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Go to college, pick a profession, work hard, and you will advance up the ladder of your chosen field with time. For many people, that refrain is all too familiar. The ideal of choosing a single profession or career focus for life has long been a staple of the working ethos of modern economies, but there’s a problem with that sentiment: it is no longer reflective of how many career paths unfold. In the present day, employees often move between jobs in different concentrations as they seek out what suits them best. To illustrate this point and show how a non-linear career path can bring success, we look to the working life of Greg Blatt, the former CEO of Match Group.
Early Work Life
Blatt’s career has consisted of a number of path changes as he has sought to determine where his passions and talents could best be utilized. When he went to Columbia Law School to pursue his J.D., he did so because he thought he would enjoy the experience, not necessarily because he wanted to pursue a career in law. This “testing the waters” approach to his pursuits served him well over the years, as it allowed him to keep an open mind to career opportunities as they presented themselves.
The approach also helped him analyze his working life after law school with an eye toward which path might make him happiest. After becoming an attorney, the future CEO first thought he might have an interest in corporate law and finance. That idea led him to take a job working for the New York-based mergers and acquisitions law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. After spending some time working at the firm, he determined that the field was not for him and sought to make a transition into the field of entertainment law. That move was motivated in part by a passion for writing, which he saw as more relevant to entertainment than other aspects of law. He also thought he could make connections that would help him establish writing as his principal career.
The Power of Branching Out
The move into entertainment was the first shift in Blatt’s career focus after law school, but it was not his last. One thing to note about the shift is that it occurred relatively early on in his career, just a couple of years after he earned his J.D. While leaving a large Wall Street law firm was not unheard of, the usual destinations were investment banks, hedge funds, or consulting firms. Taking a meaningful pay cut to move into a small, boutique entertainment law firm was virtually unheard of. Many people warn that “if you step off the track, there is no going back”, which inhibits many people from changing courses to pursue what they truly want to be doing. But stepping off track has led to success for many people.
Beyond Law Firms
Blatt enjoyed his time in entertainment law, but his initial change in career direction made him comfortable with the notion of career flexibility. Rather than put his head down, he kept his eyes open, and while he had intended on forging connection in the movie business, he ended up working very closely with his client, Martha Stewart. . After two years, and not even four years out of law school, Stewart asked Blatt to take on the role of general counsel for her company, which was soon to go public. For the young law professional, the move turned out to be right in line with his passions. He found that he enjoyed the work of being a general counsel and that it was a much better fit than being an associate at a law firm. Rather than focus on the fact that he was doing a 180 degree turn from his dreams of a career in the movie business, he focused on the great opportunity that had arisen before him, unsought.
After working with Stewart for four years, he received a phone call from his original employer, Wachtell Lipton, informing him of an opportunity to be General Counsel at IAC, a large-scale company with endeavors in many areas of business, media, entertainment, and beyond. It was a much larger company than his previous one, and he felt that the opportunity was too good to pass up, so after meeting the team there, and being offered the job, he once again made a move.
The move to IAC proved to be an auspicious one and is an example of the dividends that can pay out from following opportunities in seemingly disparate directions. After working as a general counsel at the company for five years, he was presented with the chance to be the CEO of Match.com, what was then a relatively small side focus of the company. . With a belief that the online dating industry was set for rapid expansion, the longtime legal professional again shifted paths, this time to one that would come to define his career for years to come.
The move to online dating saw Blatt hold various executive positions over the coming years. At various times, he served as CEO of Match, IAC, Match Group, and Tinder. He also served as the executive chairman of the latter two companies. Under his leadership, many of the companies’ online dating operations ballooned to prominent usage, with Tinder becoming a worldwide phenomenon that set the tone for many other apps in the industry.
Looking back from his vantage as CEO of some of the most well-known companies in his field, it is straightforward enough to see the logic in each of Blatt’s moves over his career. One can even draw a line connecting his time in law school to his roles as an executive; it almost seems planned. The reality is that he simply availed himself of opportunities as they presented themselves. He had no plans to have a career in business, never mind technology. It just happened that way. That is a powerful example for others who may be fretting over turmoil at the beginning of their careers. If you find yourself in such a position, consider adopting a similar mindset to maximize your own chances for success.