Ben Carpenter, author, entrepreneur and finance-industry CEO, visited Elon University Tuesday to share with students his tips for success: be aggressive, do what you’re good at and stay happy. His talk was hosted by the Student Professional Development Center, in conjunction with Greek organizations Delta Upsilon, Sigma Kappa and Alpha Omicron Pi.
Carpenter’s recently published book “The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals,” is about his journey to finding the right career path, the people he encountered along the way and his best advice for students approaching college graduation.
“You don’t have to get a job; you get to get a job,” he said. Carpenter has publicly advocated for proper career training for students in The New York Times and through a series of events at colleges around the country. At Elon’s event, 125 students received a complimentary copy of his book.
His daughter Avery inspired the book. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and English, she was living back at home and struggling to find a job. After Avery received a job offer for assistant co-executive producer of ABC’s The Katie Couric Show, Carpenter wrote her an email with a list of 22 things she needed to know before embarking on her professional career.
“I sent her that list and I just never stopped writing,” Carpenter said. Avery now holds an editorial position at news startup “The Skimm.”
Another source of inspiration for Carpenter’s book was watching his father continually choose the wrong career path for himself.
“But every time [my father] got knocked down, he got right back up and he was able to send his five children to college,” Carpenter said.
Even though his father was a well educated, hardworking man, his struggle to find a job was enough motivation for Carpenter to prepare himself for a career in business by discovering his talents at a young age.
“The working world is way too competitive to make a living doing something you’re not good at,” he said. Most people advise students to follow their passion, said Carpenter, but that won’t always work—unless passion coincides with talent.
Carpenter started as a Commercial Lending Officer at the Bankers Trust Company and within a few short years began his 22-year career at Greenwich Capital. It was there where he moved through sales, trading, Co-Chief Operating Officer and, finally, Co-CEO positions. According to Carpenter, his time at Greenwich Capital led the company to become more profitable than industry leader Goldman Sachs.
“The thing that makes great leaders is having the people who report to you and depend on you believe that you care and understand,” Carpenter said.
As a salesman with years of interview experience, Carpenter said most people aren’t aggressive enough when job searching.
“The world belongs to salesmen,” he said. “The biggest sale you’ll make in your life is getting that first job.”
But, none of the career stuff matters if you’re not happy, Carpenter said, because happiness and professional level of success are tied.
“Happiness is a choice,” he said. “People need to learn to shorten the amount of time they allow themselves to be unhappy.”