Sick of Being Told to “Find Your Passion?”

It’s easier said than done. One entrepreneur shares her own story of finding a purpose and pursuing it.

After starting at the University of Oregon with plans to become a teacher, Lauren McGoodwin switched gears in her junior year. “I changed my mind, so I basically had to start from scratch,” she says. “I was the career center's poster child. I went to every talk, every career fair, everything like that—I still graduated without a job and without knowing what I wanted to do.” She was surrounded by friends who seemed to have it all figured out. People advised her to “find her passion,” a pursuit that’s easier said than done, and one that led her to start Career Contessa, a career resource for millennial women who, like herself, needed guidance that they couldn’t find in the career center. 9-19-www-lauren-mcgoodwin

1. Don't force it

Lauren’s first job out of college was in university admissions. “It wasn't my cup of tea,” she says. Then, one day, the university had her do some recruiting. “I loved it and I wanted to learn everything I could about becoming a recruiter,” she says. “I scheduled probably 30 informational interviews with people in the LA area—corporate recruiters, tech recruiters, university recruiters, people from big companies and small companies, et cetera—and kept a binder with everything they taught me. I really became a self­ taught recruiter.”

2. Clarity comes from engagement

“When I was feeling lost in my first job after school, I didn't gain any clarity about myself or what I wanted to do until I started engaging with recruiters,” says Lauren. “I didn't want anything from them; I just wanted them to tell me their stories. Hearing the career story of someone you admire is inspiring, and if you read between the lines, it’s informative.” 9.26_WWW_lauren_mcgoodwin_quote2_social

3. In interviews, passion can trump experience

She ultimately got a job doing university recruiting for Hulu. “I know that I didn't get the job there because I was the most experienced—I had never been a recruiter before—but I was definitely the most passionate and I had done the most research,” she says. “I loved working there, and everything about it clicked for me. Having clarity about what I wanted to do and working in a place that was the right fit changed my whole life for the better."

4. College career centers are arguably suited to a previous generation

While working at Hulu, Lauren was completing her master's and writing a thesis on millennial women and career resources. She argued that career centers were created for a previous generation, and that the model isn’t effective anymore. “Career Contessa was my solution,” she says. “I worked with a lot of developers who encouraged me to create a website.” The site was born out of a passion project and was a necessity for a thesis. She thought that, at most, it would be a resume builder. It ended up taking off and, after a few years, she left Hulu to make the site her full-­time job. “I got serious about learning to build a business,” she says.

5. Being the sole decision-maker is not always all it's cracked up to be

“People glamorize being your own boss and being an entrepreneur, but it's ten times harder than any job I've ever had,” says Lauren. As an employee, there’s an executive team who makes decisions, while you focus on executing them. “As a founder, you're the sole decision-­maker and you're the one who's leading the way,” she says. “It's hard to build a business alone. It's important to find smart people, articulate what you're trying to build and why and get them excited to be part of it.” 

6. Founders face tons of self-shy doubt

When asked what her greatest fear is, Lauren’s answer is simple: failure. “Even when I was working at a job I didn't love, I never felt like a failure,” she says. “As the leader of my own company, there’s always a fear that I might fail. I’m also afraid that, if it's not working out in the future, I wouldn’t be strong enough to say, ‘It's time to close the doors.” When it comes to big, strategic decisions, she worries about making the right ones and wonders if she’ll regret certain choices down the line. “As an entrepreneur, I think it’s common to experience a lot of self­-doubt,” she says.

7. You'll learn a lot about yourself

“Since leaving my job to work on Career Contessa, I’m realizing that my key strength is being a connector,” says Lauren. In November, she launched a one-­on-one career counseling service called Hire a Mentor.

Informational interviews had been so important to Lauren’s own success that she wanted to create a scalable, affordable, accessible program that provided those resources to other millennial women. “I was able to find mentors who loved what I was building and wanted to be part of it,” she says. “That was an ah--ha moment for me. It’s a good sign when talented people want to be part of your project, and I realized that I'm a dot-­connector—I can always figure out how to get from point A to point B.” Get more insights from Lauren—she shared her favorite habits that’ll make you smarter.

Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump. Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo