Today, we’re talking all about career. Even though you’ve graduated college, it doesn’t mean you know what you want to do with the rest of your life. And the job position you take after graduation may not contribute to your long-term success.
Instead of simply taking a job, you want to launch a career—one that’s satisfying, invigorating, and financially rewarding. But what’s the difference and how do we do that and where do we start? Codie Wright and Kerry Litzenberg, authors of Launchers, are going to help us sort it out.
Kerry Litzenberg: So I’m 103 years old, I’m a professor, I’ve been here 40 something years. Codie’s truly a millennial—she’s 26 on Monday. It’s really kind of an unusual partnership, I suppose. I think the real genesis of what we started with is that we work with a lot of students.
Codie can talk about which she does, but together we do some educational counseling, not really personal, but although we get into some of that just because that gets in the way sometimes of education. But mostly, we work together, and that’s sort of the really unusual part about our partnership I would say.
Codie Wright: Yeah, it’s just really fun to see a baby boomer and a millennial working together. The experience that he has had for the past 40 years combined with being in the classroom only about five years ago and seeing firsthand the students who were having those struggles and having those worries and anxieties about graduating and getting the best job and what that really looked like.
It was really interesting to see from my perspective versus where he was.
And we’ve always heard about students who will take a job, be there for two years and then go on to the next one and if we’re working with industry professionals to place students in those positions, we don’t want to suggest a student for them to only work there for two years and then go somewhere else.
I think it’s really bridging the gap between industry and academia and helping them understand that they get to pursue a career in whatever it is that they want.
Kerry Litzenberg: You’ll probably hear us say this several times, maybe too many times, but we really resonate around the theme of don’t get a job, launch a career.
That’s where Launcherscame from. Really think about purposefully deciding, “Here’s where I’m going to launch my career.” We think that’s what we really try to instill in our students.
Job vs Career
Rae Williams: Let’s get into the definition of career a little bit—what is a job, what is a career, how am I going about doing both?
Kerry Litzenberg: I should let Codie do this probably because being a baby boomer like I am, when someone would say, “Well, tell me Kerry, tell me who are you, what are you?” I would say, “I’m a professor.” Because our career really defined us.
Codie as a millennial, it’s really quite a bit different in terms of what you’d say a career is for a millennial?
Codie Wright: It’s who you are. If you can align your passions with your career then you’re going to get someone who is going to be working really hard, who is very intent with the content that they are producing and the work ethic that they’re putting in for a company, or even if they are owning their own business.
What I think is very important to remember in this process is that you don’t have to decide right now, what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.
Our book encourages you to pursue those interests so that you can get into a groove or get into something to springboard you into an industry and then your career.
Your career really is the next 30 to 40 years of your life.
If you’re able to be in a position or an industry that you love, then the work ethic that you’re going to have is going to be so much greater.
Our professors, from the millennial generation and also our parents, people in academia, quite often we hear, “Hey, it’s okay to take a job and then go and work somewhere for two years until you really find your way.”
If you can do that sooner rather than later, you’re going to be an expert in that industry or in that company that you’re in.
Because if you think of changing careers or changing industries like changing your major in college, you can take some information with you like your basics, but you can’t take those upper level classes like your 300 and 400 level classes with you when you transition into that other major.
Really, what we’re advising to students is, you learn in your 20s so that you can apply in your 30s. That way you can reap what you have sown in your 40s and 50s.
Kerry Litzenberg: Wow, really makes sense Codie. No wonder we get along so well when we write together.
I think it’s really important to recognize that you have to have a plan.
We were starting to have students who would come back to the university and say to us, “Well, I’ve had four different jobs in 10 years and I finally think I have one I like, but gosh, I’ve lost eight years or seven years or nine years.”
We really set out to say, what can we do to take really smart people and help them understand what they could be rather than just to wander around?
We say there’s got to be a better way, and we think our book does that.
How to Launch
Rae Williams: How do we begin to form our careers instead of just finding a job, especially just getting out of college and wanting to get into the workforce?
Kerry Litzenberg: I guess, back up just a little bit and say that we believe that millennials have been told and in fact, it’s become sort of a standard that “Guys, you’re going to have a bunch of different jobs.”
We’re not so sure of that anymore. We have an awful lot of people that say if you’re doing something you really love and something that you are good at and something that you’re productive at, that’s pretty powerful.
I guess we wouldn’t just necessarily believe that this idea that you have several different ones. Now, startups, yeah, some people make sort of a history of doing that—but not really very many. Even in the US as we think of right now, there’s a lot of interest in being startup, but there’s not as many as you might think. Still, by and far, the people that are working are working for somebody or working in a situation for a good long while, and we think they’re much more productive and much happier.
Codie does quite a bit of work with Gallup’s Strength Finder and talked about how people are many, many times more happy when they’re working in a place where they use their strengths in an industry in which they’re interested.
We’re not trying to make everybody sound like work 40 years at the same thing, but we’re just trying to get rid of a lot of inefficiency that we think the system had tremendous amount of efficiency that we found. Does that make sense as an answer? We just think there’s so many better ways for most people.
Codie Wright: Yeah, to add on to what Dr. Litz said, really that first step is committing yourself to launching your career and not just taking a job. Knowing that your career is going to happen for you and not to you. There is a lot of anxiety and worry and frustration around whether or not someone is going to get the best job upon graduation.
I feel like you have to give yourself a little bit of grace.
If you can’t identify what is best for you, then you’re always going to be looking for something more and looking for something better. In the book, we introduced in the beginning something called career launch criteria, where you’re able to sit down and write if you want to work 40 hours a week or if you like the idea of ongoing training or if you want a good balance of work from home or work in the office.
What we encourage students or even people who are looking to relaunch their career in this situation is identify the environment and the different characteristics of a position that you would really love and really thrive in.
That allows you to narrow your focus of how to begin looking for that next position or looking for that career launch upon graduation.
Kerry Litzenberg: Yeah, we again have hundreds actually, thousands of students who will work just a few months in a job and then say, “Well, I’m looking for something better.” We ask them, “What does better mean?”
I’d say, we’re pretty shocked sometimes, they don’t have any idea. More money? Well, not necessarily. Is it less hours and more flexibility?
This better job, we think that is sort of a problem if you haven’t got a career plan. We try to focus on that, I think.
Rae Williams: What is your advice for people coming up, trying to build a career in submitting and creating resumes that you wouldn’t do if you were just looking for just a regular job?
Kerry Litzenberg: We think the resume is sort of a working document. In fact we do resume seminars and things from time to time and we’ll say look, just because you got that piece of paper in front of you, that’s certainly not where you’re going.
In fact, I like to put a blank box in my resume and say okay, what kind of international experience have you had? Or what kind of work experience have you had? We sort of like to think of the resume as something that you’re creating, sort of like you’re creating a career.
As you start to have a career plan, you might then back up and say, well, what goes on my resume?
Wouldn’t you say that’s the best success we’ve had, Codie, is really asking people, let’s think about what you want it to be so that it will match up with your career plans.
Codie Wright: One thing that we really advise to students and even to people who are looking to revamp the resume is something that we call scale and scope.
How much of what have you done?
Being able to speak to that on your resume in a way is very valuable for people to see how hard you worked at that position.
Quite often, we see or hear students say in an interview, I’m a really hard worker. Well…
Kerry Litzenberg: Which is really worthless isn’t it? Because it doesn’t mean anything.
Codie Wright: Because hard work to Dr. Litz could be different than hard work to me and so if you just put hard working or assistant manager—very blanket statement, keywords, then it’s going to be passed over.
Now, if you are able to look at the job description that you are applying for and if you are able to truthfully add in keywords from that job description to your resume, the system is going to take it out faster during that interview scanning process.
What a lot of companies will do is take your resume, whenever you upload it, scan it for those keywords it’s looking for, and if not, even if it’s a great candidate and we do a wonderful job, will put them out of the pile of potentially interviewing them.
Kerry Litzenberg: Just ignore hard working, right? Because the scanner doesn’t pick that up because this doesn’t really mean anything. When we look at resumes as an aid into looking how you develop your career, we think that the size and scope is really important. I think that’s the most important thing we look for.
Codie Wright: Another thing that we find quite often that students will put on their resume is underneath their skills and activities portion in their resume, they’ll put things such as efficient in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint.
Quite often, interviewers and employers are expecting students to be knowledgeable in that area.
You need to think about your resume as valuable real estate.
If you are putting words on there that could be spoken to in an interview then you’re not doing yourself a service, in fact, if you can put things like your StrengthsFinder on your resume or if you can put an area where you can link your Twitter or your LinkedIn, that would be powerful too.
Because, in a world that we are right now, differentiation is key. A lot of career centers will have a cookie cutter type of resume that it gets very monotonous after a while.
Stop Sending Resumes
Kerry Litzenberg: We know people who send out 200 resumes, and we think that is pretty much a waste. You might snag something once in a while, but I don’t think we say that resume is nearly as important as we probably said in the past.
It is all about making a connection through your network.
We have a chapter in there about who has helped us and who are people that we ask for help and those kinds of things, as well as connections. We think there is so much more.
Codie Wright: Your time is so valuable, and the person who is interviewing you, his time is valuable as well. If you generally think you like this job or you might be okay in it, you’re wasting your time.
The company that you are applying for and the position that you are applying for has to be so—you have to be 100%, I would absolutely work for this company—otherwise you are wasting your time sending out that resume.
And the reason why is because a lot of people are sending out their resumes. So, if you have more of a targeted approach, very tailored, you have done a lot of background research on the company, it is likely you are going to be very successful in the interview selection and hiring process.
Kerry Litzenberg: Also because we work with young people, we also interact with moms and dads. Sometimes we think sometimes kids keep their mom and dad off their back by saying, “I am sending out my resume,” and we frankly don’t see very many really good jobs that happen like that.
Now you’ve already notice I guess by this point in time, Rae, as we look at this book, we see some people that might go from the front to the back, as you would in a novel, but probably not. You have to read the first couple of chapters to see if you can get into the way that we think and we wish other people would think.
The resume chapter is one in particular that we hope this book goes on the shelf in six months or 18 months later or whatever. You might pull it off and say, “What did we talk about? What was the book talking about in terms of resume?”
So, it is not something you just read through and say, “Okay got that,” as you would a textbook or even a novel. This is really more of a handbook.
Codie Wright: I think it is very good to go back and reference certain areas of the book, depending in where you are in your career. The last thing really about this resume chapter is creating a resume of where you want to be in five to 10 years.
There’s much research behind visualization and identifying where you want to go.
If you can put on your future resume what position you want to obtain and the job responsibilities that you will be doing at this time, it is a great way to get yourself to that level a little bit quicker. You will read in the book, Dr. Litz put that on his future resume. He wanted more international experience.
Kerry Litzenberg: Yeah, I didn’t have any at all when I was 40 years old, okay? I’d never been out of the state hardly.
Codie Wright: I put in there I wanted more public speaking opportunities. So if you can visualize where you want to be in five to ten years, it’s just really helpful with where you are going, target wise.
The Generational Divide
Rae Williams: The next chapter that I wanted to touch on because I find it a little bit funny is “Humor the Baby Boomers and Humor the Launchers.” Talk to us a little bit about what are we humoring the baby boomers about?
Kerry Litzenberg: I have to take credit for this and I had to tuck Codie into it I think over time. But I have given literally hundreds of speeches to baby boomers saying, “Help us understand what is going on with these millennials. We just don’t understand what they are thinking about.” I had a president of a recently good size company say, “I hired 12 new millennials last year and I just fired them all.”
And he called me and he says, “Would you come out and help me think through what in the world should I be looking for if I want to find the kind of people that I want in my firm?”
If you are looking for what you say you’re looking for, maybe never because millennials—they’re up to what? 35, 38% of the workforce now, and certainly new hires. You will find some old souls and we have someone that come from small town Texas once in a while where we are, but for the most part not.
I started saying, “Well maybe we have to say humor the millennials. What can you change about evaluation?” Baby boomers will say, “I am going to do an annual evaluation of this person.”
I say, “Well, unfortunately that is not going to fly with a new millennial. They want a much more feedback than to have it annually.”
I started with those features. Then Codie came along and we formed this partnership, and Codie, you tell it from your standpoint. What are you going to say about millennials? How should they tolerate or humor the baby boomers?
Codie Wright: Well I just really love the idea of different generations working together, no matter what industry that they are in. It has to happen. In order to work well together and not get frustrated and have that boss that you just do not like, it is great to understand where everyone came from, how they were raised, what technology they were exposed to during their adolescent time growing up?
If we can understand where everybody is coming from, understand their own perspective and point of view, then it is a great area to start, right?
A lot of baby boomers will see their worth in their work and their career.
Kerry Litzenberg: It is about their job.
Codie Wright: Our parents’ generation, so Generation X, they really want to focus on what their worth is really, how their children have succeeded…Whereas the millennial generation really focuses on their work-life balance, what they are passionate about.
That is what you will hear each one of those different generations speak to whenever you ask them the very open-ended question, “Tell me about yourself.”
It is good going into a new career, whenever you are launching your career, you can’t treat everyone the way your generation would want to be treated. That’s okay.
Knowing those differences will really put you ahead of the game.
Kerry Litzenberg: I think it is one of the things we see in our class. I was taught as a kid to treat people like they want to be treated, and that is not the way it is anymore, right?
Codie Wright: We really don’t want to categorize millennials into one, even though it is one generation. We know that everyone is very individual and should be treated as such.
Whenever someone from our generation hears the word “millennial” or whenever they hear “the millennials” it almost comes off a little negative. Never in this book or in this chapter did we want to paint that picture at all, because we value the individualization of this generation.
Because of that they can tailor their own career launch approach. That is what I find so fascinating about the content that we have created.
Kerry Litzenberg: We are not really trying to change people. We are trying to provide some direction. So maybe that chapter sounds like we are trying to change people, but we’re really not at all interested in changing. We are trying to say, “How can we make your life more positive if you are a baby boomer?”
We hope some baby boomers will pick this book up and read it and say, “Wow, okay cool maybe that’s what I should do to help my younger employees.”
We don’t think it’s of course focused on people from 20 to 35, but we hope some grandmothers or some great-grandmothers maybe will pick it up and say, “Wow, okay this makes some sense.”
That chapter is written in there for them. We hope to go right back to that chapter and say, “Maybe there is something I should know about a millennial.” And don’t call them that, right Codie?
Codie Wright: I feel like we all just need to give everyone a little bit of grace. Being emotionally intelligent about these intergenerational differences is key in navigating this workforce, really.
Kerry Litzenberg: Yeah, one of the speeches that Codie’s got ready to go on the road with is these emotionally intelligent, intergenerational differences. She has a speech that she is getting ready to roll out for her speaking tour that we really think it is important to get this emotional intelligence and hand that in and see what are the emotional triggers.
We all have those emotional triggers. It is certainly colors our vision of how do you respond to a millennial if you are a baby boomer, okay? What’s the emotionally intelligent way to do that?
A Challenge for Listeners
Rae Williams: If you guys had to issue a challenge to people that are going to read your book, to the people that are listening to us right now, what would that challenge be?
Kerry Litzenberg: Well I think part one of the book certainly speaks to that. It sort of says, “Okay if you are going to move in this direction, what change in the way you are thinking has to take place?”
We introduce the idea of developing these career visionary kinds of thoughts. I think that would be the biggest challenge we would say to them, right?
Get yourself ready to change, be ready to change, be ready to notice that if this long, long, long work life is a career, how can we maximize your happiness and enjoyment from that career?
Codie Wright: Yeah, I would agree with that 100%. The challenge is committing yourself to that career launch and being ready to expose yourself to opportunities and different networks of individuals and networking opportunities to get you where you can identify whether or not this is a good industry for you.
Rae Williams: Awesome. How can people contact you guys if they are interested in learning more?
Codie Wright: I am on Instagram. It is @codie_wright. We will be launching our website within the next couple of days actually and it’s, and then also LinkedIn.
Kerry Litzenberg: Oh yeah, we are both in LinkedIn. So, it is pretty easy to find us individual or our website from where we operate from. We hope you’ll look.
We’d like to raise some interest in this idea. So, grandmothers, grandfathers all the people that are trying to help young people.
I think we like to throw out the challenge to people to just look through the book at least, and if you have a young person in your life, buy them a copy of this.