Founder and CEO of Career Contessa Lauren McGoodwin on Making Power Moves in Business

The following is excerpted from POWER MOVES. Copyright © 2020 by Lauren McGoodwin.  Reprinted here with permission from HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Power Moves are those unexpected, not-always-conventionally advisable actions and behaviors that make it possible to find fulfilling work you love—on your own terms. Power Moves have guided me through every difficult stage of my career. They’ve helped me think more holistically about my ambitions, my challenges and what I really want out of life. Power Moves are not only a unique approach to your career; they’re also the kinds of tailored-to-you decisions you make to ensure you’re living authentically and staying true to yourself—not some idea of what you should be.

After several years and a lot of lessons at Hulu, it was time for the next challenge—and a huge Power Move. Guided by my Hulu experience and my master’s thesis in 2013 on millennial women and career resources, I was inspired to launch Career Contessa, an online media platform and resource dedicated to providing women the very same career help I had needed.

I left a job I loved and jumped headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship to help women build successful and fulfilling careers, on their terms. It was equally exhilarating and terrifying.


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Power women, power moves

Back in 2013, I started Career Contessa featuring interviews with real women. What do I mean by “real”? Women who are not celebrities or influencers with millions of followers (though they have amazing stories too!).

Women whose stories you haven’t heard a million times, who’ve come to their success in unconventional ways, who have a unique point of view, who represent diverse experiences and geography, who have something original/compelling/thoughtful/profoundly valuable to say.

With these interviews I noticed that these women, with success and fulfillment, had a lot in common, including:

  • They were really in control of their careers
  • They were regular practitioners of Power Moves
  • Their career values were consistently similar

While anyone can make a random Power Move, the greatest benefits come to those who embrace Power Moves as an everyday “practice” or “lifestyle” to achieve the career they want. I’ve asked these powerhouse women with an array of different experiences a lot of questions about power, Power Moves, and how both have impacted their careers.

Sometimes (most of the time) the best way to learn is to listen to women who have been there and successfully done that and can show us what we can do with some grit, smarts, and, of course, a few Power Moves at the right time.


Related: Why Emotional Connection is Essential in Business

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, PhD, is a clinical psychologist based in Atlanta, Georgia, and the founder of Therapy for Black Girls, an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of black women and girls. She started the organization in 2014 in an effort to combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues that often prevents black women from seeking support.

For years, her main goal was to have a thriving private therapy practice, which she did, fairly quickly—but then, just when she thought her career would take a linear path, the dream began to change. Bradford began to realize she could make the most impact by not just treating her clients, but by making a Power Move to create her own media company, where she could distribute information far and wide, and a virtual database to support clients she did not have time to treat herself.

It was an ambitious dream that, initially at least, not everyone in her life understood.

“I remember very vividly having this conversation with my husband about starting the therapist directory. I’m tech savvy but not like a tech person. Like I could not build a directory myself. So, I was going to need to hire somebody to build this directory that I had a vision for. And we had a conversation, I can remember saying, ‘I’m going to need a couple of thousand dollars to start this thing.’ And him being very confused about, what are you doing? And how is this thing going to pay off? It hasn’t even been two years since the directory is in its current iteration, but it went from 90 therapists to over 1,200, so it definitely has been a huge payoff.”

Over the course of launching her digital platform, Bradford also began recording a popular podcast named “Therapy for Black Girls” (just like her site)—which, in 2019, had more than two million downloads.

With the podcast and with helping to produce her site’s videos, Bradford effectively transitioned from being a full-time licensed therapist to more of a media entrepreneur.

“So now I have a very small practice but am more full-time doing the podcast and the directory. And that Power Move (is) not something that I (ever) would’ve imagined, that is not at all what I planned for. I feel like I’m still kind of getting my grounding in developing this new business that has developed from my work.”


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Bradford’s goal was always to present mental health topics in a way that felt accessible and relevant, but the execution changed. She now says she is living out a fulfilled career, even if it’s different from the one she started with.

She even has a bit of unexpected celebrity from her venture, but—as you would imagine from a therapist—prioritizes not letting it go to her head.

“My support system—and really being able to stay connected to people who don’t see me as ‘Dr. Joy from Therapy for Black Girls,’ but just ‘Joy’—has been key to my staying grounded and true to myself.”

“Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot and Build a Career of Purpose” is available now wherever books are sold and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.

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