Genevieve had an unconventional inauguration into the startup space. While she is the Founder + CEO at Realworld right now, she is originally a lawyer who, like so many other new grads, stumbled into the “adulting” problem when she started her first job. Despite having an amazing educational opportunity, she had few practical, real-world skills (that we discuss in the podcast today).
In turn, she founded Realworld, an education-first platform created to assist universities in helping the next generation thrive on their journey to independence. Guided courses decode decisions around health insurance, taxes, employer paperwork, budgeting, credit, and more.
As the name suggests, it teaches you how to survive in the Realworld. Like…for real.
Some of the big questions: What is the 30-60-90 plan? What major barriers do college students face when entering the real world, and how has the pandemic affected our ability to prepare grads for this climate? How the heck did Genevieve survive moving from North Carolina to New York straight outta college?
You know what I’m going to say here; there’s more. Of course. But you have to listen to find out.
Listening time: 29 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Genevieve on from Realworld and we’ve got a fantastic topic, I say that every time, but we have a fantastic topic to actually explore and it’s called, Adulting just got easier for fresh grads. And so we’re going to be having a lot of fun and it’s going to go really fast. Genevieve, would you do the audience a favor and me a favor and introduce both yourself and introduce Realworld?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me on William. Just very excited to be here and share more about what we’re doing at Realworld. And for a little bit of background, I got into the startup space pretty unconventionally, I’m a lawyer by training, I have my MBA and I really stumbled into this problem around adulting after I graduated from college and then graduate school and really started my first job working at an investment bank in New York. And I realized pretty much on day one that despite having an amazing educational opportunity and experience that I had not learned a lot of those practical real world things that we’re going to talk about today.
So everything from the personal finances element to figuring out health insurance paperwork, 401 k)s, all of the life stuff. And I’m the oldest kid in my family so I didn’t really have an older sibling who was kind of shepherding me through this whole process. And so it was really that first week at my first, “Real job” that I came up with the idea for Realworld, which is essentially a platform and community to navigate adulthood and big life moments. So we help onboard young people into life after school, across all those different topics and make it a lot easier to make those decisions.
I love that. Did you do the joint MBA law degree?
Yeah, exactly. JD/MBA.
JD/MBA, I love that program. I could never handle it as a lawyer because I can’t read that much. However, there were a lot of people when I went through business school that did that but they were really focused on negotiation and conflict resolution and things like that, it was a perfect match between the marrying of the two. So good for you, that’s fantastic. Two masters technically. So it was a two for one, you spent five years getting both of those.
So the adulting thing, we’re going to start with the basics. So you just got out of college, you went through the whole recruiting process, you’ve landed a gig, you’re moving away from school probably and maybe even moving away from the city that you’re living in for school. What are the usual things that are just, I say natural barriers, but what are the things that people trip on?
Yeah, I mean, there’s so many, and the biggest thing I think that we learned early on when we were starting to build Realworld, which in many ways it’s kind of the first of its kind platform so we had to sort of learn a lot and then talk to people about their experiences to understand how to provide a solution for them. And the things that we kept hearing over and over again, besides, “Oh, I don’t know how to do my own taxes,” or, “I don’t really understand how credit works or how to get a credit card,” or, “I’ve got to pay back the student debt, I don’t really understand my options and what that looks like.”
The biggest thing was that people actually don’t even know what they don’t know because unlike so much of the rest of your life where you have a syllabus for the classroom saying, “Okay, here are the books you need, here are some of the topics we’re going to discuss, here’s the homework assignments, here’s the quiz and here’s how you get a good grade.”
Adulthood doesn’t really have that so when you start out, you have this double challenge of figuring out how to do these things that come your way, whether it’s figuring out a form to sign or how to be financially independent, but you also have that secondary piece of you’ve been figuring out, what are those different decisions that we have to make? And so part of what we’ve tried to do at Realworld is almost provide that syllabus or that kind of outline for adulthood and adulting and just to identify for you, here are the things that are most likely coming down the path. And they come across really five major topical areas and we’ve built something we call the starter pack, which is sort of the first 15 steps you have to take to actually get set up across those fundamentals.
And the categories really range from finances, so everything from making sure you’re starting to build credit, so getting a credit card, understanding how to pay it responsibly, checking your credit score, to more advanced things like retirement savings, understanding what a 401 k) is, if you have access to that through your job, and if you don’t have access to that, understanding IRAs and other ways to save for retirement. And more importantly, why it’s important to start immediately once you graduate, starting to save for retirement. And then there’s a lot of the sort of healthcare related questions, how do I find a doctor in a new city? I grew up in North Carolina and now I moved to New York and all of my doctors are different now and I have new health insurance, how does that come into play? Even things like, getting an annual physical, dentist appointments, getting sort of set up there.
The other big category that is probably no surprise is just, starting a new job there’re all sorts of employer paperwork you have to fill. So besides the retirement and savings and healthcare, if you have those benefits through your employer, even understanding the first day paperwork. So what’s a W-4 form, an I-9 form, some of this basic stuff that’s really frustrating and kind of annoying to fill out. It can be very intimidating for someone who’s starting out, who’s never seen it before, understanding how to go through that process.
So between finances, healthcare related questions, even government related questions like switching your driver’s license to a new state, registering to vote in a new place, I think kind of the general living situation questions around everything from, how does a lease work to setting up utilities in different places to getting renter’s insurance and understanding what does that even cost and what does it cover and there’s just so many different questions. So we really designed the starter pack actually as a reflection of a lot of the repeated questions that we’ve heard over and over from thousands of recent graduates who we’ve interviewed to best understand, “All right, where do you start here? What’s the way to just get the foundations right?”
Oh, what’s beautiful about this is, it’s a living document, right? So as new fresh grads hit the market, there might be new things, I mean, we’re not through the pandemic clearly, but there was grads from 2021 and that are in 2022 that are all kind of impacted in one way or another by this. So they’re going to have new things that’ll kind of be barriers to adulting, if you will-
… or challenges to adulting. So the system is always learning but also those questions are also going to be changing. What are some of the things that you’re seeing today that are more kind of top of mind that maybe last year or two years ago weren’t top of mind?
Yeah, you mentioned the pandemic, we’re obviously close, hopefully, to the other side of that.
I think a lot of people are still starting work remotely and so trying to figure out not only how to start your first job and make a good impression but to do that when you can’t even be physically with the other people you’re going to be working with is tough. And I think that the big thing that we hear now is, “All right. Well, how do I form relationships with my co-workers? How do I make sure that they know that I’m sitting here and not just online shopping all day but I’m actually doing the work that they want me to be doing. How do I learn from them? How do I actually understand the systems in which they’re operating, how all of the tools that they use work without having someone right next to me that I can just turn to and ask a question to?”
So it’s a lot of how to kind of get acclimated to a remote first workforce and also just making sure that you’re setting yourself up for success and ensuring that you have sort of the expectations there from the outset. So one thing that we recommend or we sort of talked about with our community is the idea of talking to your manager or whoever is the person who’s kind of onboarding you and seeing if they have sort of a clear plan for your first 90 days. So some companies will call this the 30-60-90 day plan, that’s actually what we use at Realworld for anybody who’s starting at the company.
Some companies maybe don’t have something quite as formalized but the whole idea is to really clearly have a set of goals and sort of priorities outlined so that when someone starts on their first day, you can say, “Okay, in the first 30 days, here’s a word expecting from you. We’re expecting you to get set up across these things, we’re expecting you to, depending on the job, work on these different topics or have this type of deliverable done or whatever it might be. And we’re going to check in again at 30 days to see how you’re doing on this sort of stuff, to see if you’ve sort of hit the success metrics there. And then same thing at 60 and same thing at 90.”
And that’s really helpful in a lot of ways, one is to make sure that you know what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re starting out a job and you have something you can kind of, again, back to the syllabus, the outline, something to work towards. But the second thing is to be able to help you actually prove to your colleagues and your co-workers that you are sort of executing along the deliverables and the things that they’re expecting and make sure there’s sort of a shared understanding as to what those things are. So I think between those two things, really just getting the communications right if you are working remotely around how to ask questions around needing help and support but also just having as clear as possible, some sort of expectations set early on to make sure that your first quarter or your first 90 days at the company or organization goes right.
So I read a report the other day, it makes sense now, but it shocked me at the time. And it said that fresh grads, they want to go into the office as soon as it opens.
And at first I was like, “What? Why would you want to go into the office?” And when the researchers were explaining to me, they basically said, “Well, this is their first job. They want to go to Ann Taylor, they want to get dressed up, they want to go and do the bit, they want to go into the office, they want to meet people and be social and all of these things.” It’s so far from where I’m at in life that I’m like, “Why would you ever want to go to the office?”
I mean, it’s so true, I’d love to hear where that was from because it’s so true. I feel like every company is going through this right now in terms of remote versus hybrid, versus everybody back in the office and all of that. But I mean, it’s such a disservice to fresh grads, as you put it, to not be able to just land on their feet and sort of hit the ground running when it comes to not only, again, starting a job but starting their professional lives in many ways.
There’s so much around just becoming independent too that can’t be understated and something that we think a lot about at Realworld is, how can we help you through kind of the decision flows and all of the resources and tools that we have on our app, really get towards that sort of sense of independence so that you really understand the systems in which you’re operating in, financial health and employer, et cetera. And I think it’s no different for people who are starting out, it’s like being able to actually leave the parents’ basement and/or parents’ house where you’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and answering phone calls to your job to actually go to the office every day and have a routine and kind of grow there.
Oh yeah, that was actually iCIMS, it’s a applicant tracking system up in New Jersey. But they put that report out on fresh grads, they do one annually and they were walking me through the research and when they first said it, I’m like, “Why would you do that to yourself?” Anyhow, totally makes sense now.
Getting back to onboarding, the question that I’d have is, the professional onboarding part, I totally get, I think actually onboarding takes more than that, I think it takes about a year and a half actually, if done well, there’s check-in points that go far deeper. But I wanted to get your take on kind of the personal part of onboarding. So the professional stuff, what do you want to learn? What do we need to teach you? All that stuff stated and covered, got it. Should companies do a better job of giving into personal, what do you want to learn personally? And onboarding them in more of a… Dealing with them not just on the professional level but personally. Do you think companies should do that or do you think that, that really is the individual’s responsibility or is it a mixture of the two?
Yeah, I mean, I haven’t given it a great deal of thought but I think that there’s probably a part to be played on both sides. So I think in order for the recent grad to really hit the ground running and do well in their job, they also need to be growing as a person themselves. They need to be learning, they need to be satisfied, they need to be able to make those types of connections and relationships, again, among their co-workers but also maybe people in their industry or people just in the new city that they’re going to sort of build their own fitness routine, their own sort of routines around everything from a mental health perspective. So I feel like there’s probably a role for the employers to make sure that there’s space for that and that there is the ability to, if you have questions or if you have things that you want to work towards personally, that, that’s something that’s available to you.
And what comes to mind is, we do this at Realworld where we have an education credit. So essentially as part of your employee package, you have a certain amount of money every year that you can put towards whatever you want, books, conferences, webinars, classes, whatever it is to learn about something, it doesn’t have to be related to your job, it can be about knitting, but something that’s really encouraging you to learn and to sort of continue to develop. And so I think giving, maybe even small ways like that for employers to say, “We just want to invest you as a person,” I think is a great first step there. And then on the individual’s side, I think it’s so important for people to advocate for themselves in every way and so I think it’s no different here in the sense of just, if you feel like you need to be able to advocate for yourself or you need something to personally grow, you kind of have to come to the table there and take the initiative as well when you’re interacting with your employer.
Even if it’s something like, “I want to work more on public speaking, I want to be a better public speaker and my job right now, doesn’t really require that.” Well, if you make that known to your manager or to somebody else you’re working with, maybe as opportunities emerge you can lead a couple of meetings or you could have the opportunity to speak at a conference or introduce someone big at a conference or whatever it is to sort of start developing those skills or that part of your life. But I think it’s definitely a two way street.
I love that. And what I’ve seen on the learning side, maybe onboarding and post onboarding, is a blend of, “You want to learn Python? Fantastic. You want to learn drone racing? Fantastic. We want you to learn, what do you want to learn?” Which is great for fresh grads because again, they’ve already come out of a learning environment and so they might want to learn different things but it’s also kind of a… I’ve seen on the corporate side, a mixture, a blending, if you will, of personal and professional, it’s like they just want you to learn whatever you want to learn and providing content and access and time, money and resources in order to do those things.
Let me ask you a question in terms of navigating this transition, what have you seen in the data or what’s popped out to so far in terms of who’s really great at this and who’s not great at this? And what I mean by that, and it could be in nuances as into majors, like what they studied, they might be better at it or where they came from or age or gender, anything that just comes from the data where you’re like, “You know what? The data is telling us that this group of people, they’re better, they’re more agile and they get the transition faster than this group.”
Yeah. It’s a really good question. I think the thing that comes to mind and I don’t have specific numbers by any means to back this up. But one of the things that we think about a lot and try to incorporate into the platform in many ways through benchmarking and sort of community is that there’s sort of this loose knowledge network that people whose parents went to college or whose parents have worked in jobs where they had a 401 k) or they had access to health insurance of just how these things are done, that people whose parents or other people close to them have not had that experience just completely lack.
And so what I mean is the sense of, if you’re a first generation college student, if you’re a first generation American or anybody who’s starting out for the first time, working at a large company that maybe gives you access to all of these different resources or different types of benefits, the person who has someone at home who they can take the paperwork to and sit down with and say, “I’m totally overwhelmed.” Which is the sort of standard emotional response to this life moment.
“I’m totally overwhelmed but can you help me walk through this?” The person who’s got the parent at home that’s like, “Okay, sure. This is what a deductible is. This is what a premium is. It looks like you have two different options here, blah, blah, blah, let’s get you to the end of this.” Is just in a better position in the sense of having not only the knowledge but also kind of the emotional support to tackle the different pieces of this transition in a simpler way, frankly, than somebody who doesn’t because then it’s up to them to, ideally, now use Realworld because we can help you do all of those things. But previously you had to go down the rabbit hole of Google or maybe you didn’t even know the questions to ask to find the results on Google to sort of answer these different questions.
And I think the challenge that we see is that there’s a real, it’s an inflection point in terms of people who are starting to build their wealth, who are starting to think about their health even, making sure that they have an annual physical, that’s preventative checking or preventative care or is actually seeing a dentist every six months as it’s recommended. And so I think when you have that kind of, not even accountability person in your life, but just support system around somebody who’s done this before you, I think the people who have someone like that in their life just do better for obvious reasons. And so as we build up the platform at Realworld, that’s something we’ve really tried to think about is, how do we democratize this critical information to everybody? Whether or not you’ve got an older sibling who’s shepherding you through all of this or a parent or somebody else who can kind of provide both that emotional but also sort of tactical support to help people just feel that sense of relief from the overwhelming nature of the transition itself.
So, first of all, great answers, thank you. Adulting, how do they know that they’re doing it well?
Yeah, it’s funny you asked that, we’ve thought a lot about this too because again, if you don’t have a 30-60-90 day plan for adulting or a syllabus for adulting, it’s hard to measure.
I think everybody has different paths when it comes to how they’re going to live their life, adulting aside. But I think the way that we think about is they’re sort of the north star metric or the north star kind of focus of just, are you financially moving towards or already independent? Are you taking steps to take care of your health, both physical health and mental health? Are you gainfully employed, if you want to be gainfully employed and are able to be? And are you able to kind of live your life in a way where it’s not crisis to crisis or sort of reactive decision to reactive decision. And whether that’s reactive decisions or crisis around credit card debt and not understanding the ways in which that operates or not being able to pay down your student debt in a way where you actually can live your life in a way that you want to based upon your earnings or whatever it might be.
So I think it’s sort of getting to that comfort level where you can actually not worry about it. And so how we’ve tried to quantify that in the platform, again back to this whole idea of the starter pack is, we can help you sort of get started and set up those different parts of your life in a way where at least you’ve got the basics covered. And as you said, it’s a living, breathing thing in the sense that 10 years down the line, let’s say you got married or you had kids or you were trying to buy a house or whatever it is that you’re trying to do. There’s a whole new set of decisions that are all brand new to you again and so we want to be able to support you through that next inflection point, next life moment too. But you kind of have to start with those basics and making sure that-
Yeah. It turns out adulting doesn’t end.
It doesn’t, exactly. It’s hard to [crosstalk 00:21:59].
The transitions are different and again, what’s great is Realworld, you’re thinking about it in long-term, you’re thinking, “Okay, fresh grads. That’s great. Let’s get you from Colgate to your first gig and then let’s help you get successful inside that first gig in your life.” All that makes sense. This is a dumb question alert, but do y’all touch… Send up a flair, “Dumb question.” Do y’all touch anywhere on relationship stuff or spirituality stuff as a part of this?
Right now, no. So the only relationships we really talk about is with your roommates, it’s more around splitting the bill, utilities-
… if your roommate runs out on you, you’re still liable for the lease. So kind of making sure that all of that is pretty clear. But right now we don’t [inaudible 00:23:05] it and part of it again, is we want to be able to provide information that is at the very basis, just accurate. And I think what’s tough is when it comes to all of that, there’s so many ways to go about it.
Yeah, both of those can be very subjective and so depending on where they are and what they need and all that other stuff but a credit score, it’s not that subjective-
Yeah [inaudible 00:23:29].
… it’s a score. So I get that. If you were giving advice, you said you were the oldest, so obviously your siblings have had it much easier because you carved a path for them.
Well, that’s good that, I mean, first of all, it’s fantastic for them. What advice have you found yourself giving them but also just when you meet people that are even still in college but they’re juniors and they’re thinking about, “Post-college is coming quickly.” What advice do you find yourself giving them?
So I think a couple of things, for people who are still in school, and this is more on the academic side, but I always just encourage people to take classes outside of their major or outside of their focus, things that maybe they never thought they’d be interested in. Because number one, you meet a lot of different people that you may not have met previously sort of interested in different things but it also might just strike a chord with you in a way that you don’t realize. And the example I always give is that, I never took a computer science class and it’s my biggest regret because even though now I’m in tech and I probably wouldn’t have gone down the path of becoming an engineer but I’d like to be able to talk to engineers in a way that’s meaningful at least have that sort of foundational understanding.
But same thing if you never take a literature class or an English class, that’s a missed opportunity to maybe get really excited about reading or excited about creative writing or whatever it might be. So I think one is just, try to step outside of your comfort zone, it’s the best time to do it because at some point you’re going to get into your career and start narrowing, essentially your focus and your expertise and so you won’t usually have quite as much flexibility there.
But I think the number one resource or number one thing that I’ve been so fortunate to rely upon and I spend a lot of time just building is relationships with people. So really getting to know other people and sort of building in a way just a network and people who are doing all sorts of different stuff, understanding their roles, understanding what they’re working on, what’s interesting to them and spending time actually developing those relationships. So I think for people who are starting in their career, even if it’s just on a very micro-level, getting to know your manager really well or the other people who started with you around the same time or whatever it might be, starting to build those relationships is huge. So investing the time there and then, of course always just continuing to learn however you can.
I love it. I found that the business mentor stuff is always great, if a corporation has some type of buddy system and mentor system, all that stuff’s great but as an individual, having your own mentor, seeking out someone that’s just been there, done that, they’re smarter or whatever, to find an interview with one. And I’ve also seen, probably more or less, in the last 10 years, people building kind of Personal Advisory Boards-
… which I think is fascinating because now it’s not just a mentor, I’ve got seven girls and they’re all smarter than I am and so I go to them when I’m jammed up or when I’m facing an issue and I don’t know how to face it. And so I have these personal advisors, which I think is also kind of… If you start thinking about that as a junior, senior in college, you can really leverage not just the network of the school that you attended but you can start networking and learning from people. Again, you don’t necessarily have to take their advice but asking someone for their advice is always beneficial.
Yeah. The last thing I’ll say too around the relationships is, always send a thank you note, a thank you email, a thank you text-
… just close the loop. If someone takes time to talk to you about their career or talk to you about-
Yeah, exactly. Just tell them how grateful you are for the time.
Yeah, and I don’t think that’s… It used to be a Southern thing more or less is that’s just a proper thing to do but I think it’s just respect, “Time’s money and you carved out and gave me some of your time so I respect that and I just want to say, thank you.” You’d think that, that was common sense but it’s not.
Yeah. And it’s huge way, honestly, to get ahead because people really appreciate it and next time you ask them to take some time, they’re going to take the time for you.
I love this. Well, listen, Genevieve, thank you for carving out time and your expertise, I absolutely… See what I did there? How do you like that?
I love it.
But no, kidding aside. Thank you for coming on the podcast and talking about this because it’s just great, actually I love what Realworld does but I also just love the way that you’re helping people. I mean, I know it’s not a non-profit, however, you are doing a lot of help for people that need it, I needed it 140 years ago. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
No, appreciate it. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to share more about what we’re doing.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.