Throughout the fall, Lauren McGoodwin, founder of the women’s career mentorship platform Career Contessa, visited more than 20 schools across the country for the launch of The Women’s Career Empowerment College Tour. Meeting with female-focused student groups, the tour empowered more than 700 college women seeking career opportunities and left them with increased confidence to pursue their dream job.
Launched in 2013, Career Contessa is a resource for women offering valuable career advice, job opportunities, and a community of career-driven women to count on. Their newest venture, Hire An Expert, easily connects advice-seeking women with trusted career experts for personalized mentorship.
After wrapping up her inaugural tour – and looking ahead to the next one in 2016 – McGoodwin shares with Beauty for a Purpose the top five questions she received from students, and the valuable lessons that stem from each.
1. Create the resource you wish you had.
Question: How did you get started?
When speaking with college women across the country, this was the question I received most. It’s an interesting story, really. I started out as an education major, and then decided to pursue a career in marketing. Since I had zero marketing experience, I invested my remaining two years of college into internships, career fairs, and other extracurricular activities. My first post-grad position was working in admissions for a university. When recruiting got added to my responsibilities it was the first time I was really excited about my job, and I discovered that recruiting was an entire job at some companies. That really spurred me to learn everything I could about the recruiting industry, and how to make a career out of it.
I was inspired to create Career Contessa after navigating my own professional learning curve and experiencing the difference it made in my life when I truly loved my job. I realized there wasn’t a career mentorship resource that helped women figure out what they wanted to do and how to get there in a concise and relatable way.
2. Dream big, then think through the details.
Question: How do I figure out what I want to do?
The answer to this question is a bit more complex because there are numerous opportunities and career paths. However, there are a few exercises to help narrow down what types of jobs or companies to focus on.
Start by creating a comprehensive list that includes any job types, companies or skills that interest you. Don’t censor yourself and write down anything you like. From there, find common themes. Your list might show that you want to work for a startup, or that professional development is something you really want at your next company. Use these themes as a guide to narrow your list to a few job types and companies to learn more about. Start finding people in those positions to talk to so you can learn the ins and outs of what they do. The more you engage with people already in the area that interests you, the more clear you’ll be on what you want to do.
3. Find the networking approach that makes you most comfortable.
Question: Networking makes me anxious. Can I find a job without networking?
Data suggests that 70 percent of jobs are found through networking, so the quick answer is no. If you don’t include networking in your job search strategy it will probably take you longer to land a job. However, you can figure out a way to network that makes you comfortable. I tend to get anxious at large networking events, so instead I choose to meet with people one on one, where I’m more comfortable and can get the most out of the conversation. Explore different ways to network until you find the one that works best for you.
4. Optimizing your online profile brings new connections.
Question: How can I optimize my LinkedIn profile so I stand out?
When I was a recruiter, LinkedIn was the tool I most used to find candidates. To stand out (to potential customers, business partners, investors or companies) make sure you maximize your profile features — in particular, keywords, job titles and recommendations. Include relevant keywords and phrases that highlight your experience in the summary section so your profile will pop up when users do a search (hint: look at the job descriptions of people who do something similar). Include the keywords and phrases in short, concise blocks of information to make it easy for people to not only find you, but to understand your experience.
5. A personal mission statement makes you more memorable.
Question: I’m getting job interviews, but no offers. What am I missing?
I’ve spent countless hours interviewing candidates, so I know it can be extremely frustrating to go on seemingly endless interviews, sales calls or meetings and walk away with zero feedback. You are probably left asking yourself what you did wrong and wondering if you are actually as qualified as you thought you were.
My best advice? Control your message. Everyone has great strengths, but rather than trying to communicate them all, focus on a few key ones and share them to help you stand out. How would you want someone to describe you? It may change depending on the audience, so change your message accordingly each time. A clear message will make you more memorable in the end.