Craig Bodkin, an IT director in Wisconsin, built a professional network the hard way before he realized he was already married to the best contact he needed.
We all know the best professional connections are people who work for your ideal company already. But what we forget is that they may not be strangers.
One thing job seekers overlook is the connections they already have.
Craig Bodkin, a director of Information Technology, in Green Bay, Wis., initially overlooked an ideal insider: his wife.
In June, Bodkin was laid off from his position as director of communications technology at Schneider National, a trucking company, in Green Bay. He immediately went to work looking for a job. He signed up for TechnologyLadder, worked with an outplacement firm to update his resume and considered relocating with his family.
As he and his wife discussed potential life changes, he never thought to ask her if she knew about any opportunities within her company.
“She had been working as a part-time online instructor for ITT Educational Services (which owns and operates postsecondary schools providing technology degrees) for several years,” he said. “But I didn’t know anyone from ITT, and never paid much attention to what she did there,” he said, laughing. “We didn’t do the same job, so I didn’t consider her a networking resource.”
While he wasn’t willing to move to California or the Northeast, he was willing to consider any available industry. “I’ve worked in several different areas, including software development, education; I’ve been doing this for over 24 years. So, there was no reason for me to limit myself.”
He sorted through hundreds of IT director jobs on TechnologyLadder and ultimately applied to 70. “About four came back and said, ‘Let’s talk.’ Two of them were serious,” Bodkin recalled. One of the companies was the ITT Educational Services branch in Carmel, Ind., outside Indianapolis — about six hours from their Green Bay home.
He sent his resume to ITT at the end of September.
Connecting the dots
Anticipating the Carmel, Ind., job, he and his wife asked college friends who lived in the Indianapolis area about the local housing market and the economy. “My friend mentioned that he knew someone who worked at the company (ITT),” Bodkin said. “So he had my resume forwarded to the hiring manager via his friend.”
That’s when it occurred to his wife that she could use her connections within the company, too. Through her contacts at ITT, she had his resume forwarded to the same hiring manager.
Those virtual connections put Bodkin at the head of the hiring manager’s list. “Things happened incredibly fast,” he said. ITT had created a new position for a director of IT operations, and “they were excited about this role and the opportunities it presented to the IT organization. They just seemed to have it together; they knew what they wanted and were going after it.”
All of that appealed to Bodkin. “They were very decisive; every day the company was contacting me as things moved along.”
He was especially excited about the fact that it was a new role within the company. “It gives you the opportunity to develop the position, the role and the company’s process, all those things I’m interested in. Plus, it’s in the education field, and I’d been in that area before.”
By October 26, Bodkin was at his new desk at ITT, coordinating the support management and project management teams in the IT organization.
He’s living in temporary housing while his wife and three of their four children, ages seven, 10 and 13, prepare to join him. The couple also has an older daughter, already living on her own at college.
“(Moving is) part of my background,” he said. While they lived in Green Bay for the past seven years, before that, they had moved around quite a bit. “I was in the Navy, so we made some major moves in the past. We know what this is about, and we knew we had the ability to do it.
“If I hadn’t been willing to move from Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have had as many jobs to apply to, and I don’t know when I would have had an interview,” he said.
In the end it was Bodkin’s willingness to relocate and the connections he almost missed were the keys to winning the interview and the job.