After graduating into a lacklustre job market, Lauren McGoodwin needed some career guidance. She eventually got a job working as a recruiter for a big company but still felt there was a lack of career development resources available to young women — so she decided to create her own.
Career Contessa is focused on bringing long-term career advice to young women through conversations and interviews. They also offer mentorships with professionals that don’t devolve into cheesy life advice. It’s fairly new — Lauren started it in 2013 as a side project — but they’re well on their way to establishing an outlet where millennial women can find some career guidance and connect with mentors. We spoke with Lauren to learn a bit about her own career and how she works.
Location: Los Angeles, CA. I live in Redondo Beach and work in downtown LA.
Current Gig: Founder + CEO, Career Contessa
One word that best describes how you work: Efficiently. At least, that’s what I strive for. On any given day, I’m moving from editorial to product development to social media strategy and more. I try to be efficient with my time by scheduling every meeting and blocking off parts of my day for heads down work.
Current mobile device: White iPhone 6
Current computer: MacBook Air. I just got it, and I’m still amazed at how much lighter it is than my 2009 MacBook. Given that I’m lugging it with me everywhere from home to coffee meetings to our coworking space, I should have upgraded sooner. My shoulders appreciate it.
First of all, what was the impetus for Career Contessa?
I started Career Contessa as a passion project while I was working as a recruiter for Hulu. The site featured informational interviews with successful career women from a variety of industries and job functions. It was my way of educating women about potential job opportunities in a relatable and visually appealing way — a resource I wish existed when I was the one in a job I hated and trying to figure out what I should do next. I ran Career Contessa as a side project for 1.5 years before I left Hulu to work on it full-time.
This year, we expanded Career Contessa to include a new service, Hire An Expert, a women-centric career mentorship platform. During my time as a recruiter, I noticed a real gap in career mentorship available for women, and I wanted to change that. The problem is that the career mentorship space is fragmented. Typically, women have limited resources looking to their friends, parents, or a cheesy life coach for advice. But those resources don’t always have the right expertise or background you need when you’re looking for specific help on your career path.
What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?
I’m obsessed with Instagram. So obsessed that it’s the only social platform I’ve refused to give over to my social media team. I like to personally curate the quotes and captions, and it’s a way that I can make direct contact with our readers. I’m also a LinkedIn junkie and I love teaching other people how to use it to help them grow professionally.
What’s your workspace setup like? Coffee shop with laptop and headphones? Home office with a standing desk?
We’re in a “cowork” space in Downtown LA’s Art District. That actually makes it sound more formal than it is — it’s a cool old loft apartment converted into an office with about a dozen creatives (film makers, graphic designers, jewellery makers, etc.) in desks scattered throughout. Career Contessa works from a large table in the back corner. When I first went full-time with CC, I worked exclusively from home, but it was too isolating for me and hard to know when to turn off work at night. Now the team works together at the space all week and from home on Fridays — I think having a day at home provides a nice change of pace and ultimately makes us more productive and innovative.
The best thing about our cowork space is the mix of personalities and projects, plus the odd conversation about new restaurants, the presidential campaign, or someone’s latest internet date. Plus the Arts District is exploding. It seems like there are trendy coffee shops, food trucks, and breweries moving in every day so we’re never at a loss for good lunch or happy hour options.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Besides all the side streets I take to make my 60-minute commute shorter? In terms of work, I definitely rely on the folders inside my email to keep all the moving parts straight. I get anxious if I have too many emails just sitting in my inbox so I put every email into a folder with the “priority” folder always getting first dibs. At first this routine seemed tedious but after practicing it for a month, I realised how big a time saver it really was.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Too much technology can be overwhelming and I like my to-do list easily available throughout my day to update. I’m religious about writing a to-do list each morning without any fancy apps. Pen and paper all the way.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My Fitbit. I wear it everyday and most people I work with know I’m going to suggest we “walk while we talk.” It’s a big effort to hit those 10,000 steps each day!
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I make green smoothies that are actually delicious — and healthy.
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favourite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
Silence — but there’s plenty of cowork chatter happening throughout the day.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Then Before. It’s all about the power of routines and even though I’m already a very habitual person, this book is changing the way I think about routines in my life and business. I also loved her first book, The Happiness Project — another game changer for me!
How do you recharge?
I’ve recently gotten into boxing and I love it! I’m aware this sounds nuts, but there’s something incredibly “recharging” about hitting something really hard. I also reset by taking a walk and listening to a non-business advice podcast. A walk and fresh air can be a real treat for your brain.
What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?
I’m a very early-riser. I get up at 5am each day and do my best “focused” work between 6am-9am. I leave for my office later in the morning since my commute is better at that time, and I start pounding through emails and meetings once I arrive. I love waking up early so I have a part of my day that is quiet and uninterrupted.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That clarity comes from engagement. We all get stuck at some point in our lives, careers, health, etc. But sitting on the couch and thinking really hard about the solution won’t cut it. Get out there and try new things, talk to new people, or just experience something new. Long before CC, when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but knew the job I had wasn’t “it,” I racked up countless hours going to informational interviews. Believe me, by the end, I knew myself better than I ever had. The more you engage, the more clarity you’ll gain.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
We’ve dubbed this the year of “engagement” for Career Contessa so we’d love to hear any feedback or ideas our readers have for us. We’re not only expanding our online mentorship offerings, but we’re aiming to expand our reach with in-person workshops and events. We’re also looking into partnering with other great women, companies, and platforms to bring some hybrid programs and offerings to our readers. We love collaboration.
We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.