During senior year of high school, Jenna Goudreau wrote herself a letter, an assignment for the theater program she was in. In this letter, she outlined exactly how she wanted her future to look. She’d be living in New York City, and she’d either be an actress or a magazine writer.
As the only child of a single, working mom, Goudreau read a lot of books and watched a lot of TV and movies. She realized that actors and writers use storytelling to “educate, inspire, inform, and provoke.” And she knew she definitely wanted to be a part of that.
For the most part, what she wrote in her letter came true. After getting rejected from every acting program she applied to, she instead decided to pursue a degree in journalism and sociology from NYU and worked as an editorial intern at Ladies Home Journal and Businessweek Magazine. And today, she still lives in New York and is the VP and Managing Editor of CNBC Make It.
Looking back, Goudreau can confidently say that her Businessweek internship changed the trajectory of her career.
“Previously, I thought business news was boring,” she shares. “But this internship really opened my eyes to the fact that business is just groups of people. Stakes can be really high, and there’s a lot of human drama.”
After graduating, she became an editorial assistant at Forbes, eventually working her way up to staff reporter. For her five years there, she wrote about business and leadership, helped edit “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” and assisted in launching ForbesWoman.com.
Goudreau’s favorite part, though, was interviewing “super successful” people and writing their profiles. She was (and still is) fascinated with how normal people can become so accomplished and prosperous.
Loving the field she chose, she started to seek out roles that focused more on editing than writing, first becoming an associate editor at Entrepreneur.com then spending a few years as a senior then deputy editor at Business Insider.
And, a little over two years ago, she was hired to manage Make It, CNBC’s new website that delivers content mostly aimed at those who are just starting their careers and want to lead more successful financial lives.
On her start date, Make It had zero employees and lacked an established brand. The idea was there, the skeleton of the site built, but it was Goudreau’s job to turn it into something great.
So, she got to work. She decided on four core themes—careers, leadership, personal finance, and entrepreneurs—which are still the main pillars of the site today. From there, she searched for the very best digital writers and editors she could find.
Surprisingly, top-notch editorial skills aren’t the first thing Goudreau looks for when hiring—it’s energy. As a leader, she explains, she can “guide, direct, and channel energy” in her staff members, but she can’t create it.
Goudreau took Make It by storm. Just two years after starting, she has a team of 30 and Make It has the highest readership on CNBC.com. And the cherry that tops it all off? She loves her job—it’s her favorite yet.
“It’s a culmination of everything I’ve done in my career,” she shares. “And it’s been exciting to build a new team and brand and to keep attracting more readers each month.”
But she didn’t get to where she is today without experiencing a few hardships, one of them being when she started working at Business Insider. It was the first time she’d ever held a managerial role, and all three of her reporters quit in a six-week time span. According to Goudreau, it was just an unfortunate coincidence, as they’d all received (and accepted) great job opportunities elsewhere. But as a new manager, it didn’t feel great.
Thankfully, her bosses rallied behind her and empowered her to start from scratch. It was an invaluable experience, and she also learned a critical lesson—not taking other’s career decisions personally.
“I realized the importance of emotionally detaching from work and understanding that people will do what they think is best for them,” she says. “It’s not about me.”
If there’s one piece of advice Goudreau has for all young professionals, it’s to spend more time interacting with those around you, whether it’s your boss, your co-workers, your clients, or someone you’re interviewing for a story. Early on in her own career, she got into the habit of remaining at her desk so she could write and publish stories as efficiently as possible. But she had minimal (if any) connections with people in her office and those in her industry.
“Over time, and with prompting from one of my editors, I realized I would’ve been a better employee—and person—if I’d invested more in relationships and got up from my desk more,” she shares. “Success isn’t just about getting assignments done.”
Photo of Jenna Goudreau courtesy of Jenna Goudreau.
Abby is a writer, career coach, and health educator living in Portland, Maine. When she’s not trying to make the world a happier and healthier place, you can find her cuddling with her cats, hunting down the city's best coffee and grilled cheese, or dipping her toes in the Atlantic. Say hi on Twitter .More from this Author