At the beginning of a career, even after taking your first position, it is natural to continue searching for what you ultimately want to do. You may even find that when you do find your preferred career trajectory, it is on a different track than what you first imagined. Though there is a temptation to think of time spent searching for a passion as wasted, it can provide you with skills that will end up being helpful down the line. To dive deeper into this idea, we took a look at the professional life of Greg Blatt who, among other things, has served as the CEO of IAC, a large technology conglomerate, Match Group, the leading collection of online dating businesses in the world, and Tinder, the world’s largest online dating business. Read on to see how his early experiences, far removed from the world of online dating, helped shape the work that he did later in his career.
The Value of Exploratory Time
While many people enter their chosen professions immediately after college, Blatt took an alternate path, opting to spend time after graduation trying out a variety of jobs and living in a number of different locations. That choice led him to Telluride, Colorado and San Francisco as well as several locations in Europe including Budapest and Reims, France. During that time, he experienced parts of the world that may have been unavailable to him had he moved right into focusing on his professional career.
The variety in residential locations chosen by the future CEO was mirrored by his approach to his work life at that time. In those early years, he held a range of jobs, including painting houses, temping in offices, bussing and waiting tables and tending bar. Here again, he gained experience that he might otherwise have found inaccessible. Whereas many business professionals spend the majority of their working lives in the confines of an office, time spent interacting directly with customers, such as in food service, can provide a basis for understanding what people seek out in commerce and beyond (as well as generally make you a better person).
Pursuing a Legal Career
After spending a few years moving around the world and trying his hand at various odd jobs, Blatt developed an interest in attending law school. He was not certain that he wanted to be an attorney; rather, he simply thought that he would enjoy the experience and could learn a lot. This willingness to take opportunities at face value without fixating on what they might lead to down the line served him well in his future endeavors. The decision to pursue a degree in law ultimately led him to Columbia Law School, where he earned his J.D.
After graduating from law school, Blatt sought to test out what a career in the legal field would look like. Thinking that he may have an interest in corporate law and finance, he opted to work for a notable mergers and acquisitions firm by the name of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Though this first career move turned out not to be the best fit, it did prove to be a valuable experience because it introduced him to professional life in the legal field and gave him a broader appreciation for what life as a lawyer would entail. Also, it created personal connections that have continued to this day. After a shift to another firm specializing in entertainment law, he was ready to make a move that would shape his career for many years to come.
Work as General Counsel
That move occurred when one of his clients in entertainment law, Martha Stewart, had a special request for Blatt. She was taking her newly formed company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, public and she wanted him to join her as general counsel, in part to help with that plan. After accepting the position, he spent four years working with Stewart, assisting her with the legal and business aspects of her company while also learning from her expertise.
That time with Stewart stands as another example of the value of varied experience that draws on a life path that might not be the one you imagine for yourself at the outset. Though working for a company as it’s main lawyer was not on the future CEO’s mind when he first went to law school, and working in the subject matter of cooking, entertaining, housekeeping and similar fields hardly seemed like a fit for Blatt, it ended up showing him how much he enjoyed working as a general counsel and how business itself was fascinating regardless of whether the ultimate subject matter of the business was a particular passion.
Move to Online Dating
Blatt’s varied array of experiences ultimately came together to inform his work as he transitioned to working at a company known as IAC, which manages Match Group and Tinder. While he started at IAC in a general counsel role, he eventually went on to hold a number of executive-level positions including CEO of all three companies and executive chairman of both Match Group and Tinder.
When serving as a corporate lawyer, one typically interacts strictly with other business professionals. However, CEOs need to be able to interact with, and relate to, the employees at all levels of a company. Blatt’s series of non-professional jobs – house painting, waiting tables, bartending – all gave Blatt an ability to identify with and interact with employees at his businesses that he might not otherwise have had, and Blatt credited those experiences in part for his ability to relate with, and form relationships with, his employees throughout the ranks.
Among ambitious young professionals there is often an impatience to “get going”. Time away from the career track they envision seems like wasted time, and like the young professional is putting themselves at a disadvantage in the great race they envision their career to be. . Though this line of thought is tempting, an analysis of the career paths of people like Blatt prove it to be erroneous. All experiences, whether on the track are off, are building blocks of success if you take the right elements and apply them as you go. Blatt, who has used his personal life and career experience as an asset, shows us just how valuable it can be to take our time in determining our own paths.