Those familiar with articles on leadership and the career space will certainly know today’s boldface name, Jenna Goudreau. As the VP and Managing Editor for CNBC Digital, she oversees Make It, the network’s site on getting smarter about how you earn, save and spend your money. And in this role, she leads a team of more than 30 to bring business stories to light that spark something inside of you.
Today, we flip the script on Jenna and ask her about how she got her start. What was her first job ever? What’s the first career lesson she learned? And how did she break into the world of journalism? We’d tell you here, but we like how she explains it below so much better.
What was your very first job ever, and what is a lesson you learned in this job?
I got my first job at a movie theater in Jacksonville, Florida. I was 14 making $6 an hour at the coffee and cookie counter. It was an amazing summer job because I got to see free movies; however, I was not very good at it. I got about 20 minutes of training on my first day and never got the hang of making frothy coffee drinks. People frequently brought them back, but I didn’t want to admit to the managers that I needed more training. I’ve since learned that it’s always better to ask for help than to pretend to know something you don’t.
Once you graduated with your journalism degree from NYU, how did you kick off your career path?
My first job after graduation was as an editorial assistant at Forbes. They’d recently launched a quarterly magazine for professional women called ForbesWoman. I did everything from writing stories and working with freelancers to helping launch the brand online. About a year in, I was promoted to reporter and folded into the main Forbes edit staff. From there I wrote career and leadership stories for Forbes.com, did business profiles for the magazine, and researched the rich and famous for its big annual lists.
What does your job as CNBC’s Make It Managing Editor involve on a daily basis? How much of your time is spent dedicated to different areas of your job during a week?
Make It launched two years ago to help young people get smarter about how they earn, save and spend their money. It has quickly ramped to a staff of 30 writers, editors and video producers and now reaches many millions of people a month. Because we’re growing so quickly, most of my time is spent hiring, coaching and training the team, and guiding our coverage from a high level. I also spend a lot of time meeting with people internally and externally who are psyched about the brand’s success and want to contribute to it.
What do you attribute your continued success as a media professional to?
I’ve mostly focused on doing a great job wherever I am rather than thinking about my next move. I deliver results and always do what I say I will do, which might sound boring but is important. I also approach new jobs and challenges with a growth mindset—meaning it’s not my job to have all the answers, it’s my job to find them. I’m constantly learning and iterating on success, and teaching my teams to do the same.
What aspect of your job at CNBC brings you the most joy?
Building something new that takes on a life of its own is really exciting. I also love hearing from readers who say our stories inspired them and helped them achieve their goals.
What is something surprising someone might not realize about your work?
I get a lot of free books! Publishers send multiple free books a day, so I have rows and rows in and around my office. I’ve taken to speed-reading many of them on the subway, and I get a lot of story ideas from books.
What are your tips for hiring the right team?
As we recruit, I like to get recommendations from people I trust and directly reach out to people whose work I admire. I look for people who are hardworking, enthusiastic and passionate about the subject matter. And when you’re building a team, it’s important not to hire the same person over and over. You want people with different backgrounds, perspectives and skills that complement each other.
What is a mistake you made starting out in your career? What did you learn from it that sticks with you today?
In the beginning of my career, I was laser-focused on the work and less focused on the people around me. I’ve since learned that business is about people, so you’re better at your job when you have strong relationships. Now I frequently tell people who work with me to get away from their desks more, to take people to coffee and not to skip the happy hours.
As someone who sees pitches constantly, what do you feel really makes a good pitch stand out? How can a job seeker apply this tactic to their search?
As an editor, I want to know what’s new, why it matters and what the “wow factor” is. I need to get excited about the idea and want to learn more. The same goes for any job interview: You have to concisely pitch who you are, the value you can bring to the company, and why you’re special. Plus, you have to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get them excited about hiring you.
As a journalist for many years covering the career space, we’re sure you’ve seen a lot of evolution. What do you feel has been the biggest change for job seekers, and how has it impacted them?
Certainly, in the last decade the market’s improved, which means job seekers have more options. I also think young people, young women in particular, have gotten the message that they should negotiate their salaries and are in a much stronger position to do so. The other big change is that your internet and social media presence is now just as likely to be viewed by a hiring manager as your resume, so you really need to be thoughtful about what you post.
On the flip side, what do you see as some trends for the future of work, careers and employment?
I think we’ll continue to see a bifurcation of the labor market, with high-paying tech and management jobs on one end and low-paying service jobs on the other. Robots and AI may improve the efficiency of companies—and probably our lives—but they will also likely eliminate lots of routine jobs. To succeed, I think your best bet is to have a great general education, continuously learn and adapt, have a global mindset and be prepared for change. You may have multiple careers in a lifetime or even create your own gig.
What advice do you have for readers interested in becoming the next Jenna Goudreau?
Anyone who knows me would tell you one Jenna Goudreau is probably enough! But if you want to be successful in media or any industry, really, I’d say: Be so good they can’t ignore you. Understand your strengths and lean into them. And remember the Golden Rule; treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.
- I’d love to grab coffee with: Savannah Guthrie
- The books/magazines on my nightstand are: New York magazine, The Economist, Einstein by Walter Isaacson
- My favorite quote is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
- My favorite article on Make It right now is: Our just-launched women-in-leadership series “Two Questions with Adam Bryant”!
- I can’t live without: My husband, Andrew, and our obese Tabby cat, Bubbles
- My favorite way to unwind is: Lately, on the elliptical watching Younger
- I feel my best when: I’ve slept well, exercised and eaten a good breakfast