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It IS the people, Stupid!

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By amitylyn
December 10, 2003

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If anyone still believes resume-writing skills are more important in the job hunt than people skills, please read on (long).

As Nick has said many times over, "The biggest part of your job search should be meeting people." I took that advice to heart when I first started my job hunt at the beginning of this year. After spending a little time on my first ever resume (I was blessed with never having to look for a job in my 23-year manufacturing career), I set out to learn about premiere companies that I felt I had something to contribute to and to reintroduce myself into my local manufacturing community. I say "reintroduce" because I made a tactical error over the years by allowing myself to become immersed in my work, but detached from my business community � a mistake error I'm not likely to repeat. Most of the people who knew my capabilities were out of town customers and suppliers, but I wanted to keep my job hunt local. Those few local business folks that knew me didn't really know what I was capable of.

Anyway, in the course of doing my research and speaking with people in the industry, I was referred to a small consortium of manufacturers who had formed a committee to develop a state certified machinist apprenticeship program. I knew my background would help me further their process, so I quickly volunteered for the committee. To me, this was much more powerful than a chamber of commerce mixer where networking is a self-serving business card swap.

At my very first committee meeting, in March, I found myself the only "civilian" sitting at a table of ten local corporate representatives - four from the companies on my (research) short list, with the meeting being held at the offices of a fifth! I have to admit I was pretty pleased, but I didn't kid myself for a minute that my job was done. I knew full well that it would take me many months to build relationships and trust with people who really had no idea who I was. Over the course of the next few months, I worked this avenue hard, while continuing my research into the companies on my list. If I had one issue with this vehicle, it was that the committee didn't meet as often as I would have liked. As result, I think I may have unconsciously curtailed my other networking avenues while I looked forward to the next meeting.

After reading Nick's newsletter in May, titled "It's the people, Stupid", I snapped out of my comfort zone and got back to work. This time, I read of a much larger grass roots committee, also made up of local manufacturers, that was forming as part of a county sponsored five-year economic development plan. The goal of this committee was targeted development of the manufacturing community. Again, I knew I could contribute something to the process and help to create a more stable economic environment in my community, at the same time. This time, I walk into a round table meeting of over twenty manufacturers, county government officials and assorted local businessmen. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, meeting with the group several times over the course of the next four months.

Once again, by working collaboratively and sincerely, I continued to slowly build trusts, relationships and even friendships. I received invitations to go on plant tours and to attend other manufacturing organization's meetings. My network was expanding inside the very core of the industry I was best at. I even got requests for my input on non-manufacturing boards and committees. I felt certain that I would soon meet the person who was waiting to meet me, but it got even better than that.

I noticed that this particular group of busy business owners had a challenge maintaining their momentum after the meetings ended. Great ideas during the meetings, but after they were over - life happened. I felt the county needed a go-between or catalyst to keep the committee and the subgroups moving forward. I knew I could fill this role and started to work on a business plan to present to them. Before I could give my proposal any teeth, the county approached me about the very same idea. They saw the need I saw and asked me if I would be interested in doing the job for them. I went through a short bidding process and was awarded a four-month contract to coordinate the group in October. I didn't just get hired by someone in the group � I got hired by the whole group. And there's no more of this "waiting" until the next meeting. I get to communicate and work with group members almost every day through January, as I continue with my company research in a hands-on kind of way. My wife says it's like being "paid to network". And there's this unexpected benefit - I find that I actually like economic development, so there's a possibility that I could decide to pursue a career in that area or even a combination of the two. Who knew?

I almost wish that I were ending this story with the landing of the "perfect" job but, as dynamic as this process has been for me, I know there is no simple path to finding that right job. It took me nine months to make my first break and given any other economy, it might have taken me less � or it might have taken me more. The point is that it takes hard work to find the right "work" and meeting people can sometimes prove to be the most challenging part of that process � but it is by far the most rewarding, regardless of whether it results in a job or not.

My advice to anyone would be to start investing time in people early, do it often and never stop � even after you land the job.

amitylyn


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