What Nobody Tells Students and Young Pros About Careers

6Whether you’re about to enter college or just starting out your career, figuring out what to do with your life is one of the biggest challenges one will ever face.

And despite all you learn about math, science, business, arts, sociology, psychology, history, and English; you still never feel 100% prepared for what comes next.

And that’s why The Bigs was written.

Ben Carpenter, the author, is a Wall Street CEO who’s “been there, done that” in every way possible. It was seeing his own daughter struggle to determine exactly what to do after graduating from college that inspired him to write the book.

The problems the book answers come from the way we are taught in this country. At least in the U.S., most young people have a pretty structured plan. Go to elementary school, obey the rules, get good grades, move on through high school, graduate, go to college, get a job.

As a teen and young adult, going through the structure gives you a little security, always knowing what comes next. But eventually there comes a time you finish your list of accomplishments wondering how you are supposed to get from here to retirement…happily.

Carpenter’s book seeks to answer those questions that were never fully addressed in college or high school such as how to:

  • Choose a Career
  • Find a Great Job
  • Do a Great Job
  • Be a Leader
  • Start a Business
  • Manage Your Money
  • Stay out of Trouble and
  • Live a Happy Life

The strength of the book comes from the author’s stories and experiences from his own life. At no point does Ben make himself out to be a perfect example and that his way is the only way to success. Instead, he merely seeks to share his own anecdotal stories of how he started a business, rose up the career ladder, became a leader, etc. Along the way he shares lessons learned from each of these life events and passes on the wisdom he gained from failure and success.

Reading his book felt like I had a CEO mentoring me on my own career decisions and ideas. I could relate to his stories and almost always found ways to apply his suggestions and advice to my own life.

As a young professional myself, I appreciated the tone of his book and the way he tailored advice with students and young professionals in mind. Although many of his stories could apply to mid career and senior managers as well, the book is clearly targeting a younger audience.

To give you an idea of some of the wisdom I took away from his book, here are quotes I highlighted from the book.

On the Benefits of a Corporate Career

  • The opportunity to work with, and learn from, many talented professionals and co-workers.
  • Over time, it is likely your co-workers will migrate to other companies and your network of contacts will expand. These contacts can be invaluable sources for business opportunities, helpful if you want to switch jobs, or pools of talent to hire from when you get into a leadership position.

On Lessons Learned as an Entrepreneur

  • Most young entrepreneurs make the mistake of asking themselves “What product or service do I want to sell?” More often, the better question is, “What product or service do I want to buy that I can’t easily find?”
  • Everyone understands that in our hyper-competitive free market bad ideas will fail. What is much less well understood is most good ideas will also fail.

On Lessons from Making Jobs

  • It is the oldest trick in the book for managers of a valued long-term employee to attempt to guilt that employee into staying. Management can make many legitimate arguments to an employee to get him to reconsider leaving, but guilt is not one of them. All you owe your company is your best effort while you work there. Beyond that, your only obligations are to your dependents (if you have any) and to your personal hopes and dreams.

On How to Use Headhunters

  • The first step is to, as early as possible in your career, get on the radar of the 8 to 10 headhunting firms who specialize in your industry. Regardless of your industry, these will include the five majors: Korn Ferry International, Heidrick & Struggles, Spencer Stuart, Russell Reynold Associates, Egon Zehnder International. Find out which partner at each headhunting firm is most focused on your segment of your industry, and send a cover letter and resume to that person, remembering to highlight any personal contact you might have in common.

If you could use a guide book for getting some bearings for getting your career launched, or relaunched, on the right foot, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of the book here.





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Careertopia!




bryce-christiansenAbout the Author: Bryce Christiansen is the Marketing Coordinator for The Balanced WorkLife Company. He is a driving force in helping build the company’s presence online through the website, social media, and Web 2.0. Bryce has a dedicated background in Marketing and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. In his free time he likes to read, watch movies, play guitar, help others, and spend time with friends and family. Connect with Bryce on Twitter!



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  • valentino14

    Bryce, this is all good stuff, but I disagree with the premise of your article that no one is out there giving students and young pros advise about careers.

    Actually, there are legions of people and organizations and pros like you and me who are happy to give such advice. And let’s not leave out nagging parents, family members and friends — who are more than happy to give advice on all matters near and dear to students and young pros. Social media is “advice corner” if you read some of the stuff that flits by.

    Add to that grouping school counselors, teachers and administrators — plus,
    visiting professionals who actually go to HS & colleges to give candid career
    advise on careers and beyond. In fact, many Fortune 500 companies practically adopt schools in the sense of providing coaching; internships and scholarships.
    They then provide dedicated mentors to help develop student interns and
    young new hires.

    I even directed a rehab program in a prison setting that address all of your
    bullet points plus some. So where you get the idea that students and young pros are getting career advice is interesting. I’ve found that students and young pros with personal initiative seem to find and get answers to their career questions from several informational sources. In fact, I’ve spent over thirty years of my career, on campuses throughout the country meeting with student groups, student classes and individual students and young pros on the subject of getting and keep a career on track.

    BTW–what you have failed to mention is the stark lethargy among a good percentage of students who avoid the HS counselor and college career placement office and free advice until their last semester in school. This procrastination is the real issue why some students and young pros may sound desperate and lost. The fact is that many of them were not ready to listen to career or any advice from parents, siblings, friends, etc. They were and are comfortable waiting until a later time to get serious about next steps relative to career concerns.

    Finally, since your article seemed to be addressing students and young pros — I was surprised by the advice you gave in relating to Headhunters of the stature of the firms you mentioned. You must know Korn Ferry and the rest are “retained”
    search firms. They tend to focus on senior, highly accomplished professionals.

    • BryceChristiansen

      Wow, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

      I’m sorry I missed some important points you so wonderfully hit on here. I hope people go on to read the comments so they can find your additions and get help, using the resources you mentioned.

      That being said, I think you missed the premise of what I was writing. This post was meant to be a review of Ben Carpenter’s book. Nowhere do I say there isn’t help for young people and their careers. Running a career site myself, I know that is not the case. In the same vein of thought, topics like headhunters came up in his book, which I found interesting as a young careerist and thought were worth mentioning in the review.

      Appreciate the feedback.


      • valentino14

        You’re right Bryce. And so I redirect my comments to the book’s author and/or ghost writer(s).
        Nevertheless, since you posted it — my comments do apply to those who embrace the concept of let the future come to you, ratheuninformed, and therefore, struggling, confused and lost students and young pros who feel their lying ears and eyes have caused them to postpone career decision making to some late date in the future