Great brands have a story. Here’s how [and why] we’re rewriting ours.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? A: My answer to this question is: never grow […]
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? A: My answer to this question is: never grow […]
I started my journey with PeopleGrove at the end of 2019. This was before any of us could comprehend what a flipped upside down world might feel like. In my resume, PeopleGrove is my 11th career job. But, that resume barely captures my life experiences and evolving professional interests. Ask me what I wanted to be when I was a junior in high school and there is ZERO chance I would have responded, “I want to be the Chief Marketing Officer for a fast growing software company.” But as an enterprising lad, I assure you I was also not content pushing pizza-pizza through Little Caesar’s 900°F ovens for any longer than necessary. More on how we make career choices to come.
Our new business cards (pictured above) are mini representations of our career journey. Our first job (how it started), what we studied or pursued (tipping point), and our job today (how it’s going). I declared a marketing major, and I’ve worked in marketing my entire business life. But my career path has been nonlinear. There have been countless twists and turns, failures, doubts, recalculations, celebrations, and accelerants that happened along my journey that have prepared me to write this message and lead marketing for this amazing company.
Notably in August, my alma mater the University Nevada Reno launched Pack Connect powered by PeopleGrove, and not a minute too soon. See, you get 2 years to get your university on the PeopleGrove platform and I was past my 24 month limit. I look forward to helping UNR alumni and students following my career path find their own way.
At PeopleGrove we work with 450+ partners. Collectively, that represents billions of dollars in brand value. While our brand is not in the category of some of our recognizable client brands like Notre Dame, Yale, NYU, Michigan, BYU, Georgetown, et al, we all have an immutable commonality. See, brands aren’t what we tell people they are (though we try to prime the pump). A brand is what others say it is.
In the consumer world, brands like Airbnb and VRBO compete for the same customers. Both brands provide short term travel accommodations to those seeking a non-hotel lodging experience. You probably gravitate to one or the other. Both allow us to experience what it’s like to live like locals when we visit new cities. Nike started as a shoe company. They rock the swoosh. But that iconic symbol is not their brand. Nike is a feeling. Nike represents the athlete inside us. Nike encourages us to be whatever we aspire to be.
All great brands all have 3 qualities:
PeopleGrove has earned a following. Today, we work with over 60% of the top 100 universities in the United States. We’ve more than doubled our number of customers in the 2 years I’ve been here. Based on our 96% retention rate, all signs say partners like us and our brand. So, if PeopleGrove has belief, conviction, and a fanbase why change it? And why now?
The problems our customers face are evolving faster than ever before. Learners (the customers of our customers) we support are entering the workforce and competing for jobs that didn’t exist in 2015. Our learning environments have changed to hybrid. Faculty and staff are quitting. Students are questioning the value of their education. Enrollment is declining. And for those enrolled in school today, stress levels and mental health issues are at an all time high. These are the challenges our customers face.
We haven’t updated the brand since 2015. It’s 2022. The original PeopleGrove brand fits us like the pants my 16 year old wore when he was 14 would fit him today. He’s not 14 anymore. He’s grown. Matured. Those old pants are too short. Too tight. Constricting. Well worn. They got him to this place, but they can’t continue the journey with us. It’s our job to build a company and products for the future. Changes in the world created the catalyst. Our customers are our partners and together we have a lot on the line.
We create products to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible. Each with as many different individual ideas about their lives, aspirations, and careers. Options are unlimited. No concrete single path can suffice. Our users create their reality, meaning, and conception of their lives. We (all of us working in higher education) are merely mediators, trying to lace ideas together. Our work is important. This cannot wait.
To relate to the challenges students and recent graduates face, let’s consider our own life choices.
I’ll start with an example that most of us can relate to: our love lives. Think about the relationships you’ve had in your life. Let your mind wander back to the beginning of your current or a past serious relationship. Remember when you announced to friends and family that you had found a wonderful partner? When you made this bold announcement, what questions did friends and family ask you?
Drumming up past drama and trauma is not the point of this story. The point is that as our relationships evolve, we get inundated with questions we don’t know the answers to. With relationships in mind, let’s change gears to careers.
Careers, like relationships, come with similar challenges and expectations. It’s likely that anyone reading this has chosen a career and has a job. Assuming most readers have a job, I’m curious, how many of you LOVE your job? Hopefully our team reading this says, “Me! I love my job!” But, even if you don’t love your job, humor me and continue the journey. Here is the $1,000,000 question:
My hunch is nobody reading this can answer this question, “Heck yes I am!” If you are, friend, you are a unicorn wrapped in an enigma. I’d love to hear how you did this. And, if you’re seeking a job, please visit our Careers page or let me know how I can help.
Relationships and careers have a common thread. We are expected to set goals, and follow a path to a prescribed “done” point. That’s fantasy. The reality is, we don’t know what we are doing. We don’t know how it’s gonna go. With rag tag armor, a handful of gumption, and a couple gulps of optimism we go. And it’s kind of scary.
Think about how old you were the first time people started asking you that unanswerable question: What are you going to be when you grow up? For me, this started at 16 years old. I am the son of blue-collar parents. In my family, nobody before me had ever gone to college. I had aspirations but no answers to the questions people were asking me.
Like most 16 year old’s I was far more focused on what I was doing Friday night, than my “future”. I manufactured answers. I was curious, but had no concrete plan.
I chose the University of Nevada, Reno and declared a marketing major. Cool, now what? You were probably like me, responding to more life design questions we didn’t have answers to.
For students, and lifelong learners there are unlimited paths. With little or no experience, how can we possibly be expected to choose a career, know what to study, and then land the jobs we want? And even if we land the job, will we actually find joy in it?
Our 16 year old selves lead to that 20-something phase. Eventually we graduate and become young alumni, and young professionals. The journey takes us all the way to today. We continue to meander the twists and turns of our careers. At every step, we learn along the way. We make mistakes. Recalibrate and recalculate based on what we experience. And hopefully, we continue the journey until we get to some place where we can take in the view.
If you were going to make a career change, where might you turn? Are you in a place to pay it forward? What have you learned along your journey that you might share with others to help them find their path?
When you break it all down, we all have places to go, and people to be. No matter where you are on this path to discovery, I assure you there is no one right path. Embracing the twists and turns is what career exploration is all about.
Students and alumni deserve to have a network in their corner. When you try networking with no experience it is isolating, and demoralizing. Nobody should have to go it alone. What if every student and alumni could:
They can, inside PeopleGrove, the most helpful network ever created. PeopleGrove partners with universities, extending career access to those without a network, experience, or clear starting point. Wait, what is Career Access?
Nobody goes to college just for the “experience”. We invest in education to give us an advantage in the job market. What does it take to help our learners prepare for or advance in their careers? How can we help learners find a career that brings them joy and purpose?
Three foundational elements of Career Access:
Individual components of career access won’t cut it on their own. A feed of jobs doesn’t create a unique advantage. You probably don’t need long-term mentors, you need Super Mentors. To create access to jobs, and give every learner an unfair advantage, you must have all of these elements working together.
Career access is a problem worth solving. You now understand the building blocks. From here, it is our collective work to fulfill our promise, and restore the value of higher education.
We didn’t just create a new logo. We are defining a categorical position that is critical to the future of work. PeopleGrove’s new website takes users on a journey of exploration. PeopleGrove bridges the gap between education and the working world. Together, we build the social capital learners need to succeed.
“When I think about career access, part of it is expanding the realm of possibility. You might be narrowly looking down one singular path, thinking that’s the only thing you can do. PeopleGrove is increasing access to social capital by opening doors for all students, so they have the same opportunities. Talent’s evenly distributed. Opportunity is not. And PeopleGrove is helping us change that.”
– Mike Summers, Associate Vice President, Gateway Career Center at Lafayette College
“Career access for our students means ensuring that they have the most expansive network possible by the time that they graduate so that they can all find their post-college success.”
– Carol Bassie, Director of the Center for Mentoring and Professional Networks at Drew University
“The more uncertain we are about something, the more information we need. The more information we receive, the more confident we become. Career access reduces uncertainty. More often than not first year students do not know what they want to do. Having access to alumni, parents, faculty, community leaders is powerful. Understanding different industries, skill sets and competencies of particular majors, and the future of these industries helps students become more career-ready. And it opens up opportunities. We accomplish all of this with PeopleGrove.”
– Roger Woolsey, Executive Director, Becker Career Center at Union College
We didn’t stop with a new website, we are expanding the concept of mentorship. Our new full-length book, Super Mentors is the ordinary person’s guide to asking extraordinary people for help. This breakthrough book provides every success-seeker (even the extremely inexperienced and unconnected) with a gameplan to get incredibly powerful people to help them land their dream careers – opening doors, providing introductions, and moving their resume to the top of the pile.
Since its launch in the fall of 2022, Super Mentors has been climbing the charts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.
Over the summer we published two important educational papers. Our Social Capital Impact Benchmark Report uses data to prove the value of connections at every career stage. And our Learner First Approach encourages higher education to see the new way to define, measure, and achieve student and alumni success.
For our amazing university partners we are rolling out 4 new initiatives. Each will to help you get the most value from your PeopleGrove platform investment.
If you work with us today, we hope you’re excited for the future. If you’ve never worked with us, we hope you will explore our solutions and learn more. We are building the most helpful network ever created because we believe career fulfillment is a right every person should have. To date, we’ve helped millions of learners on their career journeys. But, our mission will not be complete until every learner has access to the people and networks needed to succeed.