Alum starts website for career women

For Lauren McGoodwin, there’s no better feeling than helping others find satisfying careers.

Who run the world? · Lauren McGoodwin was inspired to build the Career Contessa website after focusing her Master's thesis on millennials and career resources. - Photo courtesy of Lauren McGoodwin

Who run the world? · Lauren McGoodwin was inspired to build the Career Contessa website after focusing her Master’s thesis on millennials and career resources. – Photo courtesy of Lauren McGoodwin

“They don’t tell you this, but career happiness will matter for the rest of your life. It’s the place where you spend the majority of your time,” McGoodwin said.

McGoodwin is the founder of Career Contessa, a website dedicated to guiding and inspiring career-driven women who want to learn about how other career women got started in their careers and how they can effectively switch careers. Unlike traditional career websites that pump out articles every day such as “Here are the top 10 resumé tips,” or “Here’s what you should wear to an interview,” Career Contessa tries to offer important information from real-life experiences.

“Career Contessa is about real women with real stories who provide information that, in my opinion, simplifies the whole job search,” McGoodwin said.

Ever since she experienced what it was like to be at a job that wasn’t right for her, McGoodwin knew that someday she would help others in the same situation.

When McGoodwin started to work on her Master’s thesis for Annenberg’s Communication Managment, she decided to focus on millennial women and career resources. As a millennial herself, McGoodwin knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to speak on behalf of others about the gaps in career education and inspiration online.

“I wanted to dive deep into what career resources are out there in this area that really fit the millennial generation,” McGoodwin said.

As part of her thesis, McGoodwin prototyped a website with the research she had done. But throughout the process, she had the idea of turning this website into an actual resource, and began to create mockups for what would be Career Contessa.

“Ultimately, I decided that this was a resource that was really applicable … when you graduate and can’t figure out what it is you want to do, sometimes you feel a little hopeless,” McGoodwin said. “I don’t think millennials lack ambition, but we might have a problem with getting direction.”

In March 2012, McGoodwin finally realized that Career Contessa was something she wanted to focus more energy on. Between working as a full-time recruiter at Hulu and building Career Contessa from the ground up, McGoodwin had a lot on her plate. But after months of anticipation, the website launched in October 2013.

After starting this project on her own, she brought in two friends of hers, Mallory Benedict and Carrie Waller, who were just as passionate about the vision for Career Contessa as McGoodwin was. Rindi Zavodsky, who oversees special projects at Career Contessa, joined later on to help as well.

“It’s about the content we produce,” McGoodwin said.

So far, the website has more than 50 “contessas” that are featured, and each contessa has a blog post dedicated to her experiences as a career woman. Notable contessas that are included on the running list include Ramya Raghavan, head of politics and causes for Google+; Cynthia Samanian, product manager at Path; Alli Webb, founder of Drybar; and others.

“I think when you hear from real career women and their stories, that’s more helpful when it comes to thinking about jobs,” McGoodwin said.

What makes Career Contessa more personable than other career websites is that the articles make these powerful women into more than just the positions they hold — the articles bring out their personalities through vibrant photos in their workspace and fun facts that make all of these women relatable. The articles show readers that, even though these women already have great jobs, they all had to start somewhere.

“I know women coming out of college who are extremely bright and skilled and can do anything, but sometimes … you just need a starting point,” McGoodwin said.

As of right now, Career Contessa is solely focused on publishing quality content. Though the website has a “Jobs” page, there’s no special advantage if you apply from the website. But McGoodwin has plans to change that.

“We’re adding some new features that are going to be more actionable,” McGoodwin said. “We’re trying to make it so that when you go to Career Contessa, you’ll say, ‘I’m inspired to take action,’ and also, ‘I can take action on this website’ as well.”

On the other hand, to stand out as an applicant, McGoodwin has accrued a lot of knowledge on what other recruiters want to see, being a recruiter herself.

“A lot of times, I get calls and requests from people who are recent graduates who say I’m good at everything, I’m interested in everything and I really just want to work for Hulu,’” McGoodwin said. “You have to have some thought in the industry and the company … Become an expert.”

But down the line, be it wielding her expertise in recruitment or continuing to meet more inspirational career women, McGoodwin has many plans for Career Contessa.

“I really hope that in five years, Career Contessa will have become a well-known resource for people … whether they want to meet other like-minded career women or find jobs,” McGoodwin said. “In five years, I hope that we’ll be able to just help people connect and find career fulfillment and the job that they want.”