Transcript: Kathryn Minshew, The Muse

 

The transcript from this week’s MiB with Kathryn Minshew of The Muse is below.  

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Bloomberg, iTunes, Overcast, and Soundcloud. Our earlier podcasts can all be found on iTunesSoundcloud, Overcast and Bloomberg.

 

ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST: This week on the podcast, I have a special guest. Her name is Kathryn Minshew and she is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of themuse.com, a site that finds itself somewhere in between LinkedIn and Glassdoor and some of the other recruiting employment career management, HR-related sites. Her client base are both the companies that are hiring millennials and others and the people who are seeking jobs.

This is kind of a fascinating conversation in that there aren’t a lot of relatively young women entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the entire startup venture capital et cetera. There are many, but we don’t know them as well as we know some of the more infamous male counterparts in the world of tech and I found this to be a very fascinating and eye-opening conversation.

So, with no further ado, my conversation with Kathryn Minshew.

My special guest today is Kathryn Minshew. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of themuse.com, a career platform which has been used by over 50 million millennials to help manage their careers. The Muse has 5 million unique monthly visitors, tens of thousands of career advice articles. Kathryn is also the author of a national bestseller, “The New Rules of Work,” and she is an operating partner at X Factor Ventures, a venture capital fund investing in the next generation of female founders. Kathryn Minshew, welcome to Bloomberg.

KATHRYN MINSHEW, FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THEMUSE.COM: Thank you so much. I am excited to be here.

RITHOLTZ: And I have been looking forward to having you for a number of reasons. We will get into some of them later. One of the reasons I really wanted to speak to you is you are a relative rarity in the world of finance and tech. There aren’t a lot of women co-founders, let’s put a pin on that and come back to it later. Let’s talk more — start talking about the whole background of The Muse. You founded the site in 2011. What was the inspiration for the site? And what was the muse behind the name, “The Muse.”

MINSHEW: So the very short version is I wanted it and it didn’t exist. The slightly longer version is, so in 2008-2009, I was living here in New York City working at McKenzie and Company as a consultant and I knew that I didn’t want to be a career consultant, but I wasn’t sure what it was I did want to do.

So, you know, like many people my age, I am sort of on the older end of the millennial demographic, I went online and I looked at all the big job words, the major sites that everyone here is familiar with and I just kept thinking, there is something really broken about this experience. To give you an example, on one of the biggest job aggregators, I was typing in business strategy director and it was showing me Assistant Store Manager, 7/11, Secaucus, New Jersey, and I remembered thinking, like, “This can’t be the best there is.”

And even, you know, I am a big fan of LinkedIn, it was just showing me more consulting jobs. The same thing I had been doing, but more of the same and I kept thinking, you know, when I look at other people — and my peers said, people that are getting started in their career, people that are in their early 30s, changing jobs, many of them are making decisions about where they want to work based on things like the growth opportunities involved in the role. The culture and values of the organization, and none of that was evident on most of the job search sites that I was seeing and using.

And so, I thought, “Well, what would it look like to create a better one.” And my co-founder and I, we had a white board, a living room in Brooklyn, it was very, very stereotypical, but we started to imagine this much more visual personalize, immersive career site that really took people by the hand and helped them navigate their careers, and for companies helped them tell a story about what it was like to work there, why would somebody want to come join their organization and what sort of person would be most successful or most happy there and that is really where the idea for the muse came from.

RITHOLTZ: So, that raises a question that’s fascinating and I don’t recall if I read this on the site or in your book, but the phrase, “career satisfaction” comes up over and over again. What is career satisfaction?

MINSHEW: Career satisfaction is a feeling like you are in the place that you’re meant to be or that you can wake up on most days — not every day, but days on the balance. You wake up and you’re very excited to go into work. You know, I mean, I am a realist. No job is going to be perfect. We’re not talking about sort of this you know, follow your bliss kind of pie in the sky thing, but at the same time, I think all of us, you know, in our relationships and our friends and our family, the difference between when someone is at some measure, satisfied or content in their role at their company and their career and when someone is deeply dissatisfied and I believe that the benefits both to the individual, but also frankly at a macro level, to the economy, to companies when you have people in the right spots are massive.

And I think, we’re at a point where we can and should expect more from our careers and that sort of career satisfaction is one of the things that I think a lot of people are driving towards.

RITHOLTZ: So how do you get from a consultant at McKenzie to making the lead to, “Hey, everything is broken and we can’t even patch it. We have to start by building a new site from the ground up.” How does that transition take place and the big consultancies like McKenzie, they are a pretty cushy gig. It’s very challenging to say, “I am going to give up all the money and the job security and make a leap.” How did that come about?

MINSHEW: You know, call me crazy, but I have always been willing to take a jump if it was something that I was significantly passionate about and for the idea behind the Muse, it actually started small at first, so in the fall of 2010, I started I guess you could call it an online blog, a community that was aimed at sort of driven ambitious women in their 20s and 30s and I started it with a couple of other women and it was a side project for all of us.

We had other roles. I actually left McKenzie in goodness, June of 2010 and moved to Kigali, Rwanda to work with the Clinton Health Access Initiative on vaccine introduction, which is a whole other story, but I had come back from Rwanda, was still working for CHAI and all four of us started this project.

RITHOLTZ: CHAI is the name of the site that you guys were…

MINSHEW: No, no sorry. CHAI is Clinton Health Access Initiative.

RITHOLTZ: Oh okay.

MINSHEW: It’s just a mouthful. It’s the sort of health wing of the international nonprofit that does vaccine introduction, HIV-AIDS work, et cetera. So, that was my day job and the other women were all at McKenzie including my co-founder of The Muse, Alex and we just — we started building this small community and what was so interesting to me is, other people, other women in the community had the same issues that I was having around the broader search for a satisfying career, finding the right job, the right company and I don’t know, it wasn’t so much you know, a single individual lightning bolt, as a series of small ideas and moves and once I have realized that the entire industry was effectively ignoring a lot of the needs of the millennial population, it suddenly just became so clear to me that there was this massive opportunity and if you know, if I didn’t step in and try to build something, who would?

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about the old business model which you have described, the old business model for finding, recruiting and hiring new employees, you’ve described that as broken. Explain.

MINSHEW: I think the days when a company can expect to just stick an advertisement for a job on the internet and that the best and brightest talent in the world are going to walk right up and compete for the that job, those days are over.

And what I am seeing in the market and I think one of the principles that The Muse was built on is that the balance of power between candidates and companies is changing. Companies and The Muse works with around 700 of many of the best, most recognized brands in the world. They are competing for great talent and they are not just competing with their traditional competitors, you know, a major technology company might be competing with a large global financial institution who might be competing with a CPG or consumer — you know, consumer goods company.

And I think especially when you look at talent like engineers, top sales people, many of them want to join a business where they feel like the values of the organization align with their own. They are looking for growth opportunities, we call it the 3 Ps — people, purpose and path, but they are looking for these things within their employer and companies are starting to have to focus on their talent brand, recruitment marketing and other elements of really showcasing themselves and competing for talent in the open market and I think that’s opening a really interesting set of opportunities for the businesses that are doing it well.

RITHOLTZ: So, let me push back a little bit on a phrase you said that clogged my ear which is candidates want to work for a place that aligns with their values. Now, theoretically that sounds wonderful, but realistically in the real world, how significant a factor is that? Is this something that is genuine? Is it a function of a fairly fully-employed workforce and the balance of power, at least at this phase of the cycle seemed to have shifted to the employee or is this a permanent change in how employees or potential employees get to behave?

MINSHEW: Yes, I believe that change is permanent, although you’ll see it flex stronger and weaker as the economy cycles through. A couple of data points I think are really interesting here. So, Deloitte recently did a millennial survey that indicated that 44 percent of millennials had turned down a job because they didn’t like the values or the employer brand of the company that the job offer came from.

Similarly, in a survey about what is important to you in life, 94 percent of millennials indicated that meaningful work was a core component of what was satisfying to them and this was I believe, a Wells Fargo study and so when you look across the demographic, they are raising the expectations on employers, and of course, this isn’t going to be a perfect alignment, but I think even recently, and politically, there’s been a lot of talk about some of the chief executives withdrawing from various presidential advisory councils.

Some of that has also been driven by internal employee groups and advocacy groups standing up and saying, “As employees, these are our values,” and pushing their chief executives to take a stand and I think that this is a really interesting time because again, we are sort of redefining the contract between individual employees and the organizations that they support and I do think some of these changes are permanent and I think the businesses that understand how to navigate them, they are going to have a huge edge in recruiting and retaining great people over the businesses that don’t understand this.

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