A few months ago I wrote a post called “How to Figure Out What You Really Want to Do In Life” that was inspired in part by a series of incredible interviews I had stumbled upon. The interviews focused on successful female professionals and were all found on one site, Career Contessa. Little did I know then, but Career Contessa would quickly become my go-to destination for seeking answers to life’s tough career questions. Since I’ve literally spent hours on the site reading about what it’s like to plan events at Buzzfeed and buy merchandise for BHLDN, I figured why not contact the Queen Contessa herself, site founder Lauren McGoodwin, to ask some questions!
Below you’ll find answers to the questions that have been keeping me awake at night, along with guidelines that will be invaluable to all young women preparing to enter the workforce or currently seeking the career of their dreams. Pens out, ladies, you’ll want to take notes for this one!
CollegeCandy: Tell us a little about yourself! What inspired you to start Career Contessa?
– I’m on a daily mission to get 10,000 steps. Thank you, FitBit.
– I live in Los Angeles – Hermosa Beach to be exact.
– I’m giddy (and hungry!) just thinking about my upcoming trips to Italy and Israel.
– I read about 2-3 magazines a week that range from Fast Company to Sunset to People. I also read books, but my magazine collection is more impressive.
I was inspired to create Career Contessa after navigating my own professional learning curve. My less-than-perfect post-college job left me feeling lost and frustrated because, although I was ambitious, I had no idea what career to pursue. I discovered recruiting as a career during a work assignment and had a really positive reaction to the work I was doing.
To find answers about the job and career path of a recruiter, I browsed the Internet for career resources and yet, I couldn’t find one that simply said, “Hey, here are real recruiters, here’s what their day-to-day is like, and here’s how you can get the job.” So I started reaching out to strangers via LinkedIn to gather information about a career in recruiting. Speaking directly to people in the recruiting profession provided the insight and direction I needed, but it was also a very time-consuming process. So I created Career Contessa to bridge the resource gap, utilizing real career stories from successful women to help provide information, inspiration, and direction for different career paths.
CC: Do you feel that having a personal blog is helpful while job hunting? What are some guidelines and suggestions you’d offer to young bloggers?
LM: I think it depends on what job you’re pursuing, but most of the time I would say yes. Blogging provides a quick snapshot of your work and your initiative. Creating and maintaining a blog requires significant effort; hiring managers will definitely take the time to look at your work.
My guidelines would include keeping your blog up-to-date, staying professional with your writing and tone (keep the curse words offline!), and using your blog to show your strengths. I think it’s a better investment of time to amplify your strengths rather than to buff up your weaknesses. For example, if you’re applying to jobs in marketing and you have legit skills in search engine optimization, use your blog to showcase your knowledge and genuine interest in SEO instead of using your blog to write on a variety of marketing terms you’re not familiar with. Your genuineness will come through.
CC: You’ve interviewed a lot of impressive women who work in so many different fields! Have you noticed any common threads while speaking to women who seem particularly satisfied and happy in their careers?
LM: The most common overarching theme between all of our interviewees is the idea of powering through the challenges. We’ve heard it all—issues with gender inequality in the workplace, financial struggles, tuning out the naysayers and, of course, moving beyond the nagging negativity that comes from within! Our Contessas are, without a doubt, the strongest group of women that our team has ever met, and nothing seems to bind them together more than their drive and passion to succeed.
CC: Most of us have held less-than-perfect jobs at one point or another. What advice would you give young women struggling through a miserable first job? Is it better to stick it out or seek a more fulfilling situation elsewhere, even if it means a career overhaul?
LM: I think it’s almost always a good idea to pursue a more fulfilling situation. This doesn’t mean that you should refuse ten job offers because they don’t fit every criterion you’ve set. Unless you hit the entry-level job lottery, your first job(s) will probably be a stepping-stone to something bigger and better. I know a less-than-perfect job is difficult during the day-to-day, but you are moving forward. Each job teaches you something, from how to use the copy machine to how to adapt to a company’s culture – all vital skills for building a career.
If you’re unhappy in your job and unsure of what to pursue next, I recommend setting up five networking lunches with people within your company in jobs and/or departments that sound interesting to you. Use these lunches to learn about the person’s job, department, and how they got there. If you’re missing skills from a job that sounds interesting, research (or ask!) how you can acquire them.
CC: What big projects and can’t-miss interviews are coming up on Career Contessa?
LM: This is tough, but some can’t-miss interviews include Sarah Knight, Giuliana Rancic’s assistant, and Meg Evan, Social Innovation Manager at Udemy. Sarah will be interesting because she brings a real look at working with a celeb and Meg because her job is really just that cool.
As for projects, we are currently in the process of creating a comprehensive career-planning program that will offer clients a personalized career strategy, access to real professionals to get the specific advice or help they need, and a mentor to keep them accountable throughout the process. Getting career help from trusted advisers is easy when you have access to your school’s career center, however, post-college career advice feels like a particularly tricky scavenger hunt. CC’s career-planning program will make it easier and more efficient to identify your strengths, define your path, and move forward with your career.
CC: What’s one quote or motivational reminder you believe every young woman should have taped over her workspace?
LM: “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.”