This article was contributed by O&A Senior Consultant, Teresa Hundt, after her experiences at this year’s CorrExpo in Providence, RI.
For those of you that follow this newsletter regularly, you know that Roy and I went to TAPPI’s CorrExpo a few weeks ago. It was a very productive trip! Roy spoke as part of a seminar discussing the talent crisis looming over the corrugated industry, (thank you to everyone that came out for that!) and we were able to make lots of great connections, and put some faces to many voices that we’ve been speaking to for years. This is easily one of my favorite parts of my job.
The first thing I noticed about this CorrExpo – compared with last year’s SuperCorr – was the attendance was much lower for this year’s event. There are a variety of reasons for this obviously – that it was just a CorrExpo, not a SuperCorr, undoubtedly some economic factors for some, and location probably had an impact too.
Because last year’s event was so large, I felt like each time I started to really dig in and converse with someone, one of us would get pulled away and conversations would be left unfinished. This year, instead of faces being lost in the crowd and conversations being cut short, there was less crowdfighting, and more in-depth one-on-one conversations
Roy and I were able to really gain a better understanding of what companies in the industry are looking for – and give our perspectives on the challenges they face as they look for talent. And these conversations were great because it was an opportunity to really get to know the people behind the titles, and figure out how we can best be a resource for different parts of the industry.
And all of this in depth discussion and schmoozing with the industry reminded me of one very important thing – Networking is one of the most important things that most people in the industry aren’t doing.
This industry is a niche market. People tend to enter the industry and make it their home, and as dysfunctional as it can be at times, most people don’t leave the industry lightly. Because so many people join and stay in the industry, networking and building relationships is huge! I always tell people that this industry is like that game Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but a whole lot less than seven.
Networking goes beyond just talking to the people in your department and on your shift. Make a conscious effort to interact with every person you meet in the industry, from corporate big wigs to hourly operators and support staff, to the OEMs and vendors that are in your facilities every day.
For one thing, view everyone you meet by the potential they have, not by the position they hold today. For instance, that Converting Supervisor you nod to as you come on for your shift each evening, but have never had a conversation with? He could be running a facility someday. That Technician you ignored, or even berated for just doing his job? He could be the corporate engineer that decides whether or not your facility gets the capital projects money you want.
The idea that you don’t know who’s going to be in charge later isn’t the only reason networking is so important, either. While people don’t tend to leave the industry, they certainly move from company to company within the industry. Sometimes this is to move up the ladder, sometimes it’s for more money, and sometimes it’s just to get closer to home. Regardless of why, knowing people in other companies can be a huge opportunity if you ever find yourself out of work, or just looking for your next step. So get to know the people around you, and then stay in touch with them.
In 2017, between cell phones and sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with the people around you. Use the tools at your disposal, and maintain those relationships when people move on. The people in your network will often know of good opportunities for advancement, and/or be able to recommend you to hiring managers, and there’s often nothing better than a good internal reference.
Finally, on top of those two forward-thinking reasons, getting to know the people around your facility will make you better at your job. Understanding other departments, and how the things you do affect others down the line, will make you better, your team better, your plant better, and your company better.
So get to work a couple minutes early, and make time to get to know that Converting Supervisor. Shoot the breeze with the Maintenance Technician about the football game last night, or buy him a beer after work. These relationships could be invaluable to you later, and they’ll make work a little more enjoyable in the meantime.