A mentor once told me that the key to finding success was understanding “who thinks of you and why”. I am reminded of this notion almost daily. This week, a reminder came in the form of a gathering held at the Historic Capitol Museum. The event was called “Tallahassee Welcomes U” – a reception organized in order to greet a new crop of university faculty into our community. The idea behind the event was to offer these folks a great first impression of Tallahassee so that when they talk to students about our hometown, they might speak more highly of us.
Tallahassee Welcomes U is the latest great idea from Lester Hutt. Lester is a community champion who has devised a number of wise schemes related to attracting highly skilled talent to Tallahassee. A few years ago, he worked with the Chamber to create the Tally Job Hop
– a tour of local companies that we offer to university students seeking internship opportunities. Lester has a knack for this because he does it for a living as a recruiter with his company, Diverse Computing
Much like the Tally Job Hop, Lester’s latest idea has the opportunity to generate some big dividends over time. If our professors have nice things to say about Tallahassee, then we raise the odds of their students hearing those nice things and forming their own positive opinions. Making a good impression with a new professor increases our chances of recruiting students to stay in Tallahassee. That is a system that can be replicated. It is a mechanism for creating scale in how we sell Tallahassee to the world.
What Lester gets is that our local faculty are often on the front lines of the effort to retain talent in Tallahassee. When students seek internships, job advice and other information, they ask their professors for guidance. In the past, we have discovered that not every faculty member held Tallahassee in high regard. In fact, there have been many who encourage students to seek opportunity elsewhere. That’s a problem. With programs like the Tally Job Hop and Tallahassee Welcomes U, we can create new and positive ways for faculty and students to think of Tallahassee.
There was much to be impressed by at the reception. Beyond the 200 new faculty coming to our community, I was thrilled to see such a large contingency of Chamber members and Annual Conference attendees in the crowd. This was especially pleasing considering we had just wrapped the conference 24 hours prior and still this dedicated group showed up to make a good impression.
To identify these folks and other local leaders, Lester and the event organizers created unique name badges for each of the “Tallahassee experts” in attendance. We were invited to mix and mingle with all of the new faculty members while talking about Tallahassee. With a sea of business owners, local leaders, civic minded citizens and other residents available, the faculty present could ask varied questions and make new friends as a means of getting to know their new home. Pretty cool stuff.
Tallahassee Welcomes U is exactly the kind of effort that our community must seek to create more of. Last year, the Chamber’s Community Study Committee found that “Reputational Risks” formed by headlines of crime, corruption, poverty and other pervasive problems were among the top challenges facing our future. That is because whether you are talking about recruiting students off of a university campus or a company from across the globe, the first impression is always a critical juncture in building a relationship. The google search matters. The stories we tell matter. Who thinks of us matters. If we are going to aim to bring in new droves of students, citizens, employees, companies and other investments into Tallahassee, we must be cognizant of how the world sees us. If we ever hope to change our future for the better, we need a lot more folks thinking and acting like Lester. It is all about who thinks of us and why.
“One thing that I am grateful about is that Tallahassee Welcomes U allowed me an opportunity to get to know more about what Tallahassee has to offer as well as make some life long friends.”
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