Sandy Golinkin, a former high-profile publishing executive, has launched a new firm to coach the children of VIPs—and sometimes VIPs themselves—on how to land their dream jobs.

Her new firm, the New York City-based Raising the Bar, aims to fill the gap between people’s student and professional lives, counseling them on what it takes to embark on a successful and fulfilling career. The firm is also looking at women re-entering the workforce after raising families.

The underlying credo of Raising the Bar, no matter who the client or prospect is, remains the same for all who enter Golinkin’s professional orbit: Mediocrity is unacceptable. They must have focus. Tenacity. They must be goal-minded. Must be task-conscious. These traits get you to the “top.”

Clarity is key. And that means knowing what you want, which is not always so easy.

That’s where Golinkin comes in. She was the publisher of Lucky magazine at Condé Nast and publisher of Departures magazine for American Express. (Golinkin also served as publisher of Private Wealth magazine in 2015.) But now she has donned a new hat, eliciting truths from those who are seeking to embark on a particular path in life.

“When I was at Condé Nast and American Express Publishing, whenever I was hiring people, one of the things that I often stressed was that I really was not a big fan of mediocre work,” Golinkin says.

Getting people to focus, or putting people on the right track where they could be financially rewarded, or rewarded by emotional fulfillment, is a natural extension of Golinkin’s work in the corporate world.

Of course it took some time for her to see that track herself. Her firm began focusing on individuals a year ago after originating as a consulting boutique for major brands, and now this field has blossomed—she has a full roster of career-advice seeking clients from coast to coast.

Private Wealth decided to turn the tables on Golinkin, asking questions to elicit keen insights, as she might ask of her own clients.

PW: What was the light bulb moment for Raising the Bar?

SG: When I was fired from Lucky magazine, I spent about the first year in conversations with [world renowned photographer] Mario Testino about possibly starting a company. When that didn’t work out, I came back to New York and I thought, “OK, what do I really want to do?” I thought one of the things I’ve always been well recognized and appreciated for is my ability to get the best out of people. I started a consulting company that I named “Raising the Bar.” I consulted with companies, departments and people, trying to help them realize their very best work. I did that off and on for four or five years. ... Then I happened to be helping my goddaughter’s sister, who was in crisis. After I helped her and her parents took me out for dinner (her father is an amazingly eloquent man), I went home and I thought and I thought and I thought about what he said. He reminded me of all the skills I had learned in my career that had helped me help his daughter. I decided, “OK, I’m going to pivot my business, and I’m now going to focus on college graduates.”

PW: It seems that you’ve discovered some kind of secret sauce, whether it’s a brand or an individual or a start-up, where you’re diagnosing where they need to push and pull in certain areas to be successful.

SG: I think there’s something very instinctual about me, about wanting to put people’s lives back together and to help them be in a better place. I’m very good at taking care of people. I’m a good listener. I’m highly empathetic. I most often have solutions.

When I was at Allure magazine as publisher, I called the woman who was head of sales into my office one day and I said, “I want you to know the woman, Vicky, that we hired about six months ago—I’ve been out in the marketplace on appointments with her a fair amount and I recently went on a trip with her and I don’t think she’s going to make it with me. Her performance is not good.” The next morning, waiting outside my office, was the girl and she said, “Do you have a minute?” I said, “Sure.” She came in and she said, “I hear you loud and clear. I know I’m on thin ice. I want to ask you a favor.” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I want to go to your boot camp.” I said, “Well, I don’t really have a boot camp.” She said, “Yeah you do. I want you to teach me how to be way better.” I said “OK. We will do that. I will create a program for you and we’ll make things better.” She rolled up her sleeves, she took all of my criticism, all of my feedback, and she worked very hard. Two years later, she was named the Condé Nast salesperson of the year.

PW: Let’s draw down a little. In terms of going back to diagnostics—of diagnosing those skills and identifying passions—and coming off of what you just said, what type of questions do you ask to elicit meaningful results? I know you start with a two-hour conversation, but what types of questions do you ask?

SG: I ask, for example, if I put five of your closest friends in a room what would be the common feedback I would hear? I ask what do you like to do on the weekends? I ask what are your passions? Your interests? I ask where do you want to be a year from today?
Where do you want to be 10 years from today? I ask what was the most difficult and the most wonderful part of your college or university experience?

PW: What is the hardest piece of the advice you’ve had to render?

SG: One client went to what I would say is a very mediocre college with a very mediocre GPA and he wanted sort of bigger, fancier jobs. I said, “You know, the first thing they’re going to ask you is, ‘Where did you go to school?’” Then when you tell them that … they’re going to ask you what your GPA is. And when you tell them your GPA is below 3, which is not going to cut it, they’re not going to be very interested in meeting with you. It’s why you’re not getting from the phone interview to the in-office interviews. That was a very tough message. This is somebody who wants to work, for example, at a Goldman Sachs or a Morgan Stanley or a J.P.
Morgan. I’m like, “If you went to Yale or Harvard, I’m not sure if they would want to meet with you below 3.2, let alone 2.9.”

PW: Which direction did you point him in?

SG: I said, “You know, you have to be looking at less demanding, less aggressive competitive companies.”

PW: It seems as though the people you work with recognize that there is a disconnect between academic life and professional life.

SG: They’re people who appreciate that they spent a lot of money getting their children wonderful educations. I’ve got a lot of Ivy League students. But they realize that these job fairs do nothing. Excuse me, they do very little to help their children be prepared for finding a job. Even if the job fair helped them identify, “OK, I want to work for Google,” or “OK, I want to work for Pepsi,” they don’t know how to go about getting the job at said company.

PW: Which is where you come in.

SG: Exactly.

PW: It seems like an essential niche. You’re filling a void. But not only with graduates, with people re-entering the workforce, right?

SG: Absolutely. It’s a very quickly growing part of my business, and it started [with] a mom from L.A. She and her daughter were often in New York. They have an apartment in New York. I would be working in the living room with the student. The mom was in the library and at the end of one of my sessions she said, “I’ve heard all the advice you’ve been giving my daughter. I swear to god you can help me, too. And I’d really like to hire you.” I said I would be delighted. Then I started sharing with my friends and past colleagues that I was doing this. Word sort of got out at Condé Nast, which has been going through some very difficult times, that I was helping people with career challenges. ... I probably had like five to eight people from Condé Nast call me and say, “Can you help me?” I didn’t work with all of them, but I worked with some of them. Then the mention I had in Departures last January brought me two women, one of whom was going through a very difficult divorce, and her prenup was such that she wasn’t going to have a lot of money. So she wanted to go back to work. I helped both of the women get jobs. One in New York and one in Dallas.

I love the work. It’s very interesting, and sometimes I work with them in a similar way to college students in that I sort of work to figure out what’s their “wow” factor? What are their points of pride, what are their passions? Then I talk to them about what I think might be some of the possibilities, and we talk about if they are looking for full-time work, or are they looking for part-time work? I find myself usually asking them to consider things they never considered before.

PW: So not everyone with whom you work is super-wealthy?

SG: Right now, my [post-university] clients are definitely the children of wealthy, successful people and famous people.

PW: What about the future? Where is Raising the Bar headed?

SG: I sort of see my business as being two very separate forks in the road: One is customized one-on-one training, and the other is for people who can’t afford one-on-one training. I want to develop online classes. One class would be how to build a good résumé.
One class would be how to prepare for an interview. One class would be challenges that you might find when looking for a job. This is something that I’ll probably launch sometime in the next six months. I’ll be expanding the business with regards to the empty nest moms and the people in their 30s and 40s who seem to all of a sudden not be terribly happy with their careers.

PW: That’s great. Thank you. 

To learn more about Raising the Bar, go to