By Alexis Diller and Jason Grapethin
In 2020, for a brief moment, the world stopped. With it, so too did the dreams and aspirations of so many young and talented people. Landon Campbell, a California native and soon-to-be DePaul University graduate was at a crossroads. Looking around, he thought, “Am I just going to waste the best years of my life?”
Campbell arrived in Chicago in 2016 to study public relations. With no roots in the Midwest, he was determined to make a name for himself. He was a natural go-getter and took on ten different internships while in school, all with the intention to learn what he liked and didn’t like in the professional field and making connections in the new city.
Despite all the positive momentum and a job lined up upon graduation, Covid was a breaking point for Campbell. With the uncertainty of his 20s, he pondered how some of the most successful people spent their 20s and what led them to success. That’s when he took a chance and started a podcast with his best friend to discover the answer to this pressing question.
Aptly titled inTheir20s, two years later, Campbell now has over 120 episodes, ranging from interviews with Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and Kathy Besant (CTO at Bank of America Corporation). He jokes that he now has 120 mentors because of his podcast — each interview has offered him insight that he can bring into his own life and professional career.
This experience helped springboard an invitation to speak for TedXWrigleyville, a tremendous honor for anyone, let alone a 24-year-old. “I got laid off from my previous job the week I was scheduled to give that Ted Talk.” Campbell said. “Right when I was least expecting it, that’s when it found me ironically.” The focus of that segment and the answer to the question of inTheir20’s was that most people don’t have it all together when they are in their 20’s. Instead, learning who you are through identity capital will drive you forward. Campbell now finds himself a career in venture capital with Midwest-based firm Drive Capital, while still actively interviewing and turning out podcast episodes. Campbell is building Drive’s Chicago office, where he’s supporting early-stage entrepreneurs.
As someone who gained plenty of insights and inspiration from diverse mentors of many different skill sets and lexicons, Campbell did not waste the opportunity to give back to others in a way he knew he could. Knowing the power of helping all voices be heard, something many organizations could get better at, he wanted to provide counsel to young people of many backgrounds and interests. In the years he was building up his podcast, he helped start an internship program which coached roughly 35 students on how to build a successful show and personal brand.
Advice to young professionals
“In order to become successful you need to see success,” Campbell said. “To me, this means sharing different stories and journeys from people who look different and come from different backgrounds.” Campbell outlined the following advice for young professionals, particularly in their 20s:
The importance of mentors — Having a diverse array of mentors is key. Campbell suggests having mentors older and younger than you that you can learn from. “Find someone a couple years older than you in a role you want and have them be your mentor. You can learn steps to reach that role.”
Offer your value — Mentorship is a two-way street; you are also providing insight and value to your mentors. When you reach out to someone you want as a potential mentor, offer your value upfront. What can they gain by mentoring you? Maybe they need someone to proofread their blog postings; offer your value of being their mentee upfront and what you can help them with and achieve, just as much as you want to achieve by having them as a mentor.
Identity capital — Creating a brand for yourself is important, and Campbell recommends that instead of being the top 1% of something, be the top 20% of two to three things. Find your niche and pursue it.
Think big picture — When you start a role, come prepared with what you want to achieve in that role. Don’t just serve the role, but let the role serve you and your growth. With a big picture plan, outline steps with your manager so that you can achieve these goals.
A no now doesn’t mean a no forever — Campbell pursued internships he was initially rejected from and advises that a no now is not a no forever. Opportunities are always there if you pursue them.
Be straightforward — Get to the point with your messages and emails. Subject lines are key. The person should know what you want within the first couple sentences. Being upfront with your value too will help.