Behind the Front Lines (EMA – May 2, 2000): A Daily Journal of the Talent Warriors

They say that we should concentrate on the “road” itself not the “destination” – although I have no idea who “they” are. Heading out late Tuesday to the EMA Conference in Orlando, I found myself in a packed plane with at least one too many Mouseketeers and was thinking of trying to ignore this “road” for at least 3 hours by burying myself in the latest Grisham novel. You can make opportunity anywhere, though and I found myself sitting next to a personable systems engineer (not necessarily and oxymoron) from Dell and an opportunity too good to pass up. T, as I’ll call him, was 38 and finishing up his second year at Dell. Graduating from one of the better universities, he had worked in his first position eight years, then 4 years, then EDS for 2 and Perot Systems for 2 before Dell. T was in the field (Midwest) and managing an urban school system project that involved installing a network of 13,000 computers in 6 months, lots of applications and 170 schools. He was enthusiastic, articulate and clearly happy to be making a difference. “Hear much from headhunters as you approach your 2 year anniversary with Dell?” I asked. T laughed and described how 5 or more track him down each week. He quickly pointed out that the positives he found at Dell and the fact that he was pitching them to help him realize his dream of taking a leave of absence for 6 months to finish a Masters degree. He was hopeful to get it approved soon. I couldn’t help but think that if they didn’t, someone else wouldn’t miss a beat in stepping in the breach if they knew. I asked T does he answer any of the calls from the recruiters who track him down. “Only the one who put me in my first job” he an answered ” And he never calls to talk about openings only to ask about me and my family. Over the next two plus hours T shared how he manages his job, his career, and how he works the bonus referral system (which is his only reason to go online to network) to come up with 2-3 new hires a year to his credit. T also offered some interesting insights into schools while at least pretending to like to my suggestions about how he could get a bit more out of his career plans. I arrived in Orlando surprisingly refreshed, remembering how unique each relationship is and confident that Rule #1 (Follow the Job Seeker) will stand the test of time – online or off. If you are missing EMA, there is still time to get to Kennedy’s e-Cruiting Conference in Las Vegas, IDG’s Technical Recruiter Conference in Orlando, SHRM’s mega conference in Vegas (as well as several others). Good hunting!

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Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler are co-authors of CareerXroads and are internationally recognized as educators, consultants and practitioners. Learn more at


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