Entrepreneurs

4 career tips from an entrepreneur who walked away from $90,000 to start something bigger

Claire Wasserman, the founder of Ladies Get Paid.
Photo: Stephanie Geddes
Claire Wasserman, the founder of Ladies Get Paid.

Seven months ago, without a plan, Claire Wasserman quit her $90,000-a-year job. That was not an unusual move for the 30-year-old, who has also worked as a marketer and producer. "I'm every parent's worst nightmare," Wasserman says. "I get the itch every 10 months and I start plotting my next move."

This time, her next move was to become an activist. She founded the career development initiative Ladies Get Paid, which helps "women recognize and advocate for their value."

Women still earn 80 cents on the dollar, according to a 2015 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. For women of color, the gap widens even further: In 2015, Hispanic women and Latinas received 54 percent of what white men got, according to a study by The American Association of University Women.

Ladies Get Paid is rolling out town halls all over the U.S., including San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. Across the world, more than 3,000 women have become a part of the conversation.

Part of the group's mission is to help women navigate career transitions, a fitting goal for a founder who has never hesitated to leave a job when she gets the "itch." Her intent is to make room for what's next.

"I'm always a little perplexed when people talk about their five-year plan because it seems people are not open to opportunity," Wasserman says.

If you too want to seize an opportunity to try something new, here's what the entrepreneur recommends.

1.  Think lifestyle before job title

When Wasserman was a senior in college, she got a tattoo. Her logic? "If someone doesn't hire me because of a tattoo, it's not the place for me," she says.

In order to be free in her career, Wasserman realized, she had to send a clear message to the world about who she was and attract the right kind of gigs. If a job couldn't handle her having a mark, it probably wasn't the right fit for her anyway.

This is why before thinking of job titles, she encourages women to think about their personalities and the kind of environments they thrive in.

"Because if you're not a morning person, or wearing a suit, it doesn't really matter what you're doing for a living, it's lifestyle," she says.

When deciding what career she wanted to pursue as an adult, Wasserman realized she wanted to be close to money. That led her to advertising. She recommends other professionals follow the same process: Think about what kind of lifestyle you want and then create or find a position that fits.

2.  Make your own lane

Because Wasserman's career has never been focused on building her resume, she established early on what to do when boredom sets in: Move on to the next thing. The reason she can afford not to worry about the role she takes on next is because, instead of filling someone's job, she often creates her own.

"I never ever put a title on what I do," she says. "I like to be an ice sculpture where you're whittling it down and an image begins to emerge."

3.  Follow your curiosity, not your passion

Successful entrepreneurs like Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tony Hawk suggest chasing your passion to find a suitable career. But for Wasserman, the word "passion" has lost its luster.

"The word 'passion' is really abused," she says. Instead, she suggests, "Follow your curiosity. You will be good at it, you will work very hard and the money will come."

"Follow your curiosity. You will be good at it, you will work very hard and the money will come." -Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid

When pursuing a career out of passion, money is not always guaranteed. But curiosity functions differently. If you get a position in a field you're deeply interested in, the entrepreneur believes you will work hard to make the job work for you.

4.  It's not how much money you make but how much money you spend

Some people see money as a sign of success. For the founder of Ladies Get Paid, the goal is not to earn the most money but to strike a balance between what you make and what you shell out.

"Having a bigger paycheck means nothing if you're overspending," she says.

While the fear of running out money when you leave your job is real, there are ways to cut down on spending if you really want a position that happens to pay a little less. Wasserman recommends you ask yourself two questions: "1. Where can you get creative?" and "2. What can you sacrifice?"