Hired! Steering Away from the Auto Industry Crisis

Platform manager leaves Detroit’s auto industry and lands director of quality job in Missouri.


With the auto industry going through drastic changes, Will Scruggs knew it was time to start thinking about how his skills as a manager at an auto components company would transfer to a new industry. He also knew that he might have to take those skills outside the Detroit area.

While he enjoyed his job as a platform manager at International Automotive Component near Detroit, the OpsLadder member said his wife and he had already talked about relocating for a job if the right opportunity came along. “That way it wouldn’t be such a deep soul search for us. We would have already talked about it,” he said. “I think when you are looking for a job, you need to think about relocation as part of the process.”

“My wife is a pharmacist, so her job is portable,” Scruggs said. “Knowing that helped us feel good about moving to a different part of the country.”

The decision to leave the automotive industry was based on “a lot of little things happening that, taken together, pushed me to start looking around,” he said. “Last September, I was directly tied with Chrysler, and there was a lot of downsizing there. Car sales were getting worse and worse. I needed to do something different; not go back to school, but look at other industries and other companies where there would be opportunities,” he said.

Scruggs’ search was twofold: One, he was looking at other regions of the country to which his family would be willing to relocate, and two, he was looking at jobs based on his skill set, not his industry. “It wasn’t easy to go about,” he said. “I looked at several hundred job postings before I found jobs that I was interested in, that were located in areas of the country we felt we could move to. I saw a lot of postings that were related to the automotive field, and I did not want to go back to that.”

Scruggs was sure of one other thing: He needed help re-writing his resume, so he had a professional service do it. “I went to a technical school, so I didn’t have to write,” he joked. “The way they described me to me, they used adjectives that I haven’t used since I was studying for the SATs. It was updated, concise, professional, and I immediately said, ‘That’s money well-spent.’ ”

Switching industries
By mid-October, armed with a new resume and a better idea of the job landscape, Scruggs was ready to go into full job-search mode. Still, he was very selective. If he saw a posting he liked, he would do a search on the company and decide if it was worth sending a resume to. “I was using all the tools that were available to find out more about these companies,” he said. “There were a lot of postings that I thought I was qualified for, but after researching the companies, decided not to apply. A lot of them were tied to the automotive industry, and I didn’t want to stay with it.

“I did enjoy my job,” he said, and if it weren’t for what he sees happening in the auto industry, he wouldn’t be looking to leave. Ironically, he said, about the time he started posting resumes he was moved to another program at his company, where there was a growth path. “But it was limited,” he said. “It was not enough in this economy.”

So Scruggs continued posting resumes, and in the end applied for five jobs at companies located in Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri. By late December, his membership at Ladders had resulted in a phone interview with DTMP, a heavy-equipment manufacturing company in Lebanon, Mo. In mid-February, he was flown to its headquarters for an in-person interview, and by early March, he was hired.

In his new position, as director of quality and engineering, he’ll be performing many of the same tasks he did in his previous position, while adding some aspects of manufacturing quality. “It’s a significantly smaller company,” he said. “But it has good growth potential, more potential for experience. It’s what I like to do: planning and management. I think it will be an easy transition. We will be designing parts and making parts, and instead of going on a car, they will go on a tractor or a combine.”

It’s personal
There was a bonus to taking this job, Scruggs said; In Missouri, he will be moving closer to his parents. “It was a factor in choosing this job,” he said. It was something that had been on his mind, he said; he thought about his parents getting older and more support from family. Scruggs said he knows of other people that have had to move because of a medical emergency, and he’s glad that with this move, he’s now close enough that he won’t be put in that position. “We’re moving on our own terms, not because of a situation that would force us to scramble,” he said.

Being proactive about his work and personal life has put him in a place where he said he feels comfortable in an uneasy economy. “People outside of southeast Michigan cannot even imagine how bad it is [in the Detroit area],” he said. “It’s a difficult atmosphere here; unemployment is at 11 percent, and it’s personal. You go to a Cub Scout meeting, and two of the 12 dads don’t have jobs. Some people are tied to the area. I’m glad I am able to leave on my own terms.”