Building A Not-So-Linear Career
When I talk to women just starting out in their careers, they often express two of the same concerns to me:
What “I’m good at” is different than what I really want to do with my life
I have student loans and I can’t afford to do the job I really want to do.
It’s so instructive to dissect the career paths of women you admire and see how they did it. If you fall in either of the camps above, you’ll love my podcast interview with Laura Goldberg, who is now the Chief Marketing Office rof LegalZoom but was previously an executive with Napster and NFL Networks. She loved music, but was a math and science person who thought she needed to go into banking to excel. Here’s how she did it:
She Built A Not-So-Linear Career
A self-proclaimed "math kid," LegalZoom CMO Laura Goldberg started her career in finance so she could pay off her student loans. But she was passionate about the online music industry, so she took her skills to Napster, where she worked as COO before hopping industries again--twice. Laura’s story is testament to the fact that great careers are often not so linear.
Take the Time to Figure Out What You Want to Do
“I ended up in finance because I had a lot of student loans and I wanted to move to New York City. I have a degree in industrial management, which is a combination of math, economics and business. And when you’re 21 and coming out of college, and then a little later coming out of business school, you get stamped certain way: finance, consultant. Particularly then, in the pre-internet age, it was hard to find something off the beaten path. So I took the path. And it was super interesting. I enjoyed my time in finance. But then I got married, I went on an awesome honeymoon, and I came back and sat at my desk and I thought ‘I don’t want to be doing this anymore.’ I’d paid off my loans. So I really took the time to find what I wanted to do. And the internet was this burgeoning new industry, and digital music was one of the first things to go digital, and that’s where I wanted to go.
I ended up as the COO of the paid version of Napster. It was so fun-- really trying to disrupt an industry. We were trying to get people from 1999 into the 2000s to buy music digitally. Back then it was really hard and we were convincing people this was a better way.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Switch Industries
“Napster got sold to Best Buy and has subsequently been sold since. I left a little bit before that and was looking around for something I could have an impact on and the NFL digital job came up. And just so you don’t think I was putting on a football game--I was the general manager of NFL Online, which is NFL.com and a couple other digital properties. It was really fun. It was about increasing fan engagement. For me it was a great way to learn the advertising business. I had a a lot of e-commerce experience but I wanted to get to know from the best some of that advertising and sponsorship industry. Ultimately it was a little too big for me. And their main business was putting that product on the field, which is phenomenal, and licensing rights. So I was definitely not in the main flow of the NFL, though it’s becoming a more and and more important part of their business as they grow and the internet grows. But it was super interesting and it was amazing to work for such a big powerful brand and a company that really valued protection of that brand.”
Learn How to Advocate for Yourself
“Particularly if you’re in a bigger organization, your pet project is not going to be on the top of somebody’s agenda. What’s bothering you or what’s blocking you today may not be the company’s top priority. And it really teaches you how can I go advocate for myself, for my people, for priorities I think are really important to hit goals and to move the needle. You always have to advocate.”
If Bro Culture is Bothering You, Speak Up
“I grew up on a fixed income trading floor in finance, so in some ways all of it pales in comparison. And I find that it’s easier to deal with now than it was 10-15 years ago. But I find it’s the little things that are really irritating sometimes---if, for example, everyone wants to go to the driving range. I don’t golf, I don’t want to golf, I don’t have time or interest in that. It’s those sort of things that occasionally can get me down and I suspect other women down. I’ve found that having a female or sympathetic male outlet to say ‘hey, this is bothering me’ really helps. And sometimes they would say ‘hey, that’s not just that a casual, that guy’s being a pain today. That’s something serious -- you should go speak to HR, speak to their boss about it.’ And other times, they’d be like, ‘yeah, it’s a bummer, but don’t worry about it.’ It really grounds what to make a big stink about and what not to. And I really try here at LegalZoom to be here for anyone who’s having troubles like that, to talk about how to deal with some of that culture. For me personally, I kind of just push back on it. I’m a big fan of if you’re not comfortable, say something. If the organization does something, great. If not, you need to do what’s right for you.”
Understand that Work and Life Ebb and Flow
“I think implied in work-life balance is the idea that everything’s in perfect balance. There are times that work demands are really high, and your life--whether it’s family, personal, things you like to do--take a back seat. And there are other times where your life is really important and work takes a back seat. What I was trying to get across was this idea of balance — everything getting equal time--is unrealistic. Acknowledge that there are ebbs and flows. When my kids were in the 3-7 range, I took a job where I didn’t have to travel as much .It was probably a lateral move, but it was better for me at that time of life. I think working, and doing something interesting, and doing something that you like always moves your career forward even if you’re not getting a big huge title change. During that time I make myself of going to some networking events, and if I’m home take advantage both professionally and personally of being home.”