Currently serving as the Communications Director at The Delaware State Republican Committee, Laurie Bick is a self-described “marketing athlete,” with vast experience utilizing both traditional and social media to get the word out in her career, and about the things she believes in. Those skills made her the perfect person to serve as the director of Community Matters, a networking group created to help match the business needs of employers with the skills of professional members seeking employment.
We recently had a chance to reach out to Laurie and talk with her about the organization.
OR: Can you describe Community Matters for those who aren’t familiar with it?
Community Matters Networking is a. Our offerings include resume writing, interview skills, negotiation skills, personal image consultation and the creation of 10 to 15 second positioning statements to enhance networking skills. Recognized by the Delaware Department of Labor as well as local and regional media for our work, we continue to reach out to job seekers, networkers and companies alike to successfully connect business needs with highly skilled professional talent within our membership. We also have a discussion group on LinkedIn for those that would like to join in.
OR: How did the group get started?
In early 2009, two members of the Hockessin Baptist Church, Ken Grant and Bill Bartow, wanted to do something to help as they noted the extraordinary number of people who had been or were being laid off in northern Delaware. They sent out notification of a meeting they were holding at the church primarily for people who were out of work and included businesses, business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone who wanted to or felt they could be of help to those who lost jobs as the Recession was taking a strangle hold on our region.
So, on a cold February night in the church’s activity room, Ken stood up, introduced Bill, and launched the idea of forming a self-directed group that would support each member’s job search. By the time the meeting ended nearly 2 hours later, the group elected Rodney Jordan, sales director at a local print company, chairman and agreed to start meeting every Friday morning in the same room at Hockessin Baptist.
OR: What are the goals of the group?
Community Matters draws unemployed and underemployed people in northern Delaware, extreme southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey and provides a supportive place to meet each week so they connect with job search resources both inside and outside the group. It also provides valuable skill building and development of interpersonal and social networking skills that enable contact with potential employers.
OR: How does Community Matters connect job providers with job seekers?
In the beginning, we were fortunate in having several recruiting firms and area company HR managers attend our meetings, which cover everything from how to put together a resume to how to create a LinkedIn page to how to follow up on an interview. Friday mornings, however, proved difficult for them since it impeded the last work day of the week, and we watched their actual attendance decline.
So, in addition to traditional job search techniques and practices, we also introduced the use of social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to network for job opportunities and create a solid network for each person to work with. This seems to act as a connection amplifier for those who have embraced the use of social networks.
OR: What have been the program’s biggest successes so far?
One particularly gratifying challenge was when one member of the group was preparing for a third round interview opportunity at Agilent Technologies, a global technology company. Alison’s 11 years of experience prior to being laid off were as a training professional in a large real estate firm. While the first two rounds of interviews had gone well to get her to the third and final round, she reached out to me for help in creating the mock training presentation she was to give to a panel consisting of two decision makers and 3 influencers. This panel would make the ultimate decision as to whether or not she would get the training job for which she had applied.
I was happy to put my PowerPoint skills to work for my friend and provided her with an illustrated presentation to which she put her own script. When she went to the panel interview, she started the training presentation, and before she got half way through, the hiring manager on the panel interrupted the presentation and began asking question after question. Alison informed me later that she never did finish the presentation. She received an offer for the position the next day.
I was also able to help Alison in her negotiations for the position, the end result of which found her successful in gaining an additional $5,000 to her salary.
OR: What are the biggest challenges the group faces?
The biggest challenge is finding someone committed to helping others in transition to take on the role of director and continue the group when the time comes that I can no longer do it. The group is relevant; it provides a safe place for local job seekers to learn new job search skills and to vent the accompanying frustration that goes along with being unemployed over a long period of time. But unless someone is willing to maintain the group with a space to meet on a regular basis with appropriate speakers and resources to help the group, I doubt it will continue.
OR: How did you get involved with Community Matters?
I had recently left DuPont when I attended the first meeting in February, 2009. I met Ken Grant, Bill Barto (the founders) and Rodney Jordan (who became chairman) at that meeting and decided I would gain a lot of contacts if I kept coming back. It was not the first time I had lost a job, but I was in a different state, having relocated to Delaware from Pennsylvania for DuPont, and those contacts were important if I was to be successful in my own job search. I kept volunteering good information in the group meeting and made good contacts over the next few months that I was able to make connections for others in the group as well as for myself. Ken and Rodney approached me and asked if I would take on the role of Volunteer Director of the group. When I accepted, I ran each meeting either on my own with a job search topic of interest or, whenever possible, with an outside expert or resource that would help keep the members informed on the latest tools and job search/interviewing techniques. I’ve been in the role for 3 years.
OR: What made you want to give your time to help other people get jobs?
I usually prefer to “give before you get,” meaning that it gave me a purpose and a place to be every week every bit as much as the other members of the group … but because this was not the first time I had been in job search (as it was for the majority of attendees), I had a lot of knowledge to share that was ultimately helpful for others to hear about. I also found it helpful for my own self-esteem to assist others even as I searched for a position for myself.
Photo by Ken Grant.