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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 […]

15 min read

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: My answer to this question is: never grow up, just keep growing. 

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.

What is a brand?

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:  

  1. Belief – stories and narratives that are aspirational and believable, non-fiction  
  2. Conviction – brands get challenged from all sides, must be in it for the long haul 
  3. Fanbase – loyal followers (internal and external) who advocate for the brand, fiercely

Working with popular brands is tricky

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. 

For a lighter explanation of “why now” I’ll use my 16 year old’s pants.

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. 

Our vision and mission are more important than ever 

Adapting a quote from artist Keith Haring…

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. 

Can I get your opinion?

To relate to the challenges students and recent graduates face, let’s consider our own life choices.

Love, life, and serious relationships

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?

  • When are you moving in? Hey wait, I thought we were just getting started. Then you move in together and the next question comes…
  • When are you gonna get engaged? For many this can seem like for-ev-er. But many take the leap of faith and pop the question only to be greeted with the next question…
  • When is the wedding? Wow, ok, I guess we better plan that. Time goes on, and many celebrate the unity of marriage, selecting their life partner. But, what comes next? 
  • Hey, when is the baby coming? When will it end?

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. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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:

How many of you are doing exactly what you imagined you’d be doing at this age, when you were 18 years old? 

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.

There’s no one right path

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. 

  • What’s your favorite subject?
  • How are your grades?
  • Are you going to go to college?
  • What schools are you going to apply to?
  • What do you want to do with your life?

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.

Fast forward to age 20…

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.

  • What should you study?
  • What job do you want?
  • What skills will you need?
  • How will you get experience?
  • How will you get the job?
  • How much will you make?
  • Will you like the job or field you’ve chosen? 

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? 

Wherever you are on your journey, YOU ARE HERE.

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.

To journeys that never end

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.

People make the journey better 

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:

  • Meet someone today based on their genuine interests 
  • Accept a project, solve a problem, present their work together
  • Reach out to a mentor who’s just ahead of them for advice along the path
  • Meet with someone, immediately when needed to confirm this is the right path for them
  • Validate assumptions, reaffirm their goals, or take the first step in a new direction

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?

Human-powered GPS navigation for your career, and the future of work

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:

  1. Lifelong Career Education – Introduce all learners to industries and job functions that they would have not otherwise discovered. Offer direct path to a job that aligns with their purpose (something research says Gen Z wants most).
  2. Social Capital – access to a warm network, in your corner with raised hands willing to offer advice, make intros. Networking is the #1 way people get jobs. As many as 80% of jobs come from networking. If you’re not building a social capital strategy for your institution, then you are not fulfilling the demands of your learners.
  3. High-Impact Experiences – Evidence shows that learners with real-life experiences achieve greater levels of success than those without. Offer relationship-rich opportunities like collaborating on a project and work-integrated practices like an internship or short-term, real-world projects.

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. 

Welcome to the new PeopleGrove.

Higher Education’s first and only Career Access Platform

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.

While you’re here, I encourage you to explore the Solutions and Platform areas of this website. There you will learn how PeopleGrove tackles the career access problems in higher education.

What customers have to say

“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

Super Mentors, a new category of mentorship

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.

Useful, Thought Provoking Research

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.

What’s coming next?

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. 

  1. PeopleGrove Community. A new PeopleGrove advocate community designed to keep us all share ideas, learn, and amplify our work together. Launching in early 2023.
  2. Communications reimagined. Regular communications and events will keep you aware of industry trends, best practices, product releases, and news that matters.
  3. Campaigns-in-a-box. Regular schedule of in-product content and ready-to-use campaigns will help partners evangelize across campus, and encourage students and alums to stay active inside PeopleGrove.
  4. Amplified education and training. Workshops, how-to’s, video tutorials. Proactive educational resources to help all partners get the most out of their platform investment.

Ever forward…

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.

If you have any questions about the PeopleGrove brand or any of our products, please contact me or any member of the PeopleGrove team