A ‘Marathon’ Strategy Pays Off for Plant Manager

OpsLadder member Crista Stamper used her hobby as a runner to set the pace for her job search.


For Crista Stamper, finding a new position after being laid off became a marathon rather than a sprint. That’s why she turned to her long-time running hobby as inspiration. Like many job seekers her age, 50-year-old Stamper, a former chief quality officer for Birmingham, Ala.-based Heil Environmental, which manufactures refuse- and recycling-collection vehicles, had very little experience searching for employment.

“I’d never really looked for a job, and my job-hunting experiences were fairly limited,” she said. Stamper, a Michigan native, went to work for General Motors after college, and luck seemed to prevail each time she was ready to consider changing employers.

“There were a few positions I’d held after GM, one of which I got because I happened to pick up the Detroit Free Press and answer a want ad,” Stamper said. In another case, a recruiter she’d used to vet potential employees contacted her and offered her a position.

Setting the pace

This economy, however, presented new challenges for Stamper, and it wasn’t as easy to land even an interview, much less a job. First, Stamper said she reached out to former colleagues and recruiters but quickly realized that many of those recruiters didn’t have jobs to recommend. It was then she knew she’d have to take a different approach.

“This market is so treacherous. I’d never really been in the job market before, so I never had to develop any job-hunting skills!” she said. So Stamper, who has been an avid runner for 25 years, decided to fall back on her favorite activity for inspiration, and set a ”marathon” strategy. Each day, she followed a set job-search routine with the ultimate goal being two solid employment offers after two months.

“I was laid off in January, and I told myself, ‘I’m going to job search methodically every day. Before I run every morning, I’ll apply for three jobs, and then my run will be my reward,’ ” she said.

Hitting her stride

OpsLadder allowed Stamper to focus on operations jobs in plant management and afforded her the tools she needed to accurately track and follow up on the jobs she’d researched and applied for.

Stamper also signed up for Ladders’ e-mail alert service, which sent her fresh job leads that matched her criteria as they were posted on the site. She even participated in the complimentary resume-critique service.

The home stretch

Stamper reached her goal, garnering two solid job offers by the end of March 2009. She began her new position as plant manager for P & H Mining Equipment, a manufacturer of excavating and drilling machines headquartered in Milwaukee, on April 20. Even in a tumultuous economy, Stamper said the position is a step up from previous jobs, and it will allow her to further refine her management skills.

In the manufacturing industries, Stamper said, there are still plenty of opportunities for job seekers, even as the domestic automobile, food-processing and medical-supply manufacturing segments shrink.

“As high-volume automotive downsizes, there’s going to be a flood of folks with general skill sets available,” Stamper said. From her perspective, these workers just have to invest a little more energy into educating themselves on the nuances of specialty manufacturing industries to mine opportunities there.

“Specialty, low-volume but highly customized manufacturing is where the jobs are right now, and people need to sharpen and focus their skill-sets so they don’t get locked into one general area of manufacturing,” she advises.

She adds that even for job seekers with a generalized manufacturing background, even gaining a few specialized certifications can do wonders for people looking to develop skills in niche industries.

Crossing the finish line

In addition, Stamper said perseverance and a positive attitude are also crucial to a successful job search.

“I really think because I was so diligent and persistent that it made a huge difference,” she said. “You can’t be alive today and not know someone who’s been laid off, so you have to keep yourself positive in any interview, and make that a great first impression,” she said.