A blog by Randal Charlton from TechTown
Many years ago in another country and another recession, when I was broke and unemployed and had no idea what to do next, I started casting around for ideas. I knew it was no good to continue submitting resumes. I had tried that for more than six months and had gotten nowhere. I was either too old, under-qualified, over-qualified or simply received no response to my carefully crafted letters and delicately tweaked summaries of experience.
In desperation, I decided to go to a government office that was offering to help match skills sets to available opportunities. I made it to the door but somehow couldn’t summon the confidence to push it open. What was I going to tell them? That I had set up several companies, been the CEO of a public company, but was now so desperate I would work as a night watchman if the job was within walking distance? I turned on my heels and walked away.
Instead of relief at avoiding a possible awkward conversation – “tell me, how did you lose everything?” –I felt terrible that I didn’t have the courage to go through an open door. I realized that all the confidence I had ever possessed had drained out of me. I knew right then that if I didn’t summon the will to push every new door in my path open, I was on a journey to nowhere.
I was reminded of this brush with defeat last week when I attended the graduation ceremony of 17 talented executives, all high achievers, all victims of the recent downturn. They had just completed a course called Shifting Gears, at TechTown, sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
One by one the graduates came up to take the microphone and recounted their experiences in the Shifting Gears course in front of friends and other professionals. Their stories took on the tone of a religious event. They pretty much ignored years of achievement in big corporations managing hundreds of people and focused on the return of their confidence. One volunteered that his priorities had gotten out of whack; others admitted that they had stopped learning and lost the art of networking.
All heaped praise on the Shifting Gears program and the lessons the facilitators had provided to help them regain their confidence, hone their networking skills and reposition themselves for their next career.
Earlier on the same day I attended another event called BOOM! The Entrepreneurs, designed to help seniors – folks over 55 – figure out how they could fit into the new economy that is emerging in America. I had the same feeling: admiration for everyone who attended, including the guy who volunteered that he was broke, because he and everyone else had the guts to take the first step to push the door open on an unknown journey.
The plain fact is that there is a lot more help out there than you might think, and smart networking is the key to identifying the support that will work for you.
Much of that help is right under your nose in TechTown. For example, we have multiple organizations all offering advice and support to startup companies. These include Bizdom U, the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC), the Urban Entrepreneurs Partnership, and TechTown’s own THRIVE program. Just one of these services, the MI-SBTDC, provided advice to almost 7,000 businesses last year, helped create 566 new businesses and carried out more than 10,000 hours of training.
Push the door open, and you will find there is much more—opportunities for mentoring and internships whatever your age, help from the state through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and help from the federal government through multiple agencies including the Economic Development Administration, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development – the list goes on – all eager to support new people, new companies, new jobs and grow exports.
If you didn’t make it to either of last week’s events, you might be interested in just a few of the doors that were mentioned at the meetings. Any one of them may open a pathway to your new career.
- The First Friday networking event every month at TechTown from 4 to 6 p.m.
- Michigan Shifting Gears: training to help you identify your next career move
- InsYght: 26,000 resources available in Michigan
- Thetransitionnetwork.org: a support group for women over 50
- iBridge: thousands of new ideas available for license
- AutoHarvest: license technology from the auto industry
- MichBio: Michigan’s organization for people in the life science industry
- Small Business Administration: help for emerging businesses
- Export-Import Bank of the United States
- Urban Entrepreneurship Partnership–a Kauffman Foundation program in Detroit