It has been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and piece a blog together. I know I promised myself I would blog once a week when I picked it back up, but you know…life happens. And it has been happening to me.
I’m so pleased to finally be able to share some good news in my life. As of July 10th, I completed my Advance Professional Diploma in Project Management and Leadership through Shaw Academy. This was something I started in April and I’m so proud of myself for finishing strong. I passed all four modules with a 95% or higher.
On top of this accomplishment, I found a JOB (insert happy dance here) — A good one, too! So today, I want to share the details of that experience because it totally took me be surprise in all the best ways possible. I never would have seen this coming.
If you’ve been following my blogs during this pandemic, many of you know I have been unemployed since late March. I have had my fair share of interviews, close calls, hiring freezes, being ignored, and full on rejection these last few months. Job hunting during a pandemic is not for the weak of heart. My email is constantly flooded with different job boards telling me what positions are available. I probably have applied to 10 or more a day since becoming unemployed.
Many of the available jobs require doing way more work for way less money than I was making before. Some of them are requiring a college degree to do basic administrative work. I never completed my college degree and I consider myself an excellent and talented administrator. What shocks me is that after they require a college degree as a condition of hire, they only want to pay $14-$18 an hour. 4 years of college for a $36,000 a year job seems SO out of alignment to me. And to top it all off, of those jobs that you ARE qualified for, you are either deemed OVER qualified by the prospective employer or passed over entirely due to a variety of factors — someone is more qualified than you; an over saturated market FULL of competent job seekers; or someone else is willing to accept a lower rate of pay than you are.
So, it’s been challenging to the say the least.
One day I was checking my emails and noticed I had received an invitation to apply for a Director of Human Resources position in an industry that I would have never given a second glace to – a dental lab. At first I thought “Why on earth would a dental lab be interested in me?” and then I thought “What the hell? What do I have to lose?”. So, I applied.
The next day I received a call asking to come in for an interview the following day (a Thursday). I accepted the interview and then took some time to review the company website. Wow. I was seriously blown away. In my leadership course, I really learned the importance of having established company values, purpose, mission, and culture — and this place had it all. On their home page, you could clearly see their organizational values scrolling across the screen. You couldn’t miss them, and I mean they were AWESOME. They were clear and well thought out. Their “About Us” story was also incredible – A real Jerry Maguire story with a timeline that clearly showed their business growth since their inception. It was impressive. Needless to say, I started to get excited about this company and couldn’t wait to learn more.
Two days later, I found myself showing up to in an in-person interview. Now, please keep in mind that my family has been social distancing and basically continuing to quarantine since this all started so having an in-person interview spiked my anxiety a bit. However, after reading up on the company, I was more excited than anxious at this point.
I headed to the interview and was pleased to discover they were located only 15 minutes from my house and that I did not have to travel on toll roads to get there. This alone was going to save me a ton of money on gas, tolls, and wear and tear on my vehicle. My previous position was an hour drive for me each way on toll roads. I pulled into the parking lot of a 14,000 square foot building and this dental lab occupied it ALL.
As the COVID-19 cases continue to linger in astronomical numbers here in Florida, a million questions ran through my mind. Was it smart to get a job where I’d need to be in an office with other people? Would they be taking proper safety precautions? There was/is a mask mandate in our county. Would they be adhering to that? Would they judge me for wearing a mask? With such a political divide in our country over wearing a stupid piece of cloth to help protect each other from getting sick, I had no idea what to expect.
Let me say that I was beyond impressed with how they handled themselves regarding this pandemic and these crazy times. I was told to arrive ten minutes early and call them from my car to let them know I had arrived. I would then wait for a return call which would happen after they sanitized the meeting area. When I came up (in my mask) there would be a hand sanitizing station at the door AND masks provided if I did not have one. When I walked into the building, I was seated more than 6 ft away from one of the owners and the acting HR Director. I noticed every employee I saw walking through the building was also wearing a mask. I exhaled. I felt safe as I waited for the interview to start.
When the owner of the company began to talk to me and tell his story, I was stunned. EVERYTHING I had just learned in my Project Management and Leadership course seemed to be personified right in front of me. He was a storyteller who was BIG on hard work, trust, integrity, adhering to the established company values, and rewarding his employees when their hard work had a positive impact on the business. And when I say reward, I mean in big ways — the kind of rewards that employees dream about. He was clearly passionate and he shared my passion about leadership and employee development, growth strategies, and company culture. I swear, it felt like I spent the last three and a half months manifesting this guy.
I finally asked him what it was about my resume that caught his attention in this over saturated market, and he was able to clearly point out all the things that drew him to me. Then, he reciprocated by asking me why I agreed to come into a dental lab for an interview. My answer was simple. “The values I saw clearly displayed on your website. THIS is a company I can get behind.”
When the interview was over, I was invited to come back the following Tuesday to sit in on and audit their new hire orientation. They wanted my input and to have further conversations about this opportunity once I learned more about the company. An interesting second interview, right? They told me I should expect to spend about three hours there on Tuesday and I was honestly excited to return.
When Tuesday rolled around, I showed up early and eager to absorb all the new information and offer my constructive feedback along the way. The three hours I was scheduled to visit with them turned into six hours. At the end of my time there, I sat with the owner in his office (six feet away) and we had a personal chat — a heart to heart — a discussion about leadership and growing people. We talked about integrity and trust as well as honesty and expectations. We discussed how important it was to be authentic and what that looks like. We talked about our flaws and what gets in our way.
After a small pause, he asked me how long I thought I would need to get things up and running and start bringing HR to the next level. I thought for a moment and said, “I think without really diving in yet — about six months.” He then asked me what I thought a fair salary would be for the role. I told him. At the end of the conversation, he offered me the job…at the salary I requested with the promise to make a great deal more once I reach that six month mark and hit my departmental goals — and make no mistake… I WILL do it. Challenge accepted. He offered me a role with plenty of challenges and opportunities to grow and develop employees as well as the leadership team — and equally as important — to grow and develop myself as well.
I would start the following Tuesday.
When I left there, I felt like I was walking on a cloud. I made my way back to my car and called my wife. She had been waiting to hear from me all day — both of us expecting me to only be three hours but feeling like the six-hour day was a good sign.
I just finished my first week on the job and I have learned everything from how dentures, crowns, and bridges are made (from start to finish) — to the digital designs of those items — to 3D printing (which is INSANELY cool). I sat through a basic orientation, learned a new language in two days, and took a quiz. I spent time with each department and each workstation in the lab getting to know the employees and the work itself. And of course, I spent time with the current HR Director learning what she does from day to day.
One of my first projects was to create a career development library – a check in and check out system where we can track who has read what books as we try and grow our people. My new boss has been busy buying up a physical library of leadership and professional growth books written by a variety of fantastic authors — people like John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, and John Kotter (all people I studied in my leadership course) to name a few. I am excited to say that I have already completed this project and look forward to sharing the library system with my leadership team.
So, what’s the lesson learned here? Sometimes you seek out your dream job…and sometimes your dream job seeks YOU out. I never would have thought to see myself working in a dental lab but here I am — excited every day about the information I’m learning, the culture in which I work, the projects I’m going to get to do, and the people I’m going to do them with. The fringe benefits and the payoff for hard workers who produce are something out of a dream. I am anxious to share what I know I bring to an already well decorated table.