Designing Your Career by Elaine Welteroth (Masterclass): Review 

Designing Your Career by Elaine Welteroth reviewed on ipad

Elaine Welteroth Teaches Designing Your Career is a 15-lesson online course on career-building in which Elaine Welteroth, the course instructor, teaches how to custom design a career path.

Elaine Welteroth promoting her designing your career masterclass

Full Summary

About The Professor
After a decade in her dream job as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, award-winning journalist Elaine Welteroth realized she had other dreams worth pursuing. Now, the New York Times bestselling author, talk show host, and judge on the new Project Runway is teaching you how to get out of your comfort zone and harness your personal values, passions, and skills to custom design a career path as unique as you are.

Lesson #1: Uncover Your Zone of Genius

“Your zone of genius is that sweet spot at the intersection of your passions, your talents, your values, and your skills. I define it as ‘that which only you can do like nobody else can’.”

Your zone of genius is your compass when you’re lost because, as Welteroth put it, “…one thing is for certain — the more you do, the more opportunity comes. And, you’ll need a filter for how to make decisions about what is actually for you and what you should say ‘no’ to.”

Your zone of genius is that filter.

And, as a manager and leader, you also want to ask yourself if your team is operating within their zone of genius.

#1: Passions

“What is that thing that you could do all night, for free, if somebody let you? If your bills would still get paid, if you know for sure that your kids were going to eat, that your house was going to get paid for, and that you could spend your time any way you wanted…that’s your passion.”

It’s OK to not know your passion. Welteroth even adds, “In fact, the way that we have been conditioned to live our lives on autopilot, you’ve basically been set up to not know what you really love. It takes time to cultivate that. And, it takes encouragement.”

#2: Skills

“What are those skills that you’ve had to learn along your journey? And, how do they come into play when we think about designing the life that you want to be living?”

#3: Talents

“If you don’t know what your God-given gifts are exactly, ask your best friend. Ask them to write you a list of the things that you’re good at.”

#4: Values

“What matters more to you than money? Do you have it? Is it in your head? OK. Now, ask yourself, ‘Why?’ Those [reasons] are your values.”

Your value system is your strongest filter to determine what opportunities to pursue and what to pass on.

#5: Excavate your childhood.

“Excavation is the process of digging deep inside yourself to really understand what your most valuable traits are…

…What are those early memories? Maybe they’re not even your memories. Maybe they’re stories that are passed down to you about who you were before the world got in the way and started dictating who you are, who you’re allowed to be, and put labels on you and limitations on you.”

Lesson #2: Build Your Career Blueprint

“A blueprint is essentially your 30,000-foot view of the life span of your career. It should give you a sense of what the arc is that you want your career to take. It should encompass your short-term goals as well as your long-game plan.”

Welteroth’s sister often uses the analogy of going “eagle-eye” (the 30,000-foot view) and then going “hawk-eye” (the detailed look at what’s happening).

#1: The “eagle-eye” of your career (the blueprint).

The blueprint is needed to identify how to craft your career from a big-picture standpoint. 

“Who are the people in your life that you want to model your career after? Who are these people — maybe you don’t even know them.”

The blueprint is where you get to pitch the spaces and/or industries that you want to play in. And, it is never too late to pivot and make a career change.

#2: The “hawk-eye” of your career (the mind map).

“The more granular hawk-eye view on your career is where you get really specific now. You get to define exactly what your business model is gonna look like. And, I like to call it your mind map.”

  1. “Your mind map starts with understanding your ‘why’. That should be at the nucleus of your mind map. Your purpose needs to be at the very center. And, that needs to be the through-line that connects all of these divergent projects and ideas and industries. They all connect back to a singular purpose. So, what is your purpose?”
  2. “The next step is to go back to that list of spaces that you want to play in and let’s make it visual. Take each of those spaces, write them down, and draw a circle around each of them.”
  3. “Then, connect each circle to a smaller circle that more precisely describes the type of project you’re aiming for or the next big idea you want to develop in this space.”
  4. “From there, you can get even more specific with individual projects or gigs that you’re aiming for or specific ideas that you want to develop.” (“Sometimes the different spaces you’re playing in might connect to each other. A book you write might become a TV show one day. And, that TV show might become a podcast.”)
  5. Update your mind map every time you’re in the midst of a career transition or a big decision about what’s next.

Lesson #3: Build Your Network

“I don’t know about you, but most people I know don’t have a trust fund. Didn’t come from a ton of money, and don’t have a fallback plan. But, when times get hard, your safety net is in your people.”

As we build out our blueprint, we have a set of about five to ten people that we consider our board of advisors. 

Welteroth describes it as, “…people that aren’t necessarily investing in your businesses financially, but they’re investing in you in other ways. You have to look at yourself like a business…And, what is that company culture that you have started building from ground zero?”

“Before you have even started to make money, who are you surrounding yourself with? Who are you turning to when you’re in trouble? Who are you turning to for advice? Appoint your board of advisors and be incredibly intentional about where you want them to sit in your life.”

#1: How to get a mentor

“To ask somebody, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ is literally like walking up to somebody on the street and being like, ‘Will you marry me?’ Like, you kinda need to court them a little. You kinda need to build a relationship.”

“…ask for 15 minutes of someone’s time…do your homework. Do not waste their time. Be prepared for that question that will come up which is, ‘Now, what can I do for you? How can I help?’ When that question comes, be prepared with an answer. Be specific with what it is you’re looking for. Be intentional because people appreciate when somebody is clear and direct about what they’re looking for from you. And, they can be clear and direct with you [back] about whether or not they can deliver.”

Welteroth shares a story of how she got one of her first mentors. And, it follows the social exchange rules very well:

Welteroth: “My first boss, Harriet Cole — I stalked her. I admit it. I found her email. I found her phone number on the internet. I made this whole package. I — I shot my own cover of a fake magazine. And, I put it together as an opportunity to intern with her. And, I sent it to New York City when I was in college in Sacramento. And, I called incessantly. I emailed her assistant incessantly. Shout out to Nubia Murray. Thanks for passing along my email and my calls, boo. She could have shut me down. And, she tried, but I wore her down. And, I remember after calling and calling and calling and driving them insane, one day I said, ‘OK, so, sorry, sorry, sorry, just before you go, I know she’s not available, but can you just tell me what her coffee order is?’ And, I remember the assistant goes, ‘Why do you need her coffee order? Don’t you live in California?’ And, they lived in New York. And, I said, ‘Yeah, it’s no big deal. I’m just going to fly there and just drop off coffee. Just, no big deal. No big deal.’ She’s like, ‘Please do not get on a plane and fly across the country and show up at this office.’ And, so she goes, ‘I will — I promise you, I will find time on her schedule.’ But, basically, the undercurrent was don’t call again. Stop calling, girl. I’ma figure this out for you, but don’t show up at this office. But, I did what I had to do to get their attention. I was determined. I was relentless. I did not give up. And, I got to connect with the person who ultimately changed the trajectory of my entire career.”

#2: Don’t always look up, look around too

Some of your best mentors can be peers, right in the trenches with you. They won’t always be older or in a position of authority yet.

“Build a community without looking for anything in return. Give without getting anything in return…Be generous with your time and your energy if there is a true connection with someone.”

#3: Don’t limit your access to different mentors

Make good use of digital mentors and digital role models. Don’t limit yourself to only people you meet.

#4: Your manager is not always your mentor

Since mentors can double as friends and it’s often beneficial to have one’s superiors as their mentors in their company, people can sometimes feel that their manager is always their mentor.

But, Welteroth said it best, “When you need to negotiate for a raise, they’re not your friend. They’re your boss.”

Be careful not to confuse the two. And, make sure to vet your mentors before giving them such an important role in your career progression.

#5: Lift as you rise

So much of our energy is focused on getting to that seat at the table that we don’t talk enough about the responsibilities that come with having that seat. When you’re in that seat, “…It’s not just about you keeping your seat. It’s about making room and pulling up a chair and opening a window and opening a door for other people to get that seat at the table too and to have that opportunity.”

Be a servant leader. Be someone who thinks about how to help and provide opportunities for those around you.

Lesson #4: Search for Opportunities and Side Hustles

If you’re not passionate about your current day job, an hour before and after work, start to brainstorm your zone of genius—especially your passions. And, brainstorm how you can apply your zone of genius in daily small ways. And, how you can develop that into a hobby that can grow into a small business.” 

#1Find opportunities in your day job

“Sometimes, from that [zone of genius] list, you can develop a job for yourself that did not exist before. And, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can develop a role within your role that you currently have at your day job that allows you the freedom to exercise that entrepreneurial spirit inside you and get paid for it as part of your day job.”

#2Freelancing is your training ground

Do a freelance gig as a test and practice for your career endeavors. Use freelancing as a safety net to build your confidence before making any major decisions (e.g. quitting your job).

“Test those waters…get a feel for what this lifestyle might be like before you make it your full-time job.”

Lesson #5: Taking the Leap to Be Your Own Boss

#1How to know when it’s time to quit

To know when it’s time to quit, ask yourself, “Have I reached the point of diminishing returns? Is there something that I have yet to learn? Is there a skill that I’m still honing here that I’m going to need in my next chapter? Is there a financial goal that I have yet to hit? Is there another raise, another promotion, that I really feel is important to add to my résumé?”

Go through the pillars in your zone of genius and ask yourself, “Is there more for me to get here that I would be cheating myself if I walked away from it all today? Would I have any regrets?”

#2Don’t let fear dictate your direction

“Fear is going to be part of the process…we have to learn to become friends with it.”

“If you’ve done the self-evaluation…and you’ve come to this conclusion that it is time for you to walk away from the known and walk into the unknown—if you know that you’re ready, but you just are struggling to make that final step into your future, this is where your board of advisors come in.” Go to someone who sees your potential and let them show you the courage you have inside of you.

Lesson #6: Game Plan for Financial Confidence

#1Financial confidence is your fifth pillar

“Financial confidence is different from having financial security. Financial confidence comes from having a game plan. And, that plan can only be written by you.”

#2Bet on yourself, but get specific

“Bet on yourself by taking a leap of faith. But, make sure to reinforce your faith by cultivating a sense of financial confidence.” (e.g. “What are the figures that you need to see in your savings account that will support your faith in yourself?”) And, by the way, this financial figure changes at different career stages.

Welteroth mentions that it’s OK to move in with your parents to save up for your financial target. As she notes, “Sometimes, taking a tiny step back propels you much further, much faster.”

So, set your target. “What is that amount that you need to make monthly, that you need to make yearly?” Write that down.

#3Tips for financial planning

  1. Approach your financial plan with creativity (be willing to move back in with your parents, if necessary).
  2. Create a savings target.
  3. Revisit your mind map to add annual earning targets with quarterly goals to each arm of your business. Get specific!
  4. Do your research to fill in any blanks.

If you’re not passionate about your current day job, an 

Lesson #7: Strategize Your Work-Life Balance

#1Choose your opportunities wisely

Do your best to only take on the opportunities that excite you) the ones that make you say “hell yes!” inside). 

“Write down and get clear on what actually fuels you, what actually energizes you, and what you actually enjoy doing. And, try to spend more of your time doing the projects that are really fulfilling [for you].”

#2Self-care is an investment in yourself

Invest in all aspects of yourself—family, faith, community, etc. Do not run yourself into the ground by only investing in your business and neglecting yourself.

Welteroth’s tools have been prayer and meditation. She mentions that using these tools along with reading a devotional in the morning helps her anchor herself.

“Your career is a marathon and you want to be strong to the end.” And, that happens through practicing self-care.

#3Leverage “joy containers”

Make an appointment on your calendar with “joy”. Block out this time once a day or, at the very least, once a week. And, commit to that moment with joy.

“Treat it how you would any other meeting. Show up on time. Don’t skip it. Don’t cancel last minute. Be there and be present for that invitation to experience joy.”

Lesson #8: Present Yourself for Opportunity

“Whatever you decide to put on your body, the way that you decide to show up in the world communicates something to the world about how you want to be perceived…How you communicate how you are, how you communicate your company, how you communicate your brand matters.” 

#1Establish your staples

“I think it’s so important that you have your core signature staples.” This cuts down on the decision-making time it takes to choose your clothes for the day.

#2Tips for establishing your signature style

  1. Make a mood board.
  2. Study people with a similar body type or vibe.
  3. Try new styles (be willing to step out of your comfort zone).
  4. Take pictures of yourself.
  5. Wear what you decide makes you feel comfortable and confident.

“Remember, how you present yourself to the world influences how you’re perceived. And, how you’re perceived influences the kinds of opportunities that come your way.”

Lesson #9: Marketing: The Art of Putting Yourself and Your Work Out There

#1Social media is your best marketing tool

Build a social media workflow. Set a goal or target for how much time you’re willing to dedicate to social media a day. At least a couple of times a week.

#2Tricks for social media planning

  1. Plan what you’re going to post months in advance (use a social media grid planner)
  2. Set a consistent posting time (Welteroth recommends the morning since many people scroll through social media soon after waking up)
  3. Use preset filters to establish your visual brand
  4. Create a shared album for social media-worthy posts (avoid having to dig through all of your photos to find “that one” you thought would be a good post)
  5. Link your social media accounts together, so your content will post to all platforms.

#3Brand with authenticity

Most people use social media at a superficial level. You can separate yourself from the crowd and stand out by being of the rare few who is authentic on social media.

You can convey authenticity by letting others into your creative process, who you really are, and what really matters to you.

And, on that note of what really matters to you, Welteroth says, “…you have to stay connected to your WHY at every step of the process, including marketing and ‘socializing’ your work.”

Lesson #10: Building Your Team

“You cannot do it alone. If you have big dreams, you’re going to need a team to help you accomplish those goals.” 

Building this team takes time.

#1Find people who play the game your way

Start by mapping out and writing down what your company values and company culture is. Be intentional with how you craft your company environment—design it to be one where you can thrive.

Here, Welteroth mentions:

Welteroth: “As the boss of your own life, you get to decide what your company values are and what your company culture will be. And, please believe that that company culture starts with you. You are employee number one of your enterprise. Before you have the people on the payroll, it would be wise to sit down and really map out what your core values are…I have a ‘no asshole’ policy. I also have a ‘no yes-man’ policy. I want to have people around me who challenge me, who can respectfully critique my work…”

So, what is important to you? What are your deal-breakers and your non-negotiables? 

Write them down and prioritize them as you start to build your team.

#2Hire incrementally

When you’re starting, don’t hire all at once because you’re still learning what kind of support you’re actually going to need.

Instead, do a needs assessment about where the blindspots or holes are in your ecosystem to define where you really need the support. And, hire incrementally based on those needs.

#3Tips for Hiring

  1. Perform a needs assessment
  2. Write out job descriptions
  3. Hire incrementally

#4Think of your team as investors

If you’ve spent most of your life as an employee, you may have spent most of your life thinking about holding onto every cent you can get. And, when one has bills to pay and needs to put food on their plate, it’s not an unfair attitude to hold.

Yet, when we’re talking about entrepreneurship, that can be a scarcity mindset that can harm your team if you’re afraid to pay them.

So, Welteroth encourages her students to think of every single hire as a revenue-generating opportunity. Avoid a scarcity mindset—give yourself permission to invest in yourself and the team members who are actually adding value to your enterprise. 

And, be sure to regularly check in that those team members are still adding value.

#5Hire for your blind spots, not your “culture fit”

“Identify where the blind spots are in your team and be intentional about hiring for those blind spots.”

This is a bit different from Simon Sinek’s recommendation to find and hire the people who share your mission—your WHY (see Start With WHY).

Welteroth instead recommends first finding people based on where you need support. And, only hiring the people who excel at what you need support in and whose zone of genius matches your job description for them.

#6Delegate, delegate, delegate

Delegate the tasks that are outside of your zone of genius because those supports—as long as they’re top performers who are also operating in their zone of genius—are actively giving you your time back. 

As Welteroth puts it, “Bosses delegate. They do not do it all.”

#7Fire faster

Welteroth: “If someone on your team isn’t working out after you’ve had conversations about expectation setting and you’ve given it enough time to evaluate if the changes are happening that you need to see or not, I am giving you permission right now…to go ahead and pull the plug. Fire faster. It will expedite you finding the right person for your team.” 

Lesson #11: Essential Writing Skills

#1The “professional voice” (for emails)

  • Mimic your manager in professional writing
  • Avoid overly casual communication (e.g. saying “hey”), lean toward formality
  • Proofread twice
  • Keep it short. No essays. Brevity is key.

#2The “authentic voice” (for social media captions)

  • Does it sound like you? If not, say it out loud the way that you would naturally say it, and then write it as you spoke it.
  • Try to capture your first thought. If you can communicate that, that will usually be you at your most authentic.

#3Writer’s block

  • Open up an email draft and start writing out your thoughts. (Using an email draft removes the feeling of a need for “perfection” that can come from writing in a Google Doc. And, you likely write emails all the time, so there’s a more natural flow.)

And, by the way, you can have writer’s block on social media too.

Lesson #12: You’re Not An Imposter

You’re likely to feel like an imposter if you’re “FOD” (see Year of Yes):

  1. First (to do or achieve something)
  2. Only (one to do or achieve something)
  3. Different (from those or most around you) 

Imposter syndrome is normal. Recognize that you can unlearn and disrupt your negative self-talk and harmful thought patterns.

  1. Take a break. 
  2. Come up with a mantra.
  3. Write out positive affirmations on sticky notes and put them where you can see them.
  4. Try different things and find what works for you.

And, on being “FOD”, Welteroth says, “Our differences are our superpowers when it comes to our creativity. Our unique lived experience is what informs our perspective which is what informs our art and our work.” 

Lesson #13: Navigating Cancel Culture

Welteroth: “I hate to break it to you, but if you are making disruptive content, prepare to be cancelled.”

#1Focus your response on the impact

“Don’t focus on the intention of your actions. Focus on the impact of them.”

Welteroth: “…the important thing to remember when you’re being called out is to pause, take a breath, and reflect on the impact. And, focus your response on the impact first. Acknowledge the harm that you caused. Acknowledge that you understand why it was harmful. If you start there, then people feel heard. They feel like you understand. And, there becomes an opportunity to have a conversation that is less defensive.”

#2How to address controversy

Welteroth: “My best advice for addressing controversy: address it head-on.”

You might get advice to let it blow over. A lot of people will tell you “don’t respond”. And, that may be good advice depending on your situation. But, if you follow that advice, you’re also surrendering the opportunity to communicate who you are and what you’ve learned from the controversy.

#3Right your wrong

“Sometimes it takes getting it wrong to really understand how to get it right.”

Don’t shy away from making disruptive, controversial content that starts conversations and can spark change.

“Own your error. Learn from it. And, take the necessary steps to redeem yourself. Not just for you, but for the community that you are here to serve.”

#4Tips for “doing the work” to survive being canceled

  1. Don’t be defensive.
  2. Do not ignore other perspectives.
  3. Do empathize.
  4. Do apologize.
  5. Focus on the impact of your actions and your words and not only the intent.
  6. Don’t shut down. (It’s not the end of the world, the world still needs you, your perspectives, and your voice.)

Lucio’s note:

Lesson #14: Be The Boss of Your Own Life

Use visualizations to practice meeting people who could leave you not knowing what to say (for Welteroth it was meeting Oprah Winfrey). And, use those visualizations as preparation for meeting those you admire.

Those visualizations will develop your muscle memory to be natural in the presence of your inspirations.


  • Encourages purpose, but doesn’t teach it

Given that Welteroth encourages her students to put their WHY at the center of everything they do, I would’ve loved to see her teach more about how her students can go about discovering their WHY.

  • Sometimes ignores social exchange rules

Welteroth recommends you buy your prospective mentor a coffee in order to “court” them. But, as we know, that’s a fairly common WIIFT failure in networking.  

  • Sometimes leans toward encouraging a “go-giver” attitude

And, doesn’t mention anything resembling the attitude of a fair-value social marketer. 


  • The workbook adds more value

I was expecting the workbook to simply be icing on the cake. Perhaps, a summary of what was already taught in the videos.

Boy was I wrong. The workbook goes so much deeper with actual assignments and added bonuses that make it worth a separate fee on its own.

The workbook covers, “Nine Tips for Nailing A Job Interview”, “How To Get the Most Out of a Mentorship”, “Creating Mentorship Goals”, “Advice for Getting Out of a Rut”, and so much more. 

I’ve left all of the bonus information out of this review because there are simply too many goodies in that workbook to cover here.

But more on nailing job interviews, see:

How to Prepare For An Interview: 6 Tips To Get The Job
  • The presentation is stellar

More than the top-notch production quality, the instructor carries and presents herself as a real boss-woman.

And, that motivated me to get my body language together after hearing her inspiring stories of how far she’s come coupled with feeling more connected to her because of her developed charm and charisma. 


Elaine Welteroth's Designing Your Career reviewed on

This is an incredible Masterclass. 

I’d only take off one star for having no scripts like what Ramit provides. And, one other star for staying on the surface level on some topics (e.g. career negotiations).

Other than that, this Masterclass has more than earned every single star. And, with only a couple of minor additions, I could easily see this being a 10-star investment.

Check the best career books to read.

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