Going Pro: Sandy Golinkin is Not Your Average Career Counselor

Everyone needs a champion. Someone to nudge you beyond your limits, to reign you in when you’re lost, and a voice to speak one octave above your own until you’re ready to rise above the clamor. For some people, that’s a parent. For others, it’s a coach, mentor, or professor. But if you’re lucky, it’s Sandy Golinkin.

As the founder of Raising The Bar, a consulting firm to help young professionals realize and achieve their professional goals, Sandy harnesses a multitude of talents to help others. In a nutshell, she helps recent graduates and ambling professionals find their “wow factor.”

Her work isn’t about training individuals to be someone they are not or urging them into a career they have no interest in pursuing. She helps coax purpose out of her clients.

Through working with Sandy, they learn to stand out in crowd by utilizing their greatest strengths.

Combining her near-20-year experience as a publisher and vice president of titles such as Departures, Lucky, and Allure with her inclination to lead, nurture, and guide — all with the gentle prowess of a psychological sage — Sandy plays the role of champion with finesse.

She’s in the business of people.

“What I loved most about being a publisher was that I was a conductor of all of the instruments. I learned a lot about each one…I loved that I was exposed to so much, and to so many people,” says Sandy. In other words, she learned to recognize talent, listen thoughtfully to a diverse group of people, understand where they excel, and then orchestrate their impending symphony. It was this confluence of industry talent that began priming her for the role she was meant to play all her life.

On paper, one could argue that Sandy’s expertise could have been the product of years of trial and error, management experience, and professional successes. But it’s much more involved. From a young age, Sandy was a nurturer and a natural-born leader. An excerpt from a letter written by her headmaster at Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut reads, “There is probably no one who has been a more positive force and a more dedicated and self-sacrificing member of the school community. Unlike certain girls who might fit this type of description, she has managed to be all of these things while retaining the affection and respect of a wide circle of close friends, and probably the entire school…” For Sandy, this hasn’t changed.The drive to help others and the passion to see them succeed is simply a part of her makeup. It is, in a sense, what makes her tick.

When Sandy founded Raising The Bar, she first focused her energy on helping companies, putting decades of proven leadership methods to work. Having garnered praise from luminaries such as Jane Lauder, former Condé Nast CEO and President Steve Florio, and American Express CEO Ken Chenault. She also learned to take her own advice: That everyone is built for something. Find yours and run with it.

For Sandy, that was combining impeccable leadership skills and an innate sense of responsibility with her deep-seated passion for helping others, specifically young people.

Over time, her passion for helping youths, namely those staring down a well of indecision about their future, would take precedence over her work guiding corporations. Whether it meant helping someone land their first job or restructure a lifelong career path, the boundaries to Sandy’s methods would begin to reach people from a wide range of ages.

Her secret? A perfect storm.

She is an extraordinary mixture of disciplinarian, nurturer, and supporter — delighted to recognize talents and celebrate accomplishments — and Sandy excites clients because of how she is able to move the needle.

An acute listener, Sandy also feels a great deal of empathy for people.

But don’t be fooled. She is also no-nonsense. She keeps a high standard of excellence. There is no room for mediocrity in Sandy’s world. Not coincidentally, this motivation for perfection is the driving force of some of the world’s most successful leaders.

More than being the right measurements of a savored concoction, what I believe makes Sandy an unstoppable force is that she understands and appreciates that people are different. “You get through to a creative professional in a very different way than you get through to a businessperson,” she told me. It sounds so simple, and yet so few people understand that we all work differently, we process information differently, and we all see the world through very different lenses. This ability to recognize that connection begins when we understand someone’s preferred method of communication is invaluable.

Outside of work, she doesn’t stop connecting with young people, encouraging their efforts, and engaging in the world around them. Innately curious, Sandy is fascinated by what is happening in their world right now and loves that they help her stay current. She has 19 godchildren. The sentiment alone speaks louder than words.

Monthly, Sandy sends out a “Love List,” featuring cultural high-water marks of late, including everything from notable restaurants in New York City to a new PBS documentary. It’s a lifestyle newsletter of sorts, but for curious, culturally minded locals.

She also hosts “Young Dinners,” connecting the youth around her with one another. It’s not matchmaking, but more like intellectual volleyball with a similarly aged group of New York newbies. The scope of her work goes beyond job-hunting. “If you happen to be a client who’s come in from out of town, I can help you figure out roommate issues, budget issues, restaurant issues, and how to get around the city and take subways,” she tells me. As a non-native New Yorker who moved to Manhattan 11 years ago, I can attest that this kind of guidance would have been priceless for me.

Now Sandy has a nationwide roster of clients, working with men and women as close as Manhattan and as far away as Minneapolis and San Francisco. On a monthly retainer, Sandy begins by getting to know her clients. Then she customizes her guidance plan to meet their objectives. For Sandy, this means combining what she’s good at and what she loves — the ultimate dream job. And for her clients, it means having a champion.