By Luis Davila
Joe Belsterling thought his career path in politics was all figured out. Several twists and turns later, he launched MajorClarity, an interactive tool to help others like him find their passion.
It’s fair to say that Belsterling was more eager than most freshmen in college. Rather than use his freshman year at William & Mary to become acclimated to the college lifestyle, he landed a political internship in Washington, D.C., which lasted the entire academic year. Belsterling had studied politics in high school and his teachers had recommended the field as a career.
There was only one problem: A week after starting college, the freshman realized he had no interest in pursuing a career in politics.
The next summer, he interned in investment banking. As luck would have it, Belsterling came to the same conclusion. Banking just wasn’t for him.
Throughout the process, however, he developed an interest in management consulting. A junior at the time, Belsterling needed an additional year at W&M to get the necessary degree and experience. “I was in a tough situation. Either take out additional loans, or work in an industry that I didn’t like,” recalls Belsterling. “While weighing these options, I asked myself, ‘Why doesn’t a low opportunity cost tool to explore career paths and majors before committing to them exist?’ Had I known what my political internship entailed, I would’ve immediately chosen a different path.”
With this organic experience fresh in his mind, Belsterling created MajorClarity, an interactive career guidance tool for high school and college students. Through a personality assessment, the company matches an individual with various options for a major. A friendly user interface allows students to add courses, grades, clubs, and activities. And after swiping left or right on personality statements, the platform guides the user through recommend disciplines for them to try out. Once a possible major is identified, the user participates in engaging activities in order to get a better sense of life in particular career fields. Students can also search for an area of interest, by salary ranges, and degree requirements.
Belsterling is quick to point out that his company’s mission is not to pick the perfect major for students. “We’re trying to help students avoid situations like the ones I faced,” says Belsterling. “We want to work with students to eliminate fields they have little interest in sooner, rather than later. This will, in turn, accelerate the process for a student to find his or her true passion.”
To make his startup a reality, Belsterling has formed a partnership with the NYC Department of Education and participated in the Lighthouse Labs Accelerator program.
The company is used in more than 1,500 schools by more than 500 total student users. Belsterling has seen individual student engagement increase and is using lessons learned from the company’s initial launch to pursue additional partnerships and opportunities.
“When startups are smaller and younger, they are able to move quickly and be agile,” notes Belsterling. “Same with Richmond. As the entrepreneurial ecosystem grows, it can be agile and quickly grow faster and be different from San Francisco and New Orleans.” He recommends other entrepreneurs use their own organic experiences to create startups to solve problems they’ve personally experienced.
“There’s nothing that will teach you as well as trying something, even if you fail,” says Belsterling.