Connectors Program Helps Newcomers Build their Networks

Last October, Global Detroit launched the Cultural Ambassadors Connectors Program, which connects area newcomers looking to enhance their careers to established professionals that can help them grow their business networks.

The program is heavily rooted in the fact that the majority of job openings (most estimates put this number at 80 percent) can only be found through the “hidden job market,” meaning they’re never publicly posted. Securing employment is all too often about “Who you know,” and newcomers to a region and its local workforce typically have small personal networks and even smaller business networks. Until one finds a job in the right field, integrating oneself into that field’s inner circle of professionals can feel, and be, nearly impossible.

The Connector Program aims to build a bridge between those individuals struggling to land the job that is right for them and the people that can help. Global Detroit recruits both area ‘Connectors’ and participants looking to get connected, and asks that the two matched individuals find time to meet once for 30 minutes so the ‘Connector’ can provide the participant with guidance and insights and a referral to three more professionals.

To launch the program, we partnered with Upwardly Global, an organization that provides job readiness training to high-skilled immigrants and refugees looking to reconnect with their careers in the United States. We matched 16 of these immigrant professionals with ‘Connector’ professionals in their same industry, introduced them virtually, and the rest was up to them.

CA Kevin Art copyOne of those connections was between Kevin Taylor and Artham Shadda. Kevin is a seasoned engineer working as a marketing professional for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He is an active member of the community in which he lives, as well as professional engineering networks throughout southeast Michigan. With 10 years of experience, he knows large numbers of area businesspeople. In addition, he is a globally-minded individual who originally reached out to Global Detroit a few years back to see how he could play a role in helping to internationalize the region.

Artham is an Iraqi immigrant who has lived in the region for nearly ten years. He was a professional electrical engineer in Iraq, recently earned his Master’s of Electrical Engineering at Oakland University, and completed Upwardly Global’s Job Seeker Services Program. Despite his credentials and determination, Artham has struggled to secure meaningful employment in his field and has been working in survival jobs for the better part of the last decade.

The Connectors Program virtually introduced them last October, and the two met over coffee. Art asked questions and Kevin provided guidance. Art was primarily applying for jobs through recruiters and online postings, and Kevin quickly identified his need to make connections in the engineering field. He suggested Art accompany him to IEEE and other networking events. Since, Art has joined Kevin at multiple different events and met dozens of professionals.

Art feels more hopeful since Kevin has helped him to grow his business networks. “Participating in the Connectors Program not only helped me identify new opportunities to network and meet other engineers, it also, through conversations with my Connector, provided me with valuable insights into the intricacies of the job search in the United States. My Connector Kevin helped me understand new ways of talking about my experiences and helped me refine my ‘elevator pitch’ so that I can now more effectively and confidently explain why I am the best candidate for the job.”

True value exists in having someone to talk to who knows the industry and market; there is only so much you can gather online. ‘Connectors’ like Kevin are able to use their experiences both as a job seeker and as an employee to provide guidance they wish they’d had when they started out. “It’s not every day I get the opportunity to help someone find a good job and help to prepare them for their future – I couldn’t pass this up.”

Some of the less tangible value the program provides newcomers is being able to attend events with someone else. Networking can be exhausting. Even if you’ve studied what to say or not to say, it can be nerve-wracking to approach a group of people already engaged in conversation and comfortably and gracefully insert yourself.

Art agrees. “Attending networking events as a job seeker can be awkward. I’m not eager to tell people I’m looking for a job. Even more so, I don’t like to ask them to keep me in mind for openings, all while trying to make a good impression. Having a friend to circle the room with made me feel much more relaxed, and Kevin was a great wing man.”

Kevin added, “I was able to introduce Art to the people in the room that are in his same field and professionals I thought he should talk to, instead of his going in blind. I think I helped him feel more comfortable and at ease, and we all know that shows.”

Global Detroit is grateful for people like Kevin, who not only joined the program, but went above and beyond, and he continues to look for opportunities for Art months after their program commitment concluded.

Kevin is looking forward to his next connection through the program. “I love connecting with people from around the world and welcoming them to Michigan.”

Do you want to be our next Cultural Ambassador? Sign up here today!

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