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Musings of an Entrepreneur Who Knows What She Wants

By:  Stephen Robert Morse Jan 30, 2013
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Katherine Minshew


Kathryn Minshew is co-founder and CEO of themuse.com, a website providing immersive job search tools, career-related articles, professional development tools and job matching resources. "Great people come to us to answer the question, 'What do I want to do with my life?,'" Minshew says.

To date, her company has helped 3.1 million job seekers answer that question and "make better decisions about their careers."

Minshew, 27, graduated from Duke University in 2008, majoring in political science and French before working for two years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. After two years with McKinsey, Minshew left to spend time in Rwanda and Malawi working through the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) introducing vaccinations to rural areas.

Entrepreneurial Beginnings

Then the entrepreneurial bug hit. In the fall of 2010, she founded a tech startup that failed the following year. That failure led her to start working on TheMuse.com. Her inspiration for the site came from her own experience.

“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," Minshew says.

While working at her first job, Minshew was shocked to discover the lack of resources available to smart, determined, professional women faced with making everyday career decisions. For example, she found many women lacked experience 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 these women, but found along the way that a lot of men wanted to use the product as well," she explains. "We help people figure out what they want to do with their lives, and that's a powerful thing.”

Alexandra Cavoulacos, Kathryn Minshew, Melissa McCreery

www.themuse.com co-founders from left to right: Alexandra Cavoulacos, Kathryn Minshew and Melissa McCreery.


Minshew and her co-founders, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery launched the company in September 2011.

The company has since raised $1.2 million through private venture and angel investors. The Muse claims millions of users in more than 100 countries, the bulk of whom are described as upwardly aspirational professionals between the ages of 22and 35. More than two-thirds are women. Companies are now paying up to $60,000 for affiliation with the platform to access top-notch potential hires.

The Muse is based in New York with employees in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Nine full-time employees are supported by 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 publishing giant Cathie Black, who is also an investor and adviser in TheMuse.com, among other notable publishers, heads of state, career and etiquette exerts as well as educators.

Work-Life Balance

Minshew shares a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood and walks to work every morning. She starts her day at 8 a.m., answering emails while eating oatmeal at home. By 9:30 am, she's taking calls while en route to the office. The rest of her day consists of taking meetings on the phone and in person, meeting with her team, and moving forward with various projects. By 6:00pm, she's meeting reporters for drinks, and then heading off to tech  founder events.

As for her weekends, Minshew says, "Usually they're 30-40% work and 60-70% fun. I like to have at least one adventure every weekend, whether it's biking somewhere I haven't been or taking a long subway to eat a particular ethnic food in an outer borough."

Disruption

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 20 percent of the U.S. population is actively seeking jobs at any given time and roughly another 60 percent are open to new opportunities.  With that in mind, Minshew says, “We're disrupting the classic job search model where 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.”  The Muse's job discovery product uses photos and videos to tell company stories that connect with prospective employees as compared to other sites that simply list job descriptions and requirements.

From Coca-Cola Scholar to Workplace Superstar

“One of the things I love about my job is how many incredible people I get to meet on a daily basis,” Minshew says.

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 get her start, winning a $20,000 college scholarship from the company as a high school senior. She learned about the program while researching scholarships at her high school's college and career center.

“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.”

As for the future, Minshew knows the competition in the career space is fierce — billions of dollars are at stake in the recruitment industry — she says 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.”