“I didn’t move into sales until I was 35,” says Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman. “I wish I had done it much earlier, because I think that everything about life is sales.”
Newman and her business partner, Georgene Huang, recently put their considerable sales skills to work to raise $3 million to grow their website, which in just three years has become the largest online career community for women. Even with 1 million monthly unique visitors to the site and more than 60 corporate partners, raising that money was no easy feat. “It’s hard to ignore the statistics about the differences between the kind of money that female founders raise versus male founders,” Newman says. “Only 2 percent of venture capital goes to female-founded companies, so we were really thrilled.”
Sales, she says, taught her not to take things personally and that you have to hear a lot of nos to get to yes — and that’s great advice for job seekers of any age or gender, but it’s especially important for women over 40.
Newman, who is a graduate of Yale and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, grew up in New York City. The daughter of a successful commercial insurance broker, she dreamed of becoming a Broadway star. But business runs in her blood, and it turned out that she’s better suited for Wall Street than The Great White Way.
“Watching my mother build her career had a big impact on me,” she says. “In the ’80s she was like Annie Hall in a tie — that was her leaving for work every morning. And she brought her work home. When she had to put together a proposal for a client, she engaged our entire family. We all sat at the table and worked on it together, and we all waited eagerly to learn if she won the business. We would host meetings of the Financial Women’s Association in our living room; she would have me take notes. She really involved me in the business world from an early age.”
If you are interested in starting your own business, you should do a lot of background research and get a really thorough understanding of your audience.
Newman spent seven years on the business side of The Wall Street Journal before founding Fairygodboss. Now the 42-year-old spends her days talking with prospective clients about her website or working with her team to help them drive business. “One of the things about being an entrepreneur is that there is no typical work day,” she says, adding that “being a co-founder is not for the faint of heart. It’s tricky because the lines between work and your personal life blur until they are essentially nonexistent. If you are interested in starting your own business, you should do a lot of background research and get a really thorough understanding of your audience and/or customers before launching. And you should have unwavering belief in your idea, because it will be challenged constantly — by others, by you, and by business challenges you face.”
The entrepreneurial route is often the chosen path for women in their 40s and 50s. Older women may change careers to become real estate brokers or financial advisors in order to have more flexibility in their lives; they may launch a fashion company or fitness business in order to overcome the frustrations of ageism in the workplace. Making your way up a corporate ladder is hard at any age, Newman says, but “it’s harder for women over 40 to find that seat at the table, especially if they haven’t already established themselves at that table.”
For women who would rather be employees than self-employed, however, Fairygodboss is an important research tool. Through an anonymous forum, women from around the United States reveal how satisfied they are at their companies, how women are treated, what the real opportunities for advancement are, what work hours are really like, and more. It’s also a place for women to give and receive advice about re-entering the workforce after a long absence, workplace harassment, salary discrepancies, and more. The goal, Newman says, is for Fairygodboss to become a supportive community for all career-minded women and a platform that every woman uses as part of her job search.
The best advice Romy Newman has to offer women who are looking for a new position can be summed up in a single word: network.
And what if you’re launching a job search? The best advice Newman has to offer women who are looking for a new position can be summed up in a single word: network.
“Regardless of your age, your opportunities will come from the network you have created,” she says. “If you have built a network, there should be an opportunity within it.” But, she adds, it might not be available immediately. That’s where patience, diligence, and endless optimism come in.
“It’s very easy to start a job search and feel very discouraged if you don’t get a job right away. The reality is that it’s hard to get a job for everyone. It’s a numbers game, and you shouldn’t take it personally. The more discouraged you get, the harder it’s going to be to get a job, because you are going to read as discouraged. So what you really want to do is expect that you are going to have to reach out to 100 people and ask them for help. Get that to 20 meetings, and out of those 20 meetings maybe you get one job offer. That’s how everything works.”
Women who’ve not looked for a job in a long while might not understand that, she says. “Don’t expect that you can talk to one or five people and find a job. If you reframe your expectations, you are much less likely to get discouraged. It’s not unreasonable to think that it’s going to take a year to find a job at a senior level. You might even have to build a relationship and wait for a position to open. If you are a smart job seeker, you will develop those opportunities over time.”
The Fine Line has partnered with Fairygodboss to offer women over 40 career advice in a new monthly column called Office Hours. It launches tomorrow.
Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman shares four things that keep her inspired and grounded.
“This book is based on a study that shows that the more we try to do, the less well we do everything. When you want to make good decisions or produce good work, you should attempt to do less.”
“I find her very inspirational.”
“I came to yoga later in life, and I am now a devoted yogi. Having learned at a very early age to be really judgmental, it’s been huge for me to learn not to judge myself, to learn that you come to your practice and sometimes you do it really well and sometimes you do it terribly, but you don’t react to either. It’s just that you came to yoga and this was your practice today.”
This American Life
“It’s become how I find space. I walk around New York a lot, and I’ve been listening to old episodes. It really helps me step away from my busy day and think.”