Anyone who’s joined the workforce or is on an entrepreneurial journey knows how winding career paths can be. Just when you think you have your career path figured out and planned to a tee, you discover a new area you hadn’t thought of before. You wonder if the newly discovered career idea would be a better fit for your interests and skill set. Then you’re back to square one: wondering what direction to take next.
According to Chron’s website, choosing a career path should involve “examining your interests, focusing your search, evaluating your preparedness, exploring different careers.” But for some, this is easier said than done.
LinkedIn video series, “How I Got Here,” hosted by LinkedIn senior editor Maya Pope-Chappell, addresses this issue and explores the stories of people who’ve found themselves questioning their career success in relation to others’ success.
We caught up with Pope-Chappell recently to talk about the series as well as her own career path.
TNJ.com: What inspired you to create “How I Got Here”?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I’ve always been fascinated by the career journeys and stories of successful people. As an ambitious person myself, I just wanted to know how people got to where they are and the common threads that connected their stories. I wanted to do that on LinkedIn, where people, especially students and young professionals, are trying to figure out what they want to do and how to get there. And that’s the goal of the series, to highlight the varied blueprints for career success in a way that inspires people.
TNJ.com: What do you hope people will take away from the series?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I want them to watch these videos and be inspired. I want them to be motivated to act–take something they’ve heard and incorporate it into their own life and career, whether it’s building relationships, seeking out or taking a chance on a new opportunity, gaining more insight into a field they’re interested in etc. I also want these videos to help students and young professionals in particular overcome fear and doubt by sharing the varied stories of achievers from various industries and backgrounds, people I think young people can relate to and/or see themselves in or aspire to become.
TNJ.com: What do you think people get wrong in their approach to career planning?
Maya Pope-Chappell: People tend to be rigid in their approach to career planning. I think it’s important to have a plan and create a list of goals, but it’s just as important to be flexible and have a willingness to adjust those plans as life and opportunity happens. One thing I’ve noticed in the stories of the people I’ve interviewed for #HowIGotHere is that these are people who were not afraid to deviate from their intended career paths. These are people who took chances, even when the outcome or where they were headed wasn’t clear. I’ve also experienced that in my own career journey. When I initially moved to NYC to attend graduate school for journalism, I initially want to be a magazine writer, because I loved long-form storytelling and features. But I completely upended those plans, partly out of necessity (it was 2008 when the industry was in freefall with newspapers were laying off tons of staff and magazines were getting thinner and thinner), but mainly out of an interest that emerged in online/digital storytelling and video, which I was exposed to and trained in in grad school. And that’s where I’ve remained since then–working online, telling stories for digital audiences, figuring out and creating strategies around how people engage and create community on the Internet etc.
TNJ.com: Tell me a bit about your own career path? How did you get here?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I realized I wanted to become a journalist in college after Freshman year when a professor told me I was a good writer and suggested I write for the college newspaper. I ended up applying and becoming the campus reporter, and my love of storytelling–interviewing people, writing articles etc–really started there. I was in a program called INROADS at the time, so I was interning at Kaiser Permanente where I ended up working after graduation. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but it enabled me to save money so I could move to NYC and achieve my goal of becoming a journalist. While working there, and even as an intern, I took every opportunity to learn and gain experience in writing and journalism, whether it was connecting with other writers or writing blog posts and articles online. I figured the best way to break into the industry was through attending graduate school, so I ended up going to CUNY Graduate School of Journalism (now known as the Craig Newmark School of Journalism). I figured it would be a great way to meet people and get some real experience under my belt. (I didn’t know anyone prior to moving to NYC and I wasn’t connected to anyone who was working in the industry there).
After graduating with my master’s in journalism, having held several internships and expanding my network, I landed a role at the WSJ, where I started work on the Greater New York section as a web producer. (That section of the paper no longer exists). From there I got a series of promotions and opportunities, including the chance to move to Hong Kong, where I worked first as an online news editor and later as the first social media editor for Asia. In that role I was able to help set the strategy for how the Journal would engage members via social media. I also led the company’s effort to create a presence on WeChat and Line, which are popular social media platforms in Asia. After nearly five years, I ended up at LinkedIn where I’ve been for the past four-and-a-half years. When I joined LinkedIn, I oversaw our education vertical, not only working with higher education professionals (college presidents, professors, deans etc) to tell their stories and share their expertise, but I also worked with students to help amplify their voices on the platform. I did this through launching the Campus Editor Program in 2015 and creating the #StudentVoices initiative, which continues to this day.
Right now, I’m hosting the LinkedIn video series, #HowIGotHere, in addition to creating and implementing strategies around how the editorial team engages members and help them to create active communities on the platform.
TNJ.com: How do you define success?
Maya Pope-Chappell: Success to me is self-fulfillment. For me personally, that self fulfillment—in the context of work—comes from doing something I enjoy that has a purpose–and enables me to make a living.
TNJ.com: What have you learned that, perhaps, you didn’t know five years ago?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I’ve learned a lot about the tech world, from how products are developed to how they are scaled. I’ve also learned a lot about working cross-functionally with partners, from engineers and product managers, to marketing and business development. In the newsroom, I spoke primarily to reporters and editors. But when I started at LinkedIn, I had to learn how to work with, for example, product managers and engineers. I had to learn their language and figure out ways in which my goals aligned with theirs.
TNJ.com: I think it’s good for the soul to stop and assess one’s career from time to time to make sure you’re on track by checking off any To Do lists you’ve made in terms of career planning. Do you agree, or do you think it’s better to launch full steam ahead and take opportunities as they come, even if they’re not what you had planned? In other words, live in the moment and try something out that perhaps you had not thought of.
Maya Pope-Chappell: I totally agree with you. It’s good to stop and assess your career and check in on what you’ve accomplished and your goals. I thinking taking breathers are a good thing. I also think it’s important to know that you may not always be on the ascend, that there will be times in your career where you’re building, or resetting or just making a series of lateral moves. But I think it’s important to stay open to opportunities that may come or try out things you hadn’t thought of. Personally, I’m a planner, but I leave room for things to emerge organically.
TNJ.com: Do the episodes lean towards people who’ve had non-traditional career journeys or traditional ones? Or will viewers see a mix of both?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I feature people who have unique stories to tell about how they got to where they are–and that’s typically people who have non-traditional career journeys or have taken unconventional paths to get to where they are. I just find those stories more interesting. And I think they are also more representative of where work is headed. The future of work will include more people who have multiple gigs; people with side hustles; or people who shift roles and even industries more often…and I want to capture that.
TNJ.com: What’s next for you? Any short to long term career goals?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I love storytelling, so I’d want whatever I do in the short or long term to include some aspect of that. At some point in my life, I’d love to make documentaries, but I’m open to new mediums that haven’t even been created yet. Someone I really admire right now and draw inspiration from is Ava Duvernay. I love the varied nature of her work and the types of stories she tells. I think she’s very authentic and captures people and story very well. And that’s what I want to do. I want to be known for that.