Caroline Ghosn of Levo League talks to Claudia Chan about trying to help young women launch their careers.
With a passion for social entrepreneurship, Caroline Ghosn co-founded Levo League with partner Amanda Pouchot to build a community where young professional women could thrive. The site, which provides mentoring, video chats and job postings, recently announced it has raised $7 million in angel funding to expand operations. Backers include Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Time Inc.’s Fran Hauser. As the first woman in her family to graduate from college, Ghosn — who speaks four languages and has lived in six countries — says she understands the peaks and valleys of the journey to fulfillment.
Edited interview excerpts follow.
Claudia Chan: How did your professional journey begin?
A: I met my co-founder, Amanda, in the crux of our post-college transitions to “real life.” We were both working at McKinsey & Company and were the youngest in our respective assignments, and frequently the only women. We experienced firsthand a lack of resources available to navigating those imperative first years in the workplace.
CC: When it comes to growing a business, how do you pick the best road to take?
A: Listen. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that the answer to the questions you have lie with the users you seek to serve. Levo League has grown and developed in many ways since we launched [in 2011]. The most productive and effective innovation has been a direct result of listening to our users’ needs and input. At the end of the day, they are the reason for our existence as a company.
CC: What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur in an early/bootstrapping phase?
A: Be confident and ask for advice. You are not the first to start a company, and not the first to scale one – why not learn from the shared experiences of those you admire? In terms of the growth phase, given that companies evolve very quickly and are tough, living organisms, don’t forget why you started in the first place; those core values can keep you motivated in the toughest of times.
CC: Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating than women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable asking for what they want?
A: Levo League is actively addressing this study and encouraging women to ask for more in their careers. Women need to openly discuss their hesitations and support one another in the process of asking for more. Levo firmly believes that mentorship — both mentor to mentee and peer to peer — is essential in building confidence. However, approaching someone to be a mentor can also be an ask that causes uneasiness. To combat this discomfort, Levo is providing resources, including workshops and articles, to help women learn how to ask for a raise, a promotion or a mentor.
CC: Many women become discontent with their careers yet are afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice?
A: This is your life, and it’s yours for one run. You are uniquely positioned to become the person you’ve always known you can be. Follow your gut — we need to learn to ignore the opinions of others sometimes.[pullquote_right]If you are at a point in your career where you are no longer learning or growing as a person, then seek a position you are passionate about.[/pullquote_right]
I completely changed my career trajectory to start Levo League, and it was the biggest leap of faith I have ever experienced. My confidence was shaken by a few toxic individuals, and it caused me to not see the big picture until a bit later. I have since learned to ignore the negative voices in your head or from others, and forge forward in becoming the person you aspire to be.
If you are at a point in your career where you are no longer learning or growing as a person, then seek a position you are passionate about.
CC: What are your top 3 tips for a woman entering the “real world” workforce?
A: Negotiate your starting salary. Even in our first year out of college, women make 88 cents to a man’s dollar — the pay gap starts immediately. Do your research before walking into an interview. Build your network of can-do’ers — people who adopt a “yes” mindset to challenges in their lives. These can be peers or traditional “vertical” mentors who are more senior. These can be siblings or friends also. Who are the people who inspire you to leave a room more confident than you entered it?
CC: Confidence is key to pursuing your dream. How do you build up your “confidence muscles”?
A: Be open about what makes you nervous and ask for advice. Guaranteed that someone has been in your shoes before, so give yourself the opportunity to learn by example. Also, preparation is key. Learn new skills that can help you feel more confident when venturing into unchartered territory.
Inspired by Caroline Ghosn? Take a look at Claudia Chan’s other interviews with enterprising women.
Zainab Salbi on Helping Women Survivors of War
Jane Wurwand on Redefining Skincare
Suparna Bhasin on Helping Women Find Their Calling
Dee Poku on Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Leaders
Bobbi Brown on the Business of Beauty
Joi Gordon on Dressing Disadvantaged Women for Success
Ingrid Vandervelt on Overcoming Self-Doubt and Empowering Others
An Entrepreneur Turns a Passion for Cooking into an Cookie Empire
Posted: February 14, 2014