Rachel Serwetz began her early professional experience at Goldman Sachs in Operations, followed by a role at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation.
For the past 3.5 years, Rachel Serwetz, CEO, has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of figuring out their ideal job and career path. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration, job search, and career success. She has also attained her Tech MBA from NYU Stern, serves as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has previously served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School, Columbia University, and Project Activate.
Rachel, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose to start Woken?
I experienced firsthand the lack of effective support for career exploration and job search at several points of my professional journey. I learned everything on my own about how to land a great job, leading me to secure a role at Goldman Sachs. Over the next few years, I was referred to hundreds of young adults who needed career support, saw patterns in the issues they faced, and came up with a unique career exploration process. After I spent my young life watching loved one’s work jobs well below their potential and after six years of searching for my own career clarity, I crystalized that my passion was helping others find theirs. I realized my purpose was combining my love for providing career support with my interest in systematizing, productizing, and scaling. That’s when WOKEN was born. Now, we have been working for 3.5 years to build tools and resources to scalably support clients to find their ideal career direction in just a few months.
Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as an entrepreneur?
When I found career clarity, I realized I wanted to scalably support others to clarify their careers. I would’ve done that at an existing organization if I had seen any that were doing it well. Because I didn’t, I knew that I needed to execute on my purpose in an entrepreneurial capacity. I intuitively feel that this is the career path I am meant to be on, and that alone is what drives me to reach my goals.
Tell us about your current role and your vision of improving the job search experience.
Currently, I am the CEO and Founder of WOKEN, a career exploration and job search platform guiding professionals to clarify their ideal career direction and efficiently land a job they will love.
Our vision is that every professional should have affordable, effective career support at every juncture and transition in their journey. Our mission is to empower every professional to know that they can and should find a job they love.
As it relates to the job search experience, our vision is that every professional can both understand what career exploration is, when, how and why to do it, and then reap the benefits of that process during their job search. By pursuing career clarity before you begin the job search, your search will be more efficient and effective in helping you land a role you will enjoy and thrive in.
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
I worked at Bridgewater Associates which feels like a feat in and of itself. I learned a ton by working in such a radically transparent culture and it drives a lot of how I run WOKEN today.
I earned the NSF I-Corps grant for WOKEN which also feels pretty special!
I have been able to grow and bootstrap WOKEN without yet needing or wanting to raise institutional money and while remaining full ownership over the company; I’ll be proud that we have been able to grow this company on our own, once we really set sail in the next few months.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming young Women Leaders?
For any young leaders, be sure to clarify which career path is the best for you. You will stand out and thrive as a leader once you do. By being careful, thoughtful, and intentional with where you devote your time and skills, it will inherently allow you to make the greatest impact and enjoy your work along the way. For any prospective entrepreneurs, be sure you look into the career path as you would any other career path before diving in.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
What is the major difference between being an Entrepreneur and working in Investment Banking?
I worked in Operations at a bank and HR at a hedge fund, so I can’t speak to what it is like as a banker, but I think being an entrepreneur differs in many ways to any corporate role. You are on your own, driving your own ship, making decisions for better or worse. This can give you great flexibility, a great thrill, and also great agita.
Who was your biggest influencer?
Jeff Taylor, the founder of Monster.com. Steve Jobs. RBG. My parents.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a CEO?
As a solo, nontechnical, first time, female founder, many things are difficult. As a Career Coach and CEO, I feel inherently aware of all that I don’t know, so it can make it difficult to feel confident hiring, leading, and making decisions. One must find confidence in your intuition and making decisions without the full suite of information. That will probably never feel easy for me, given my personality.
What do you have your sights set on next?
Growth! After 3.5 years, we invested in several product iterations to make sure our product was scale-ready. Now, we’re ready for the world to know that you can and should find a job you love — and that there is a practical process you can take to get there. I’m hoping to spend 2021 growing on our own, and perhaps pursue raising institutional money at some point in the future to help us scale even further.
What is a day in your life like?
As a gal who enjoys her sleep (and this being one perk of entrepreneurship), I wake up around 9am. I try to find time for meditation and a workout in the mornings, but sometimes this gets derailed. I’m usually in meetings for a large portion of my day (9am-7pm roughly) and/or trying to find some time for heads down work and productivity. My days are filled with meetings with my team, potential marketing partners, mentors, and of course, our clients. In any given day or week I usually touch on all the areas of our business including focusing on hiring, team management, product development, marketing/growth/sales, partnerships, content creation, operations/legal/finance, strategy, project management, and more. I try to wrap up around 7 or 8pm and just relax for the rest of the night!
Do you have any hobbies?
I love exploring New York City, hanging with my friends and family (and dogs), traveling, finding live music or listening to vinyl records, working out, watching shows, and reading (when I can focus). I don’t often have the time or energy to devote to new skill development as much as I’d like to…. one day!
What makes you smile?
This question did — what a great question! Seeing my clients reactions when we help them and when they find a sense of relief and excitement in their future journeys. I also love doing motivational talks and events. All of the hobbies mentioned above give me joy.
What are you never without?
My phone unfortunately. But to be more specific, my notepad. I have ideas constantly (or remember things I need to do), and oftentimes when I’m not working, so I need to write everything down so I can get back to it later.
What scares you?
Making mistakes. I feel that it’s hard to move past previous mistakes without it hindering my ability to make future decisions quickly and confidently. It feels like as I make decisions, I almost know I’m making mistakes. I’ve started to accept it, but it isn’t easy. Doing anything for the first time is never easy.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Great question, I love seeing new places but from where I’ve already traveled to, the coast of California was a dream (especially San Diego), Thailand was glorious, and I loved everywhere I went in Europe, but there’s so much left I still have to see!