, but powerhouse staff of what I can only assume are inspiring individuals. What is it like to work with an all-female staff that you hand-picked?
Working with the Career Contessa team is one of the biggest privileges of my life. We’re small yet mighty. We’re creative, organized and built off the energy each of us brings to CC. What’s most inspiring is their ability to see the forest through the trees. They don’t have time to get stuck on the small stuff, and it shows with the speed at which we grow each year.
7. You launched this company in 2013. Since you began, how has the Career Advice space evolved?
When I started, there were less than 5 career resources just dedicated to women. Now, there are countless options from money advice for women to entrepreneurship advice for women, and also more niche sites around. When I started I got a lot of negative feedback for building a career site just for women. People questioned why advice for women was different, and why readers would be hooked long-term. Clearly, we’ve proved them wrong. Women continue to make power moves in their career, and they deserve a resource that’s tailored to the unique challenges they face (i.e. wage gap, maternal wall, etc.) and the tools they want to use to succeed.
8. Since setbacks and hardships are inevitable, what is one thing that keeps you motivated during the hard times?
If you want to be successful in anything…learn how to be resilient and persevere through the tough moments. I’ve been told no…a lot. I’ve had projects and relationships fail. I’ve had key people quit on me. I’ve had to come up with a Plan B at a moment’s notice. And I’ve had to keep the fire lit under me while all those things have happened. The thing that motivates me? My own desire to build a platform that changes the lives of women. I’m competing with myself because I know what I’m capable of achieving.
9. You have a business to run and you somehow find time to be interviewed. PLEASE share your essential time management tips with us.
I schedule everything. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not getting done. So, in order to get a lot done I pretty much time-manage from the time I wake up to the time I’m home. Once I’m home at night, I’m usually off the calendar. Before I leave work, I go over my to-do list for that day and make a new one for tomorrow. Before bed, I prep my breakfast, outfit and wake up time for the next day.
I remember this feeling well. I was in my second job out of college and felt lost, depressed, and almost hopeless about my career path. Two things really helped me: 1) asking to be included in any project or assignment that was out of my ordinary scope of work and 2) having informational interviews with real women in jobs and at companies I thought were interesting. Both of those things led me to recruiting and Hulu.
11. Since you are a career #LadyBoss, I’d be foolish not to squeeze this one out of you. Tell us your #1 career tip!
Maintain (and build) your network. There is a lot of emphasis on networking, but it doesn’t mean much to know a lot of people “sorta” well. Focus on quality, not quantity. Make time to meet new people, stay in touch, help them in any way you can and learn from that.
Even those who have found success have felt inexplicably lost. When it seems like there’s no direction; you’re not alone. Your character is a valuable asset, and if you exert determination and persistence, you have the ability to find your career sweet spot.
Rather than idolizing the big picture of what you want, break your main goal into concrete, actionable steps. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, it’s in your power to surround yourself with things that will make your dreams more attainable. Be open to opportunities and get out there and live fiercely.
Career-thoughts got you feeling low? Cut yourself some slack and head over to CareerContessa.com to own your dreams and your career today.