Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guest Blogger: Lindsey Dickinson

This week's post is compliments of guest blogger, Lindsey Dickinson. Enjoy!

We did it.  We moved back to Traverse City.  We found great jobs.  We bought a house.  We made the move and made it work.  Just about every week now I have friends, colleagues and contacts from different parts of my life who ask me, “how did you do it?  How did you make it work?”  Coming back to Traverse City, during a time when the economy was even worse than it is today, was tough.  It wasn’t Facebook or blogging, Tweeting or tagging that got us reconnected in TC.  It was good old-fashioned hand shaking, meaningful conversations, tireless networking, elevator speeches and resume tweaking that landed us where we are today.

Like many of us who grew up in Traverse City (or any other smallish town in Michigan), all we ever wanted to do in high school was leave Traverse City -- a place where we knew everyone and everyone knew us.  After trying out Virginia and then Arizona my husband and I, both TC natives, made the big move across the pond.  We spent an amazing stint living and working in London.  We did the big city thing, we traveled, and we met lifelong friends.  Then, we started missing the place that always seemed too small.  We missed the incredible seasons, the natural beauty, and the bank tellers who knew us by first name.  Like so many other young professionals we decided to make the move back.

It was 2009, the economy had slowed to an almost-standstill, jobs were scarce and housing, as usual, was expensive in Traverse City.  We set ourselves a four-month time limit, figuring that if we couldn’t find jobs within that time frame, it would be time to explore another new place.  Both my husband and I graduated college with history degrees.  Both of us went into education -- I through the Teach for America Program, he through a more traditional teacher education program.  Coming home we knew that our odds of getting into teaching in Traverse City were slim to none (although it can be done!)  So we started making a plan to find jobs in related career areas and began tapping the contact lists from our high school days, our fantastic community college years, and the rolodexes (yes they still exist!) of our parents and their friends.  “It’s all about connecting the dots,” my mom told us.

We made cold calls to friends of friends.  We prepared our one-minute “elevator speeches” for each of the different career areas we were interested in and gave them at every chance.  For days and weeks we set up and attended meetings, resumes in-hand, ready to jump at the first lukewarm opportunity that presented itself.  We did it for one whole month, then two, then three.  We added to our strategy by volunteering and taking temporary jobs that weren’t in our chosen fields -- he worked retail and I did substitute teaching.   We languished in no-job land for what seemed like an eternity -- did I mention we were living at home the whole time?!  It all felt so totally unproductive and we were getting discouraged.  The dots did not feel connected.  But slowly, our phones started ringing -- people were calling us instead of the other way around.  Our meetings and volunteering and hours of follow-up were starting to pay off.  We were given opportunities to apply for jobs, have interviews, take meetings with higher-ups, and start to get what felt like a foothold in the local job market.

In the end, my husband landed a great job in the social work field; the first introduction to which came through a meeting with a family friend, who mentioned a potential job opening, that was available earlier than was first planned, which fit perfectly into our four-month time limit.  My job, landed just at the four-month mark, with a fantastic local marketing company, was the product of a connection made in high school during a summer job.  My former employer -- a long-time local small business owner -- remembered my skill set from high school and college, talked to me about my strengths and suggested me to a friend, who owned and operated her own marketing and communications firm, and gave me a chance. 

So we did it.  We moved back to Traverse City.  We found great jobs.  We bought a house and we made this amazingly beautiful, sometimes tough-to-crack, city our hometown again.  We connected the dots.  Young professionals: it can be done.  I encourage you to make the leap of faith and live back at home for a couple of months to give TC a chance again.  I think you’ll find that everything you remember from your time growing up here, is the same…but different.  You’ll find that little Traverse City has grown and that not everyone knows everyone else anymore -- but that the best way to go about finding your dream job in this dream locale is to go old school and start reconnecting the old-fashioned way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Overview of the TCYP Annual Conference

Yesterday was the Traverse City Young Professionals Annual Conference (if you're friends with me on Facebook you already know this. I may or may not have been casually mentioning it for the past month or so) and it was quite the event.

Everyone in attendance left the event feeling like they had gained a ton of knowledge, tips and tricks from all of the speakers they experienced.

The day started out with Keynote Speaker, Organized Audrey. Audrey was not only a joy to chat with, she gave a presentation that I'm pretty positive inspired everyone in the room to live a much more organized life. Her audience was engaged the entire time- seriously...someone had to take a bathroom break and literally sprinted back into the room so they wouldn't miss too much of her speech...she was that great.

When Audrey's presentation concluded, we had a round table session with a wide variety of topics. When I say wide variety...I mean a wiiiiide variety. We had Round Table topics that spanned from "What is Rotary" to "Vegan and Vegetarian Living" all the way to "How to Exercise at Your Desk." All of our speakers came prepared with goodies for attendees and all the knowledge a person could want about the subject being presented. I also want to let everyone reading this blog know that yes, you can work out your triceps while at work.

The Lunch Panel speakers were not only an impressive and influential bunch, they also had great advice and interesting things to say. The topic of the panel was "Things I wish I knew when I was 24," so the audience of YPs was absolutely kept engaged.

The afternoon breakout sessions were a hit- speed networking even had to turn YPs away first session because it reached max capacity! All of the other breakout speakers were extremely well received and from the feedback I've received thus far, all of the YPs were very happy with the presentations and were kept engaged the entire hour they were in attendance. The speakers I spoke to said that all of the YPs had excellent questions and were a fantastic audience- way to represent Traverse City, YPs!

The conference was followed by a reception in Aerie Lounge, which was a hit (but when is Aerie Lounge not a wonderful time? You really cannot go wrong!).

All in all, this year's conference was very well-received! Thank you to everyone who attended and we cannot wait to see you at the YP events coming up early next year and at the 2013 conference!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A New Outlook on Traverse City

Well, I've been a Traverse City resident for a little over nine months now. I know what you're thinking, "wow, she's probably a pro on everything and anything Traverse City!!!" Surprisingly (is my sarcasm palpable yet?) - that is a false statement. 
I credit majority of things that I know about Traverse City to a combination of having Allison Beers as my boss and mentor and also to my curious nature and attraction to new experiences (hence my moving across the country to pursue my dreams).
I also have accepted that not only do I still have a lot to learn about all things Traverse City, but that this town is constantly changing. I'm convinced that once I think I know a lot about the happenings of the area, there will be at least twenty things that have changed or are being created. Reasons like this are why I believe that events such as the Chamber Expo and the Chamber Economic Outlook Breakfast are so important.
They're also coming up soon- and both on the same day! What are these events, you ask? 
The Chamber Economic Outlook Breakfast serves to help the Traverse City community forecast the emerging business climate. There will be a question-and-answer section, highlighting of current and future trends and wisdom and insight on all of the issues currently affecting the economy.
I've been told that this event sells out every single year and also that the breakfast served is absolutely delicious. Find out more right here!
Directly following the Economic Outlook Breakfast is the Chamber Business Expo (same location, convenient timing- as an event planner, I applaud this arrangement). The Chamber Business Expo is essentially a trade show, but instead of highlighting just one industry, it showcases businesses from all over the Traverse City community. It also gives community members a chance to network and learn about new products and businesses first hand. 
Oh, and there is also a prize giveaway...and if I know the Traverse City area like I think I do, the prizes will be nothing short of top-notch. Find out more right here!

Keep the outlook on Traverse City's future positive...I foresee nothing but great things happening!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Traverse City, the City that never...well, sometimes, sleeps.

You probably read the title of this blog and immediately assumed that I was going to write about the various night-life hot spots in the Traverse City area. While I do enjoy a night out at 7 Monks every once in a while, that is not the purpose of this week's post.

This week's blog title (and content) is inspired by an event called the "Sleep Out."

If you've never heard of the Sleep Out, I'll give you a quick description- basically, community leaders (For instance, Doug Luciani) raise awareness about the need of home heating assistance by sleeping outdoors for a night. This year's "Sleep Out" is occurring on October 30th.

Events such as this are another reason Traverse City makes me consistently proud to call it my home. The Traverse City community is, to put it in the simplest terms, giving.

Every morning when I open the Ticker, there are at least three different events happening benefiting local charities. There is always a mention of a non-profit organization surpassing its fundraising goals or helping out a local cause.

Traverse City loves to support all of the non-profit organization in the area....and there are a lot of them.  It is so impressive to me that so many of these organizations are growing and continuing to prosper because of the helping hands and giving hearts of Traverse City's residents.

For instance, have you heard of Swingshift and the Stars? Chances are you have. In case you haven't, you can find out more about it right here.

Not only does Swingshift and the Stars raise funds and awareness for local non-profit organizations- it showcases six different non-profits every year, giving multiple groups a chance to tell their story and raise their funding. Not only that, but the event is sold out every.single.month. Why is that? Because the people of Traverse City care. Traverse City enjoys attending events that help the community.

How can you not be proud to live amongst people who are passionate about helping others and giving to the less fortunate? It's things like this that create such a strong sense of community in Traverse City.

So next time you have a free night, open your Record Eagle or Business News and see what fundraising events are happening around town. Don't be surprised when you notice that there are probably multiple opportunities every night. That's just how Traverse City does things.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Guest Blogger: Rachel

Please enjoy a fantastic blog by this month's guest blogger, Rachel Wasson!

3½ years ago I made the most exciting decision of my life… moving to Traverse City!

After growing up on the East side of the state and attending GVSU in Western Michigan, I quickly realized the East side was not where I wanted to be! As I entered the final semester of my Senior year I decided to pursue a career in Banking (by the way it was April of 2009 – BAD time to realize that you wanted to go into Banking…). Walking through the Grand Valley Career Fair I stumbled upon our sister Bank, The Bank of Holland, who was hiring. So like any college soon-to-be grad I jumped on the opportunity and handed over my resume. It was shortly after I received a call from HR stating the Holland position had been fulfilled, but there was an opening in our Traverse City office with The Bank of Northern Michigan. I had only been to Traverse City once before – for a gymnastics competition – and that was during the yucky March/April time frame when the snow has turned brown and people are ready to be done with the snow. However, I had spent many early winters snowboarding at Crystal Mountain with friends from college. So needless to say… I was thrilled for the opportunity to head North!

Yay! I got the job and am moving to Traverse City! It wasn’t until my family and friends left after helping me move into my 1 bedroom Arbors of Traverse apartment did I realize I was all alone, in (what seemed to be a LARGE) new town, with no friends. Not to mention trying to figure out the one-way’s getting to work Monday morning was more than taxing on me the first couple of weeks. However, once I got settled I decided to join the Traverse City Young Professionals in order to meet new people. TCYP offered everything from fun Under Cover Nights out, to professional networking events, to philanthropic community volunteer events.

A few days later I decided to sign up with the volunteer committee, which was painting the Senior Center on West Bay. I was so nervous to go all by myself, but I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Once we all got started chipping away the old paint I was impressed with how many people took their time to introduce themselves to me as I was a new face they hadn’t seen before! As we started the daunting painting task ahead of us, I really started to connect with these new people! And despite my sore muscles and totally painted up clothing (apparently I painted myself more than the building) I walked away with a couple new friends!

However, the BEST part of TCYP for me was meeting my fiancĂ©, David J The networking event was at the Elmwood Township Marina and we toured an old schooner provided by the Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay. Having both taken Sailing classes in college – we hit it off immediately! We had our first date at Northpeak – enjoying local craft beers. Next was Apache – enjoying the beautiful scenery (and fantastic food!) West Bay had to offer.

For a young couple, TC has plenty to offer us. Microbrew Festivals, Film Festivals, 5k races, and Winter Festivals keep us quite busy! From Summers spent sailing & kayaking, Autumns & Springs spent hiking and wine-tasting, to Winters spent snow-shoeing and snowboarding (skiing for David) we absolutely love with Northern Michigan. Hikes to the Sand Dunes or Pyramid Point really make us step back, take a deep breath, and stop to think about all the natural beauty that surrounds the Traverse City area. Never once do we find ourselves wishing to go downstate to do anything. Even David who is a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) Red Wings Fan, because TC has the Red Wings too! Okay, maybe he would like to be at an actual Detroit game every now and then, but still! Holding the door open for Chris Osgood and Brett Lebda at a local bar one night was definitely the icing on the cake for David!

That’s why we can’t wait to be married in Northport of next Fall to show all our friends and family what a beautiful place we’ve chosen to call Home, Traverse City J