Whether you've recently been thrust from the comforts of college into the harsh world of entry-level job listings, or you just woke up to the realization that life is too short to spend it working an unfulfilling job, finding a career that makes the most of your personal skills and satisfies your interests can be daunting at any stage. So how do you know when or how to take an unconventional approach to your career?
Below, you'll learn about three people who have found success by creating their own opportunities. With the help of industry mentors and supportive friends and families, Bridgit Firtle, Rob Fishman, and Madison Maxey are here to answer all your career queries.
Bridget Firtle has earned recognition in two distinct, male-dominated fields: first finance, and now craft spirits. Before making a name for herself running a one-woman small-batch rum distillery called The Noble Experiment, she was putting her finance MBA to use as a hedge fund analyst for a global liquor company. She had always dreamt of starting her own distilling business, but considered her interest in craft spirits more of a hobby than a potential career. Leaving behind a Tribeca apartment and six-figure salary to move back in with her supportive parents and pour her savings into a rum distillery may sound like something out of a movie, but Bridget's independent success proves the real life value in embracing and following one's passion with confidence. With the encouragement of her friends and family, Bridget was named one of Forbes' Food and Wine 30 Under 30 in 2012, and The Noble Experiment's first product, Owney's — an entirely domestic white rum — has received considerable acclaim as a high-quality, home-grown spirit that's bringing native rum back to the U.S.
Rob Fishman is the founder of Niche — a marketing startup that's part talent scout, part ad network. Niche matches brands with social media influencers who then create content that they can share with their followers in an authentic voice. Rob has degrees from both Cornell and Columbia School of Journalism, and gained considerable experience in digital media by leading the social media teams at both AOL and The Huffington Post. His first company, Kingfish Labs, was acquired by Buzzfeed (where he is a contributing editor) in 2012. Throughout his career, Rob found support in mentors like Kenny Lerer, a co-founder of Huffington Post, who invested in both of his companies. These days, Rob is focused on growing Niche, and helping brands engage with young people through voices they respect and relate to.
Madison Maxey is the founder of CRATED, a venture that combines her lifelong love of fashion with her growing interest in the world of technology and wearable research. Madison established her voice in the fashion industry as a teenager, starting a notable fashion blog while living in France for a year, and won a CFDA & Teen Vogue scholarship for college. After four months at Parsons The New School for Design, Madison decided that school wasn't for her, leading her to support alternative education models. After leaving Parsons, she founded her clothing company, Madison Maxey Blazers, which has grown into a successful Kickstarter campaign. Madison has been featured in New York Magazine, Business Insider, Nylon Magazine and was even named a "Female Founder to Watch" by Women 2.0. She's been lucky enough to work with many supportive individuals and teams, but feels especially grateful for the guidance she received from Lisa Winning from HeTexted and the support of the entire General Assembly community where she's found inspiration from mentors and like-minded creative thinkers. Since being awarded a 2013 Thiel Fellowship, Madison has devoted most of her time to developing CRATED.
Bridget, Rob, and Maddy all chose personalized career paths that have allowed them to do what they love every day. While these life choices come with a fair amount of risk, they can also generate a whole lot of reward. Lucky for you, they're in the comments to chat about how they got where they are, the people and communities that helped and inspired them, what they would have done differently, and the important professional lessons they learned along the way. Jump in and ask them anything!
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Lily Butler is an Associate Content Producer for Studio@Gawker.