Having a career you love shouldn’t be something you spend most of your working years searching for; it should be something you enjoy every day. Whether you want a place where you can shine at work or have dreams to be a certified #girlboss making your own decisions, Kathryn Minshew, the super successful CEO and co-founder of The Muse, wants to help you make it happen.
The Muse is a modern-day career platform used by 50+ million millennials every year to help employees advance in their careers and employers find their best-fit talent. In addition to creating a must-have website for young professionals, Kathryn’s spearheading a movement to empower the job candidate, believing that we should love our job AND be successful at it. Um, yeah, we can get behind that. We sat down with Kathryn to talk about her own career journey and how we can all be a little happier in our nine-to-five.
B+C: Where did your journey start and how did it lead you to found The Muse?
KM: I grew up dreaming of joining the foreign service or becoming a spy, and it wasn’t until I actually worked in an embassy that I realized the vision I had of a career in international relations didn’t line up with the reality of the thing (lots of bureaucracy and visa stamping). Eventually, I moved to the consulting firm McKinsey, where I felt similarly restless; while my coworkers were brilliant and the work was fairly interesting, it wasn’t the right long-term fit either.
While looking around for my next job, I became frustrated with the job-searching tools available to me. Each one was like death by a thousand rectangles, with boring, identical-looking job postings on boring, identical-looking sites. The search results were wildly off-base (including recommending an assistant manager position at 7-11 when I was looking for business strategy roles), and there was no way to learn more about what a company was actually like. I started thinking about how people make thoughtful career decisions, and I really believed there was this giant, missing opportunity to make the job search human again — to give people a warm, intuitive, enjoyable place to navigate their careers. That line of thinking led me to found The Muse.
B+C: So how exactly does The Muse help out job hunters?
KM: Over 50 million people use The Muse every year, and what we provide is threefold: First, The Muse takes users behind the scenes at companies with in-depth photo and video profiles that allow job seekers to explore and research companies and decide if a place is right for you before you apply.
Secondly, in addition to job search and company profiles, The Muse provides actionable, relevant career advice on everything from negotiating a raise, to dealing with a difficult manager, to resume and cover letter tips. Oh, and whether using emoji at work will help or hurt your reputation!
And third, we recently launched Coach Connect, a 1:1 expert advice platform that connects individuals with career coaches for personalized help with resumes, cover letters, job search strategy, interviewing, negotiating, as well as professional development topics like leadership and management.
B+C: The Muse talks a lot about company culture and encourages candidates to find a place that fits them. What do you think makes for great company culture and who are some companies getting it right?
KM: I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a single “great company culture;” I think different people are looking for different things in a job or company. It’s just like dating — different strokes for different folks. When The Muse provides an inside look into the culture and workspace of various companies, it’s designed to help someone make an informed decision about whether or not they would thrive in that environment.
That said, a few attributes that tend to make for a great company culture are: transparency, ownership, respect, team first; and a few companies worth praising are Dropbox, Marriott, Capital One — and hundreds more of the companies The Muse works with.
B+C: Sometimes millennials can get a bad rap for not staying in one position for too long. What are your thoughts on workplace longevity and the importance of building company loyalty early in your career?
KM: The workplace is changing, and the corporate ladder isn’t what it used to be. And that’s not because millennials are narcissistic job hoppers: Instead, studies show that millennials are driven by an organization’s mission, culture and opportunities for growth. I call them the three Ps: People, Purpose & Path. Individuals today want to be on a team of inspiring colleagues and make valuable contributions to a company, and the companies that don’t provide that are going to lose out. And by the way — this isn’t so different from what employees of all ages want. Companies that understand how to provide those three things keep employees, and companies that don’t will have trouble. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
B+C: What are a few of the top careers and companies millennials are searching for on the site?
KM: We’re seeing a lot of growth for and interest in sales careers, engineering positions and a variety of marketing roles — nothing too surprising, though the number of employers looking for people with technical skills vastly outstrips the number of technical people looking.
In terms of types of companies, it’s a real mix. Perennial favorites like Facebook & Dropbox remain popular (check out their amazing offices here and here!), but we’re also seeing a resurgence of interest in established companies that are making a strong pitch for culture (for example, Aflac or CEB), as well as tons of smaller startups that cater to people looking for very specific company cultures.
B+C: Any work moments in your journey that just totally did not go as planned? How did you bounce back?
KM: Oh tons — I don’t think many things go “as planned,” especially when you’re starting a company. Early on, it was really difficult to raise seed funding for The Muse; I pitched 148 investors in our first go-round to get two yeses. Sometimes the hardest thing is just to keep going, but it’s that perseverance that can make all the difference, because eventually, we found people who believed in the mission and were able to build traction and an early community that helped us raise capital.
For a totally different example, the first time I tried to negotiate for a raise, I was so nervous that I threw up in the bathroom afterward. It did not go well. I didn’t get the raise but I did learn that asking didn’t kill me!
B+C: How do you stay productive and engaged at work? Any tips or tricks you can share?
KM: I’m really motivated by our community of users and by the overall mission of The Muse, so sometimes I’ll save notes or emails from people who The Muse has helped and read those when I need a kick in the pants of motivation (or just to cheer up after a tough day). Similarly, our team here is incredible, so if I’m feeling a little tired, I’ll sometimes take a quick break in the kitchen and chat with someone I don’t get to work with on a day-to-day basis. People tend to energize me.
In terms of productivity, I’m addicted to the Gmail plugin Boomerang to get emails out of my inbox until I’m ready to handle them, and I use the app Pocket to save articles until I’m ready to read them later.
B+C: If you could tell everyone struggling to find their career passion one thing, what is it?
KM: This is a great question. I’d tell them this: You do not need to figure out your entire career right now, trust me. You really just need to make a thoughtful next step, keeping in mind your ultimate goals but really only focusing on the next 2-5 years. It’s still a challenge, but less daunting than trying to lock down the next 10-30 years of your life (ha!).
Start by having a talk with yourself: What are your strengths? Your interests? In what types of activities are you most likely to achieve “flow?” What activities would drive you mad if they were part of your day-to-day? Next, ask the same questions of several friends and family, and see how their answers differ. Some people even find speaking to a career coach at this phase is helpful! No matter who you’re speaking with, starting with a focus on yourself will help you uncover the basic tenants of your ideal career day-to-day, which you can then use to determine the field or function that would be the best fit for you. For more (because this is a really big topic!) check out 6 Fresh Ways to Find Your Passion or a letter to one of our advice columnists.
Tweet us your dream job @BritandCo!
(Photos via The Muse)