It’s almost April. For freshmen, sophomores and juniors, this means it’s finally socially acceptable to day drink outside again. For seniors, it means putting off the job hunt is no longer an option and a monumental freakout is in progress.
Lauren McGoodwin knows the stress of job searching all too well, which is exactly why she started Career Contessa in 2013, a career site built exclusively for women. A former University Recruiter for Hulu, McGoodwin created the site after noticing a lack of resources that specifically help women progress in their careers. Considering we run the world, it was obviously time for a change.
We talked to Lauren McGoodwin about job hunting, career changes, and where to start when you graduate college.
What prompted you to start Career Contessa?
The idea for Career Contessa came about when I experienced my own professional learning curve. In my early 20s, I was working an admin job at a large university and was less than thrilled about where I was. I spent most of my days answering phones and filing paper. I felt stuck, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, either. Feeling lost, I decided to focus my efforts on learning more about recruiting careers since it was the one part of my job that I did enjoy.
After nine months and 30 informational interviews with acquaintances and strangers in the field, I was able to focus my job search on exactly the company and role I knew I wanted. I remember feeling like I was on cloud nine because I finally felt like I had control. Ultimately, I landed a recruiting coordinator role at Hulu. That was an incredible experience, and I learned first-hand the difference it made to love your job, the company, and your coworkers.
Working at Hulu in recruiting also opened my eyes to the other side of the hiring table—what managers thought about candidates, how recruiters reviewed resumes and interviewed, etc. Having been on both sides, starting Career Contessa was a no-brainer, really. I wanted to help other women reach their career goals through real insight and actionable advice. We cover the topics I wish I’d had at my fingertips when I was trying to find direction, and we do it in an open, honest way.
What did you learn about the job process post-college?
My first post-college job was a four-month contract role with a non-profit sports commission. I landed the job as an event coordinator through an internship I was doing my senior year of college. I landed my first full-time job after I moved to Los Angeles working for a university through a family friend who put me in touch with someone at the university—and that connection led to a few more ultimately landing me a job offer. My recruiting job that I landed at Hulu came after months of informational interviews and asking the career center, which I visited often, if they had any connections at Hulu. I sent my resume to the Director of Communications and she forwarded it to a recruiter.
The moral of all these stories? Networking. Every job I landed was through a lot of hard work and leveraging relationships. I’ve learned to value my network and really dedicate consistent time and effort to building and maintaining strong relationships so that when they need something or I have a favor to ask, we can be there for each other.
What advice can you give to someone who feels down on their luck when it comes to the job hunt? Advice for college seniors?
Job hunts have a bit of a reputation for being soul-sucking at times. This is because you often feel like you lack control of the process and the average hunt last for 6-9 months. That’s enough time to question everything about yourself, which can be good or bad at times.
If you’re feeling down on your luck I recommend finding a network of supporters, encouragers, and other people job hunting. I also recommend that you keep a daily routine that involves self-care and applying to jobs. Next, and this is the most important, I recommend you start having informational interviews with as many people as you can that are in jobs you’re pursuing, companies you admire, or industries you’re interested in.
You can also keep your skills sharp with online classes like my favorite, Skillshare or LinkedIn’s classes through Lynda.com. Participate in a Career Contessa webinar, build an online portfolio, etc! Whatever you do, don’t fall into Netflix binges and self-pity. No one found a job with either of those two things.
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind while job hunting?
The first thing you need to do is have a well-defined personal brand. This includes your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, online portfolio, and personal pitch.
Next, focus your job search on the company, not the job. Too many people come to an interview and tell you why the job is a great fit for them. You need to communicate the value you can bring to the job and more importantly, the company. Why are you passionate about this company? What are they doing that’s unique and how can you help them reach those goals.
People hire people because they have a gap in resources or need an expert to help them solve a problem, reach a goal, etc. Not so they can give them a salary and peace of mind. Make sure you communicate that you’re here to help them—not the other way around.
What do you tell people who are on a certain career path but want to go in a different direction?
Do it! There are more people switching careers today than ever before and it’s great that career paths are no longer linear. It’s also super valuable for the company to hire someone that can adapt quickly, self-teach, and has experience across a variety of sectors, but you’ll have to make sure that’s the story your personal brand is telling.
If you’re switching career directions, make sure you’re connecting the dots between what you’ve done and where you want to do in a clear and concise way. And make sure this story is consistent among your personal brand.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Clarity comes from engagement—not thought. If you want to make a move in your career, you’ve got to go out there are start making moves. Start anywhere! Taking small steps is what leads to big changes over time so, don’t be afraid to put that ambition to good use.