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.

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