In this 24th episode of CultivatED Marketer, hosts Brent Bowen and Matt Tidwell, PhD, chat with Dr. Dani LaGree, Public Relations Professor at Kansas State University and Co-Founder of the Trajectory Project, about the Trajectory Project, the influence personal connections can have on a career, and what employees really want in a workplace.

CultivatED Marketer Ep. 24 — How to Shape Your Career with Dr. Dani LaGree

After updates about upcoming local events, Brent introduces Dr. Dani LaGree, briefly touches on her background, and then asks how the Trajectory Project got started.

  • Dani says that together with her colleague, Dr. Katie Olsen, they maintain relationships with their students as they leave the university and enter the workforce.
  • She says that a lot of those graduating students have the skills to perform their jobs, but did not have resources around career navigation, and have many questions.

Trajectory Project for Early Career Professionals

Matt asks what are some of the strategies and tools that the Trajectory Project are currently using.

  • Dani discusses the variety of resources they have including a Facebook and Instagram page.
  • She then discusses some of the research they’ve done over the last 5 years looking at the early career phase of professional employment in advertising and public relations.
  • Dani then highlights four strategies that came out of that research that can help boost an individual’s career trajectory.

Brent talks about the strategy of ‘growth through failure’ and how they approach the topic of failure with early career professionals.

  • Dani says having a good manager that you are able to talk to, and provides you the resources in those challenging situations, is critical.
  • She also points out the importance of the middle manager encouraging and promoting their people, results in greater employee retention.

Brent asks about why there was a strategy shift away from finding one’s professional identity, and towards developing one’s professional network.

  • Dani discusses how their early research has shaped and changed their strategy.
  • She continues noting differences between generations, and how that certain proclivities tend to play out in the work environment.
  • She walks through what their study found when they focused on developing your professional network, and what results came from that, such as higher employee retention.

The Influence of Mentors on a Career Path

Matt notes how many students don’t have any idea what a career path might look like in their field, and asks Dani what they might be able to do to give them a better idea.

  • Dani recognizes that there is not one formula to give them a better idea, because it is so different in field by field.
  • She mentions a couple of different characteristics that can help people discover more about your current field.
  • Matt adds on this by emphasizing the importance of getting involved in extra curricular groups.

Brent asks Dani if there was an influential person, or mentor, that steered their careers towards academia after being in the field for many years.

  • Dani discusses her career path, mentioning that she is the first person from her family to go to college.
  • She talks about her collegiate years, her many experiences in the working world, mentioning the many mentors that helped steer her career path, that ultimately resulted in her returning to academia.

Gender Representation in Marketing

Matt notes how few women are at the top of the business, and yet in his classes it is 80% female, and asks Dani about female representation in the field.

  • Dani corroborates Matt’s findings, and then speculates some of the reasons why the disparities exist.
  • She explains why her research is focused on early career professionals, and what she expects the future C-Suite to look like.
  • She describes the importance of having a presence in the office, rather than just online, and once again stresses the importance of middle managers.

How to Increase Employee Retention

Matt asks Dani to discuss some of her research around what young workers want in terms of the workplace, and what their findings were.

  • She explains her research on respectful leadership communication, and what leads to employee satisfaction and retention.
  • Dani continues by describing how large of a role respect in the workplace plays, and a couple of ways that employers can show that to their employees.
  • She relates this back to employees’ want to do meaningful work.


To learn more about the Trajectory Project, visit their LinkedIn page.

To find out more about Dr. Dani LaGree, visit her site at


To hear the first part of the conversation, listen to part 1 here.

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