Earning

Career advice from Brown grad, MBA, and Olympic bobsledding silver medalist Lauren Gibbs

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Bobsledders Lauren Gibbs and Kaillie Humphries.
Courtesy Lauren Gibbs
Key Points
  • Lauren Gibbs began bobsledding for the U.S. national team at age 30, and took home a silver medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics for the sport.
  • This year she ended her career feeling pretty "proud of myself," she says.
  • Her career advice to others: Think about what you enjoy doing, build a network of support around you, and take on "small, incremental" tasks every day.

Olympic silver medalist Lauren Gibbs' athletic career took her by surprise. The 37-year-old had just completed her MBA when she participated in early tryouts for the national U.S. bobsled team on a whim. That was in August 2014. By November, she had made the team.

Gibbs competed for eight seasons, winning 17 world cups and a silver medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The sport doesn't pay much, but over her eight-or-so-year career, she also figured out a way to earn six figures as an athlete. Like many other professionals in her field, some of whom are making millions, she turned to partnerships with various brands.

When she was notified she wouldn't be going to the Olympics with the team this year, she had no qualms about the end of her career. "I just really am proud of myself," she says. "I did the damn thing." Gibbs is now vice president of partnerships at health training platform Heroic, which is launching this April. 

Here's her advice for growing your career ― on and off the track.

'Think about the things that you enjoy doing'

Even before bobsledding professionally, Gibbs was an athlete. She'd played sports like soccer and volleyball growing up. After college, she embarked on a long career in sales, which, she found, had a similar rush of adrenaline as the sports she'd played.

When considering how you might want to steer your career, "think about the things that you enjoy doing," she says. Maybe there's a type of creativity you like tapping into, as in graphic design or in marketing, or maybe you love leading a team to complete its goals. Then "try and figure out a way to do more of those things in your day-to-day work," she says.

That can be easier at the beginning of your career when you first identify which path feeds into the activities that most inspire you. But even once you've started working in a given role, there may be opportunities to take on tasks you're interested in that may be outside of the purview of your job.

Speak up and let your higher ups know what you're interested in doing.

"Finding really good talent is hard," she says. "So if I had someone that did great work for me but I could keep them around longer if they got to do more of what they wanted to do and it was beneficial to my organization, I would try and find a way to do it."

'Find your people'

Navigating your career can be tough, so whether in or outside of work, "you have to find your people and your support system," she says.

If there's a mentor at a workplace that's rooting for you, make sure to keep in touch with them over time. If you're struggling with an element of the workplace, like a particularly challenging project or even boss, open up about it to family and friends you trust.

Working through these difficulties with people who care about you and can give you honest feedback can help calm any anxieties and make smart decisions moving forward.

Aim for 'small, incremental wins' at work

When moving forward in your work life, it's certainly important to keep the big picture in mind, like where you'd like to be in 10 or 15 years. But on a day-to-day basis, breaking down that larger goal into smaller more attainable ones can make it easier.

"It's all about those small, incremental wins," says Gibbs. "People would always ask me, 'how do you stay motivated to go to the Olympics?' Well, I don't sit around thinking about the fact that I'm trying to go to the Olympics every day. I think about the fact that, today, I need to do sprints. I need to have a balanced meal for lunch."

These are the kind of small, daily tasks the Heroic app offers and was one of the reasons she agreed to join the Heroic team.

Lauren Gibbs pushing a bobsled with a teammate.
Courtesy Lauren Gibbs

All of these daily tasks that helped prep her for the PyeongChang Olympics paid off. Being there was "the coolest thing I've ever done in my entire life," she says.

"It's so fun to see the people that you've been basically eating lunch with for the past four years or 10 years go out there and live their dream, too."

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