the muse

The Muse co-founders are writing a book about the new rules of work

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Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos are proud of their careers, and no wonder. They’re co-founders of the New York-based career site The Muse, which offers job opportunities, skill-building courses, coaching and video profiles meant to show what it’s like to work at different companies.

They’ve beefed up their own executive ranks with several new hires: Sharon Feder as chief content officer, Owen Adams as SVP of product and Kara Walsh as CMO. (Feder was previously chief digital officer at Rachael Ray. Adams led product, design and analytics at Wikia. And Walsh was most recently CMO at Kapow.) Their five-year-old startup has won over investors, too. To date, The Muse has raised nearly $30 million.

It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that the two, who met while working for McKinsey & Co., didn’t know what they wanted to do or what steps to take. Since launching The Muse, however, they’ve learned a ton, and they’re now pouring those learnings — along with those of various experts on the site — into a new book being published next April by Random House.

We talked yesterday with Minshew about the project, titled “The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career.”

TC: There are easier ways to promote The Muse than writing a book. Why do this?

KM: We produce a tremendous amount of advice and guidance on The Muse, but instead of going from A to B to C, people take a more eclectic approach, typically, and go down rabbit holes. That’s useful for certain kinds of topics, but we think there’s a percentage of users who could benefit from a more guided approach. We want to take them from A to Z, all the way through.

There’s an emotional component to this, too. When I was still a bright-eyed McKinsey consultant, I remember hitting a point where I didn’t know what to do next and someone gave me the book, “How Remarkable Women Lead,” and I read it and scribbled in it, and it felt like a guide in helping me figure out my career. I think there’s an opportunity here to help other people.

TC: Is this designed primarily for early-career professionals?

KM: No, not at all. Most people think of The Muse as a platform for millennials, but about 40 percent of our users are over age 35, so it’s really not just for people at the beginning of their career anymore. We’ve found a lot of individuals are drawn to what we do.

TC: What are going to be among the most surprising takeaways for readers?

KM: We spend a lot of time talking about how tech is changing the way we job search; we have an entire chapter called the ‘New Rules of Building Your Personal Brand.’ The reality is that it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have.’ We stress the importance of how people talk about you, how to build a personal website, how to think about the impression you’re giving across different social media platforms, how to uncover how people already think about you. There are new rules for all of these things.

TC: Should everyone start a newsletter? What are you proposing exactly in terms of building a brand?

KM: I don’t think everyone can read 15 newsletters, but the point is valid. Employers are looking for individuals who can tell a story about what they bring to a particular company, and people with an understanding of that have a much better chance of getting to where they want to go. The first and most important step is defining the attributes, topics and themes that you want to be known for. You might be a passionate stand-up comedian, for example, but whether you emphasize or minimize that has a lot to do with how you want to be perceived and whether it’s an asset or a liability.

I’m also a huge believer in personal websites. It’s the best chance to build the story of how you want to be known. They also make you easier to find and can help build your network if people can contact you through the site.

TC: What advice do you offer to people looking to change jobs?

KM: LinkedIn groups and meet-ups can be wonderful. Following industry influencers and subscribing to newsletters can be a great thing, too, because the hardest thing can be picking up on vocabulary and understanding the jargon of an industry. [These things are] also helpful to keep your pulse on issues and trends of the moment and, when you see the opportunity, to share your thoughts and get on the radar of people you admire.

Not last, creating original content is an incredibly powerful way to ensure that your voice is out there in the world, and that’s never been easier, thanks to platforms like Medium and LinkedIn’s Influencer platform and WordPress.

TC: What is one common mistake that job seekers make?

KM: We spend a lot of time on Skype and other video interviews and it’s funny how many people will prepare for a Skype interview by wearing a formal suit jacket with pajama pants on the bottom. Then suddenly someone is at the door and you have to get up and you realize you’re wearing reindeer boxers. Just put pants on. [Laughs.]

TC: Millennials are widely considered to be job hoppers. Is that what you’re seeing at The Muse, and either way, is it something you address in the book?

KM: People actually aren’t moving on from companies much more quickly than in the past, but there’s a perception that they do, so companies are investing less in talent on the assumption that young employees won’t stay long.

At the the same time, we’re seeing the consumerization of the candidate, meaning individual job seekers aren’t just looking at the first five jobs that turn up in a search and meet their salary requirements. They consume a lot of information first, and employers that aren’t invest in training a junior workforce are starting to see the limitations of that. It’s never been so easy for someone to see what other options are out there.