Without our social networks, our capacity to seek out job opportunities would be quite limited…How many of us found our present positions through colleagues, friends, etc.?  I know I did!

Yet, while job seekers with whom we work bring a range of talents to employment opportunities, they do not typically bring these networks, so crucial to connecting to opportunities…And that’s why building and strengthening our relationships with employers is so vital to supporting the efforts of job seekers!  These relationships are the bridge to “work world” connections for job seekers who have few or lack the skills/confidence to use them. 

Several years ago, as the MHANYS’ Director of Workforce Development, I attended an Open House hosted by the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce for their newest member, the Mental Health Association (MHA) in Essex County and its employment service, Adirondack Employment Opportunities.

 “Our goal was to get the word out to as many businesses as possible about our valuable services,” explained Adirondack Employment Opportunities’ Career Coordinator Julie Baker.  And the word went out!…not only to those who attended, but also to all 170 Chamber member organizations through their website and directory.

One of the event’s highlights was a presentation by Pre-Tech Precision Machining Company Plant Manager Jim Kahler.  His pride in being a part of this little-known gem – a  manufacturing company with tremendous growth potential, just 65 miles south of the Canadian border  – was obvious.  A producer of bio-medical, environmental, aerospace and semiconductor industry components, Pre-Tech Precision is really an ideal employer for individuals with a strong desire to work and learn new skills!

The majority of the 26 individuals employed in their Mineville, N.Y. facility are machine operators.  “While clearly a skilled position, everyone of these individuals learned on-the-job.”  “What we look for,” Kahler explained, “are individuals who have demonstrated mechanical aptitude…any kind, whether through working on cars, using woodworking equipment, etc.  Then, we’re willing to provide the specific skills training.  All of our machine operators completed an on-site class – on reading blueprints and using specialized tools, taught by one of our class A machinists.”  “In fact,” he added, “All of our class A machinists started as machine operators here at our company.” When asked about the key to their success, Kahler replied, “Not to sound trite…It’s about communicating with employees, being honest and holding the same expectations for myself as I do for all employees…I will roll up my sleeves when necessary…run the lathes, clean the machines, work in assembly, etc.”

Adirondacks Employment Opportunities Career Coordinator (and LBAC Coordinator) Julie Baker recalled her initial meeting with Kahler…“Almost immediately, he expressed interest in working with us.…Jim’s wife worked in an agency serving individuals with disabilities….and so it wasn’t a foreign world to him.”  Baker added, “You never know when (or how!) you’re going to make an excellent contact…We found Pre-Tech Precision on the internet!

“This first meeting was just the start!” Baker explained.  “I followed up with a call to thank Jim for taking the time to meet with me.  I stay in regular touch with him…And it’s not just about inquiring about job opportunities.  I ask him questions…How’s the business going?  I try to learn as much as I can about the business…I figure that will help me to better assist him in filling positions.”

“Agreeing to speak at our Open House was a great gift from Jim,” Baker acknowledged.  “It was also an opportunity to showcase his company and expand his network of potential recruitment sources and talented employees.”  Kahler added, “I had a chance to make a contribution to a great organization and the community!” AND NOT LEAST, AN INVITATION TO SPEAK AT AN IMPORTANT EVENT IS A COMPLIMENT…If anything, it reinforces a relationship!

So, when you are outreaching to potential employers – DON’T STOP after that first “No, sorry…we have no job openings.”  While an employer may not have a job opening right then, she might still want to help out in some way…Perhaps, conduct mock interviews with a job readiness group…Or meet with a job seeker, interested in conducting an informational interview…Or offer an internship or job shadowing opportunity…At the Open House, Kahler was asked about possibility of bringing a group of folks to tour his facility…he was game!

And the more mutually beneficial, the stronger the relationship!…When you hear about tax incentives or training subsidies, pass the information on to employers…Or offer assistance/resources on retention strategies, ADA regulations, reasonable accommodations, etc…

You never know when an employer will be looking and open to your services!

Through the Chamber Event, Baker and her staff not only strengthened relationship with Jim Kahler and learned more about Pre-Tech Precision Machining, they also made new connections…including a restaurant manager, a bottle redemption business owner and entrepreneur of a small woodworking business.

Baker added, “Before marketing an individual, be vigilant about truly understanding his strengths and talents…what he will bring to a position…That knowledge is so crucial if you are to be effective at opening doors to sustainable opportunities!  As Kahler explained,  “Adirondack Employment Opportunities is a great resource to us…They refer pre-screened individuals to us, which means we don’t have to review 30 resumes or interview 20 people for each position…What a great time-saver and service!”…a true partnership of two organizations clearly sharing the same goal…successful employment for referred individuals!

Written by Marsha Lazarus, MBA
Career/Workplace Coach and Trainer

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