DEK: Minshew  founded a startup that helps workers make intelligent career choices and find their passions.

Kathryn Minshew is following her dream by creating an online community for those striving for their professional dreams.

Minshew, 27, graduated from Duke University in 2008, majoring in political science and French. She went to work as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and then spent time in Rwanda and Malawi working on vaccine introduction with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

But then the entrepreneurial bug hit her. “In fall 2010 I founded a tech startup that failed the following year, which is when I began to work on,” she said.

“I've felt for a long time that there was a disconnect between what we tell kids — 'You can be anything you want to be! Find work you love' — and the tools we provide adults to actually discover and realize those dreams," she said. "I went through a period of deep introspection over 'what I wanted to do with my life' and wanted to create a community for others feeling the same, hence”

While working at McKinsey, Minshew was shocked to see how few resources were available to smart, determined professional women who were making everyday career decisions. For example, many lacked resources on how and when to ask for a promotion, negotiate a raise, or consider leaving for a new job.

“I originally built The Muse to serve the needs of those women, but found along the way that a lot of men wanted to use the product as well," she said. "We help people figure out what they want to do with their lives, and that's a powerful thing.”

Minshew and her co-founders, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery — whom she met at McKinsey — launched the company in September 2011.

Of the trio, McCreery is the scientist who brings an unyielding love of quality and a passionate detail orientation to her dual roles as a Python developer and editor-in-chief. Cavoulacos controls the product, operations, and people development that Minshew calls “the glue that binds us.”

Minshew said, “I'm the evangelist, external advocate, relationship-builder, partnership-maker and occasionally eccentric creative.”

The company has already raised a “large seed round” from private venture and angel investors, and they are raising more money to fund the company in 2013.

“We were able to build some incredibly fun buzz around our launch via an original contribution to our site by Arianna Huffington, a launch article on TechCrunch, and a lot of passionate friends and family who were ready and waiting to help us spread the word when we went live,” Minshew said.

TheMuse is based in Manhattan with additional employees in San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are nine full-time employees, as well as a network of freelance photographers and 300 volunteer contributing writers who “share their expertise on topics ranging from interview and resume tips to negotiating to leadership and managing a team of 10, 100 or 10,000.” Guest contributors have included Huffington, Cathie Black, and the US Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

“We're disrupting the classic job search model of a Monster or Indeed, wherein companies all describe themselves as 'innovative, results-driven environments looking for a team player.' It's impossible to differentiate and it shouldn't be that way," Minshew said. We believe job search should be based on fit, and that individuals can benefit from more than just a massive list of sterile text-based job postings.”

The Muse's job discovery product is innovative for its focus on company culture as a determining factor and its use of photo and video to tell a story about a company – a story that captures the hearts of prospective employees rather than ticking off a list of requirements.

"At at time when it is very challenging to find rewarding, full-time work, website provides some very useful information to job seekers, especially in how to handle different types of interviews, and a great list of jobs in the social sector and great descriptions of the culture of each organization and what it's like to work there," said Aneil Mishra, CEO of Total Trust Coaching and Consulting. "For those who want to strike out on their own and start a business, the website also provides some useful suggestions and resources."

The Muse has millions of users in over 100 countries, the bulk of whom are upwardly aspirational professionals between the ages of 22 – 35, and more than two-thirds of whom are female. Minshew said the company has had 1.8 million users in its first year. 

Laura Buhler, a user of The Muse who now works at GiltCity says, "I found The Muse at a turning point that most of us come to: that quest for 'What will I do with my life?'  The Daily Muse was and continues to be a coach and guide to me, and a constant voice saying 'you are not alone!' It's like they know what I need to learn and how I need to grow even before I do."

With 20 percent of the US population actively seeking jobs at any given time according to the US Bureau of Labor, and roughly another 60 percent more open to new opportunities, The Muse hopes to provide career guidance, leadership development and new job openings those four out of every five workers who are interested in a change, with a particular focus on those undecided folks who aren't yet sure what the future holds in store.

"The Muse is doing more than offering job seekers career advice and connecting them with openings in their field," said Kyle Lagunas, an industry analyst for the Society of Human Resources Management's We Know Next website. "From general overviews to interviews with real life employees, The Muse gives young professionals an inside scoop on the companies hiring. 

Lagunas praised the site's content and features, saying it offers "would-be applicants can get a feel for company culture before they apply, which is invaluable — and surprisingly rare. As an online resource for Gen Y job seekers, The Muse is definitely a cut above the rest."

On her own job, Minshew says, “One of the things I love about my job is how many incredible people I get to meet on a daily basis. One person I am still in awe of is Cathie Black, an investor and advisor to the company and a mentor to me personally." And the coolest person Minshew's met? Diane Von Furstenberg. “She's someone else who I admire for building an incredible brand from the ground up,” Minshew said.

Jessica Livingston, one of the partners of the acclaimed tech incubator YCombinator, was a particularly strong mentor based on “her perspective on startup life and her guidance as we went through the occasional difficult early-stage company situation.”

Minshew also credits Coca-Cola for helping get her to where she is today, winning a $20,000 college scholarship from the company as a high school senior.

“More than the money, Coca Cola has created an incredible community of other scholars supported by Carolyn Norton and the rest of the Coca-Cola Scholars team," Minshew said. "I'm quite good friends with several people I met through the program, and I'm always impressed by new Coca-Cola scholars I meet.”

While competition in the career space is fierce — billions of dollars are at stake in the recruitment industry — The Muse has a unique approach that has made it stand out from the pack. Minshew said she hopes The Muse will continue to “bring that magic, that sense of exploration and discovery, to each and every individual on a personal quest for career satisfaction.”