Once an aspiring rap artist, Cary businessman Tru Pettigrew ended up building a career in marketing around his ability to reach millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 that is renowned, and ridiculed, for its obsession with technology.
Pettigrew, 45, helped sell Converse and Nike shoes to this group for years, but lately he’s helping them find and keep work. His company, Tru Access, consults with businesses to help integrate young people into the workforce.
Tru Access is hosting a daylong career boot camp on June 29 in Raleigh.
Pettigrew lives in Cary with his wife and 1-year-old son. Here, he talks about his efforts to help young people.
Q: What’s your background?
I went to school at the DeVry Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and once I finished I realized I had no real desire or passion to do anything in electrical engineering. I just did it because I thought I would graduate and be able to make a lot of money.
I was lucky enough to be able to make a career transition. I was pursuing a career in rap music, living in L.A., and I was able to establish a pretty good following.
A woman I met had her own company and did licensing for Converse, and she started giving me product to wear when I performed, and they saw some benefits and asked me to replicate what I was doing across other markets.
That let me be a brand ambassador, which brought me to Boston. And from there I had my own marketing and promotions agency.
Q: When did you start your current business, and what does it do?
I spent 20 years in advertising and marketing, and I helped develop youth and young-adult marketing campaigns for my clients.
What I’ve noticed over my career is I realized a lot of the young people I was hiring and bringing in had some mismanaged expectations.
So about a year ago, I started Tru Access to help close the cultural and generational gaps these millenials experience.
Q: What strengths do you see in this generation?
Some of the things are their ability to multitask, how they embrace diversity and their cultural curiosity, their entrepreneurial mindset.
Q: What are their weaknesses?
A lot of those strengths can also be perceived as weaknesses or turn into weaknesses depending on how they’re utilized. ...
If you’re in a meeting and you’re multitasking, it can be perceived as not paying attention or being disrespectful.
Q: What will happen at the conference?
It’s designed to reach more millennials, more young people than I’ve been able to reach than I can in a coaching format where you reach one or two at a time. The core group is in the 18- to 24-year-old range, and this will be the first in a series.
It’s about first how to land a job and then if you’re already in a job, how to thrive in that career.
I have a number of business leaders from the area that have offered to participate. We’re focusing on how to properly conduct yourself and prepare for interviews, developing good money-management habits, relationship building.
Q: What advice would you give today’s youth about choosing a career?
One of the things I share with people today is to stay open. ...
You might decide you want to be a copywriter or a graphic artist, whatever the case may be. But stay open and understand your gifts.