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Life and Work with Lara Hagopian

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lara Hagopian.

Lara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Mom says I was a runner before I could walk. Something about feeling the wind in my face and watching the world zoom by made me feel like I could conquer the world. I grew up striving to be the best in class, grade, or school. It wasn’t just running though—my mom had us try it all. By the time I was in middle school, I was already involved in every sport humanly possible. We would jump from track and field practice to swimming to basketball day after day for years.

As much as I loved it, my knees weren’t too keen on running all day every day. I ended up swimming competitively for the first 20 years of my life (no regrets!). The sport gave me a lot of things: self-confidence, love for winning, lifelong friends, and great tan lines. Above all else, it made daily movement and exercise essential to my lifestyle. Even when I had hung up my swimsuit and goggles for good, I was hungry for another run or workout class.

I tried every kind of exercise (cycle, yoga, dance, Pilates, circuit training, TRX), but my favorite was lifting weights. I had learned the basics of this from when I was competitively swimming (thanks, Coach) and I was excited to learn and accomplish more. Nothing makes me feel more bad-ass than lifting heavy or jumping super high!

Many people are impressed with my “work ethic” and pay me wonderful compliments. To be honest, I don’t know what work ethic they are talking about—it’s so fun and I see it as a break from work and life! I want to be at the gym because it’s enjoyable, not because I had chicken and waffles the night before.

In a lot of ways, I’m not the stereotypical gym rat. I won’t recommend a special Keto or paleo diet or a specific exercise to meet your goals. In fact, I am all about finding joy in exercise as well as food. If anything, I’m living, breathing proof that you can balance a healthy and active lifestyle with yummy and drool-worthy meals. I live for finding the best food joints all over town and documenting my entire experience. It’s an important message to spread—you can be fit and in good shape and still enjoy these things! No restrictive lifestyle necessary to have the best of both worlds.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
“Find something you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I know, I know—it’s so cliche. But if I didn’t truly love the gym, there’s no way that I would be in there every morning.

I find the most difficult part of living a balanced lifestyle is resisting the urge to compare yourself to others. Social media has us so exposed to other people’s looks, lives, choices, and opinions. It can be difficult to do something “the right way” or “the healthy way” or “the best way” with so many controversial opinions out there. I am here to tell young women that are just starting out, to find your own path. Take advice from people you admire, but do not take their words for the law. Everyone has different goals and different means to achieve them. Find what’s best for you!

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
My career may not seem the most glamorous, but it’s important to me and greatly impacts people’s lives. As a recruiter, I have the ability to turn someone’s world around for the better. One of my earliest placements was for a woman who had been out of work for many years and was having a hard time feeding her family. It was so rewarding to help her land a full-time job with a cool company and hear how much she loves it every week. As great as my work is, I am no master. Recruiting is something new to me and I am learning volumes every single day. I am fortunate to have a team to guide and teach me along the way.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Be yourself! I know it can be scary out in the big world. You may feel like you don’t have much to offer others or that you are not worth someone else’s time. If you do not believe you can contribute, ask questions! People love to talk about themselves and their own challenges and that in itself can be incredibly helpful and inspirational.

When all else fails, try to find something in common. Whether it’s a love for iced coffee or mutual hate of a rival sports team, there’s always a way to find common ground.

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