The Crunch: Kathryn Minshew and Alexandra Cavoulacos both felt unsatisfied with the career paths they had chosen, but couldn’t find a good resource to help them realize their passions. So they founded The Muse, a website for job seekers to gain perspective on their own skills, strengths, and passions to find employment opportunities that align with their needs. The pair used their experience with The Muse in writing The New Rules of Work, which is a playbook for navigating the modern job search landscape. Through The Muse and their new book, Kathryn and Alexandra are using their journey of professional discovery to help others find fulfilling employment.
You can get plenty of advice online about finding, applying for, and landing a job, and there is certainly no shortage of résumé-writing resources, interview tips, and follow-up strategies.
Job search sites will help cast a wide employment net, posting your résumé for thousands of businesses to see, and users can search a database of employers for job listings, applying to them with just a few clicks. Finding a job is partially transactional by nature, as you need employment, and a business evaluates whether it wants to pay you to be an employee.
But what if employment was approached from the standpoint of the individual’s needs? That is the question Kathryn Minshew and Alexandra Cavoulacos set out to answer when they created The Muse, a career site that enables users to align their passions, desires, and abilities with companies in need of employees.
That fundamental shift in thought goes against many of the norms that are ingrained in the current job-search culture. And that is why the site is so successful. Because, as it turns out, passionate, happy employees can drive company growth and culture.
Kathryn and Alexandra detail the approach in their book about the modernization of the employment journey titled The New Rules of Work. In it, they show job seekers how to take a more holistic view of not only their own talents but also the culture and qualities of the company they are seeking to join.
And the reason the pair knows so much about that journey is that they’ve lived it themselves.
The Muse Was Founded to Help Workers Find Careers They Love
Kathryn and Alexandra experienced similar dilemmas with the career paths they initially chose. Kathryn majored in international relations and French and accepted a job at the US Embassy in Cyprus after college. Alexandra took a biology track in high school and moved to the US to continue her education, majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.
Along the way, something changed for both of them, and there came a point when they were no longer satisfied with following those paths for the rest of their lives.
Alexandra wasn’t wild about the mundane day-to-day work in the lab, and Kathryn wasn’t satisfied with the incremental change she was able to affect while in Cyprus. Desiring change, they both pivoted and ended up working at the same consulting company where they crossed paths and shared stories.
They were surprised there were no online resources to help them realize their passions and find jobs that aligned with them, which is what sparked the idea for The Muse. Kathryn, Alexandra, and third Muse co-founder Melissa McCreery embarked on a mission to help job seekers understand their career goals and find out what they really want to do.
“I was shocked by how antiquated the online job search experience was; it was like death by 1,000 rectangles,” Kathryn said in a speech for the Y Combinator Female Founders Series. “I remember … searching for business strategy jobs through The New York Times’ partnership with Monster, and having it recommend an Assistant Manager position at a 7-11 in Secaucus, New Jersey. This felt totally ridiculous.”
The Muse solves that problem by offering a comprehensive approach to a job search, helping users identify their skills and needs before pairing them with jobs. The site goes behind the scenes at many top companies to give prospective employees a preview of the culture and environment. Experts dispense advice on a variety of topics and career coaches and courses sharpen the focus of the job-search process.
And Kathryn and Alexandra are building on the success of The Muse with their new book detailing the demands of the modern day job search and showing people how to navigate those challenges while pursuing their passions.
The New Rules of Work Gives Career Guidance a Modern Upgrade
The job market has shifted in the direction of the worker, but many job seekers are still not taking advantage of that to find the best opportunity. The New Rules of Work helps workers understand that shift, and gives them the confidence, to be honest with themselves about their personal goals.
The book also identifies how shifts in the employment landscape affect the way job seekers market themselves, find opportunities, and even how they maintain work-life balance once they find their desired job.
Begin Your Career Search by Building a Personal Brand
A personal brand is more than just what you list on a résumé; it is a holistic view of your skills, strengths, and aspirations, as well as a reflection of how others view your contributions.
“Identifying the attributes that define your brand involves understanding not only yourself but also how you are perceived by others,” Alexandra and Kathryn write in The New Rules of Work. “You might think you know what your greatest strengths and attributes are as a professional, but do you, really?”
The process is further detailed in the book and involves five steps — which include updating your social media profiles to reflect your new personal brand. Another key element of branding is creating a personal website, no matter what your industry. The book refers to a personal website as, “the perfect vehicle to display your work, connect with others, and establish yourself as an expert in your field.”
See Networking as an Opportunity to Build Relationships, Not Just Leads
Networking is another area of employment that is updated — and in many cases upgraded — in The New Rules of Work. By focusing more on building relationships day-to-day instead of self-promotion while actively job searching, networking can be much more organic and rewarding.
“Networking is about meeting interesting people (anywhere—not just at events you dread attending, and all the time—not just when you are job searching) who could turn into long-term friends, contacts, or colleagues,” Kathryn and Alexandra advise in The New Rules of Work. “These relationships could be the ticket to getting your foot in the door at a new company, introducing you to a future mentor or potential client, solving problems at work, and so much more.”
Networking today is less about securing relevant contacts within your industry and more about giving importance to each contact you make, whether it is industry-related or not. Each connection you make could be valuable to your future — even if you just make a friend.
Technology Has Drastically Shifted the Definition of Productivity
Kathryn and Alexandra also take time in The New Rules of Work to focus on how modern workplace expectations have changed because of technology. Workers now have a 24/7 connection to their place of employment, and many take advantage of that to get more done.
“Productivity is what makes work-life balance possible. Why? Because being more productive gives you options by giving you back time.” — Kathryn and Alexandra in The New Rules of Work
But at what cost? Often happiness suffers when there is not a proper balance of work and life. That is why it is critical to be efficient and productive at work, so tasks don’t encroach on your time away from the office.
“Productivity is what makes work-life balance possible. Why? Because being more productive gives you options by giving you back time — time you can spend getting ahead on work or developing new skills, but that you can also spend with the people you love, on your hobbies, or (our personal favorite) getting more sleep,” Kathryn and Alexandra write in The New Rules of Work.
Time management is vital for today’s worker, and the book is a resource for learning ways to minimize distractions, streamline workflow, and stop procrastinating. It also deals heavily with how to make a reasonable list of tasks following the 1-3-5 rule that Alexandra developed. The rule suggests workers focus on accomplishing one big task, three medium-difficulty tasks, and five small tasks each day — which helps boost productivity by maintaining focus.
Helping Job-Seekers Learn to Search For Their True Passions
While the employment industry focus is shifting from the employer to prospective employee, many of those job seekers are still unsure of what jobs align with their needs. To understand that, they need to do some soul-searching — and get a little guidance along the way.
That is why Kathryn and Alexandra started the Muse, to empower passionate workers to find a career that will give them purpose and fulfillment. It is also what led the pair to write The New Rules of Work, a manual for navigating the job search process, which has fundamentally changed over the last decade.
With a focus on the skills, desires, and passions of the individual, Kathryn and Alexandra have helped countless job seekers find their calling with companies that foster well-rounded growth. They know firsthand what it was like to be in the position of feeling lost in the employment world, and now have a website and a playbook to help others who find themselves in that position.