Friday, May 9, 2008

Confidential to Job Seekers: Talk to Strangers!

Okay, I’ve got a very cool story to tell, but forewarning: It’s going to sound like I’m bragging. I swear I’m not. It’s just this is an amazing story and I just happen to be a player in it. Okay? Okay, here goes:

About a month ago, a brand new client of mine was flying me to their Connecticut HQ from Albuquerque. This part is noteworthy only in the sense that it was a rare opportunity for me to fly First Class (I didn’t ask for it, they just gave it to me). Only problem: It was stand-by First Class. So you can imagine what happened next: On the ABQ to DFW leg, I’m trudging down the aisle along with everyone else, trying to not shoot envious big-eyed orphan glances at those comfortably settled in the big leather seats up front, already happily grasping their drinks on their broad armrests.

As I’m consoling myself down the aisle, the little voice inside my head says, “Something really good is going to come out of this.” (I may be codependent but that’s nothing compared to the codependency of the little voice inside my head.)

I sit next a guy who is flipping through the pictures in his digital camera, and being a chatty kinda gal who also happens to live in one of the nation’s top vacation destinations, I ask him, “Going home after a vacation to Santa Fe?” Nope. Wrongo. Come to find out his wife and children live in Albuquerque but he works in Tennessee. “Oh? Doing what?” He gives me one of those highly technical, exotic foreign answers that would make anyone say blankly, “ohhhhh, how nice for you…say where is that beverage cart anyway?”

Turns out, it wasn’t so nice for him. Every time he went home for a visit, it meant that he would have to wrench himself away from his family, and his heart would be going crack, crack, crack, all the way back to his dismal bachelor life back in Tennessee. He was leaving Albuquerque this time freshly determined to find a job within a pillow’s throw of his cherished wife and two adoring sons. And so he told me all about it.

Now remember: His expertise is highly specialized, highly technical, and to make matters worse, highly manufacturing. The kind of job that would make elicit the response, “Well, good luck with that.” But not me. Oh no. I said, “Send me your resume and I’ll see what I can do.” Not like I know anything or anyone in manufacturing. But, hey, you never know, right?

Long to short: He starts his new job in Albuquerque tomorrow. And now his two sons quite rightly think: “Dad has the coolest job in town.” And he really does. And it’s in town!

Here’s a quick summary of what happened between then and tomorrow: That night I got to my hotel room in Stamford. And there was his resume emailed to me. I was a) tired; b) on major chocolate withdrawal and c) thinking, “what are the chances of anything coming this? What’s on tv?” But that darn inner voice chimed in, “Larry King can wait. You promised, now get cracking.”
Yeah, but I promised then. This is now. I’m tired. And besides what are the odds that anything could come of this?

Now there were only two companies that came to mind as possible employers for this guy. But really, what could possibly be the chances that they would have an opening that would exactly fit his skills? I looked up the first company, and discovered that they are hiring out of San Carlos, CA, and looking for a svp/hr. So I figured they probably wouldn’t be hiring someone like this guy right now. I totally didn’t even bother with them.

Then I looked at the other company, found the svp/hr, figured out what her email address would probably be, and sent her an email saying, “You don’t know me but there’s this guy I met on the plane today who….” I attached his resume, detaching myself from any residual interest in the outcome. And then went about scaring up some chocolate and finding CNN on the tube. I spent the next several days working with this new client and thinking about myself.

Back in New Mexico, this lovely svp/hr took the time to open an email from a stranger, opened the attachment, and discovered a possible match for a position long open and needing attention pretty darn quick. (I just love email, don’t you?)

Next thing I hear: The guy comes back to Albuquerque upon their invitation, surprises his sons by picking them up unexpectedly at school, goes to a series of interviews at this company the next day, is offered the job of his dreams before he even gets home. (I just love cell phones, don’t you?)

From my perspective – and from the perspective of anyone even remotely involved in HR – life is full of happenstance matches that make for happy career stories. So for me, it’s a nifty story that makes me smile.

But can you imagine what it must have been like for this guy? Of all the flights between ABQ and DFW, and of all the seats on the plane, he has to sit next to this chatty woman. And then guess what? She’s the opening conduit to a dream come true.

It is actually his doing that makes this a story with a happy ending. He was willing to talk to a stranger. So there’s a tip for you: Talk to strangers; tell anyone who will listen who you are and what you want.

It will improve the odds.

A special note from Martha: If you’re a manager, your company is counting on you to be an engaging leader. But what exactly does that mean? And how do you do engagement? Just because you’re brilliant at your technical skills, that doesn’t mean that you’re a natural at people skills. New managers need a book that can help them figure it out in simple, straightforward ideas.

1 comment:

Franco Gaudry said...

That was a wonderful, inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.