One of my most special interviews was with Jeff Wald, the Co-Founder and President of Work Market. Although Jeff introduced me to the rise of the soon to be trillion dollar freelance economy, I was most intrigued by his description of Phase One people – The team members who worked on the earliest iterations of Work Market.
He said, “Phase one people, there’s something a little bit wrong with them. They aren’t wearing shoes all the time. They don’t shower for a few days. They are brilliant in a very unstructured way.”
I was struck by Jeff’s declaration that he missed the early days. I assumed he was unique in that sense; How could you miss working until 4:00 a.m. seven days a week?
My recent conversation with Adrian Granzella Larssen, the Editor-in-Chief of The Muse, answered that question.
As she described the early days of Co-Founders Kathryn Minshew, Alex Cavoulacos and her squeezing on a couch, eating whatever they could, she similarly said, “I look back on those days quite fondly.”
Despite The Muse’s $10 million Series A and a thriving community of over 3 million active users, today’s success is grounded in the late nights during Phase One.
“We had crazy impromptu brainstorming sessions and no real idea of what was going to happen in a day or a week,” Adrian shared.
The early days were spent finding writers, securing partnerships with publications like Time and Forbes, and convincing people to sign up for the site.
Initially, The Muse was targeted at young women looking to excel in their careers. The team later opened the platform to both genders as their career-building resources make a life-changing difference for millennials.
Today, The Muse covers every part of the job process. Over 300 hiring companies like Zappos, Eventbrite, and General Assembly contribute to more than a thousand job postings on the site.
Once you find and apply for positions, the team provides a wide array of resources to help you streamline the interview process and plan your career.
They even have email based classes that help you achieve your goals, such as How to Create a Website That Will Land You a Job.
Reflecting on the pajama days, it’s truly extraordinary what this powerhouse trio has accomplished.
The road to this kind of growth certainly doesn’t come with a functioning GPS (think Apple Maps circa 2008); Making it incredibly moving to listen to Adrian talk about her work.
The one thing she feels would make the world better is if we were all happy with our jobs. How many people do you know who are actively making their answer to “What change do you want to see in the world?” reality?
I really feel that the world would be better if we all loved what we did every day. If nobody hated Mondays or was really stressed about going to work; If we were all working on things that we were excited about; Changing the world in the way that we wanted to. I think people would be a lot nicer to each other, a lot more fulfilled.
Although she occasionally misses the pajama days, I completely relate (especially during the holidays!), it’s impossible not to smile when Adrian talks about her team.
Her first hire, Erin Greenawald, now an Editor at The Muse, started as an intern working 10 hours a week during her junior year. She interned the following summer and worked 20 hours a week her senior year – It was clear she was the perfect fit.
Today, Adrian manages six team members and over 500 freelance writers.
These are the hiring strategies she uses to build her team.
- Implement an extensive interview process. Candidates go through three or four rounds before joining The Muse.
- Appreciate the candidate who asks thoughtful questions. It demonstrates that he or she researched the company, the position and you.
- Focus on having a conversation rather than conducting an interview. This is a great way to see how an individual will fit into your culture.
- Utilize references! Reach out to individuals potential hires cite on their resumes as well as those in your network. LinkedIn is very helpful here!
- Consider these questions when speaking to references:
- What do you think this person’s strengths are?
- What areas do they need to work on?
- How did the experience go over all?
- What advice do you have for me as their future manager?
When it comes to hiring, as well as personal and professional growth, Adrian is adamant about the importance of networking.
“The first place I turn is the people I know. The more people who know who you are and could potentially help you, the more doors are going to be opened for you in the future,” she shared.
It’s completely normal to fear networking; Especially when you view it as awkward small talk uncovering every career move you’ve ever made.
A pro herself, Adrian shared valuable tips to build a supportive network:
- Find a routine time to fit networking into your schedule. Adrian designates every Friday afternoon to reach out to her relationships, get in touch with new individuals, and schedule time to get together. She averages four or five meetings a week.
- Networking isn’t solely about talking about your career. Get to know people outside of their professions by asking personal questions, like what they enjoy doing on the weekends or if they’re traveling this summer. This not only breaks the ice, it lays the foundation for personal relationships in the future.
- It’s highly beneficial to merge professional and personal relationships. Many of Adrian’s strongest professional relationships are friends as well. It’s how she met Kathryn and Alex.
Despite no longer working crazy hours, Adrian works hard to keep everything in perspective. Looking up to Arianna Huffington, one of her personal heroes, Adrian makes it a priority to maintain work-life balance.
This isn’t to say she’s not extremely dedicated (it took her four years to leave her computer at the office over the weekend), she simply takes more time to be creative and cultivate meaningful relationships with her team members.
Reflecting on Arianna’s advice, success is how happy you are with your life, not the number of commas in your bank account.
When it comes to overall happiness, Adrian strives to follow in her grandparents footsteps, who according to her father, “lived every day like it was New Years Eve.”
“Celebrate. Eat great foods. Drink wine outside and have flowers. Take the moments that could be rushed and make them special. Look for any reason to celebrate, even the little things,” she explains.
Before you quickly resort to ‘I don’t have time for that!’ (I did!) consider “finding short cuts for the things that don’t matter to you so you can enjoy the things that do,” Adrian shared.
For a closer look at The Muse’s founding days and how Adrian’s role as EIC has evolved, tune into her episode of 33founders and follow her on Twitter here.
Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss:
- Phase One of The Muse
- How the company’s evolved since launching in 2011
- How to determine if you can trust a potential hire
- Why conversations > interviews
- How to fit networking into your schedule
- How to constructively approach sexism