Dear COVID: Thank you for bringing my recruitment agency to the next level.
I hope you don’t find yourself well by the time you read this letter.
Don’t take me wrong, but I’ve known you for the last 10 months since your first appearance in my border town when you turned our world upside-down.
But to be fair, you also made us stronger.
You do not know me, at least not yet. Or probably you already did, and I didn’t notice because I could be one of the lucky asymptomatic ones. In case you haven’t visited me before, my name is Ines Velasco.
I am the president of Sigma Solutions, a recruitment agency in Ciudad Juarez, MX – the sixth-largest city in Mexico. On the border with El Paso, Texas, the lone-star state. These are considered sister cities despite how they come from different countries.
I know you don’t care where I live. Or if I’m Latin, African-American, tall, short, poor, or wealthy. You are pretty democratic and you like to meet and greet everybody no matter religion, sex or nationality, but I’ll nevertheless introduce myself:
I am Mexican, married, a mother of three, and even though I studied Industrial Engineering I found that recruitment is my passion. I love to talk to people and to be in touch with them. We have that in common.
You’re probably thinking “So? what does it have to do with me?”
Well, thanks to you, my mindset has changed. A lot.
I’ve been an independent recruiter for four years. Mostly with customers in the manufacturing industry (did I mention the sister cities are highly industrial?). Up until March 2020, I was just thinking about how to grow by word of mouth recommendations.
I liked to talk to people face to face during networking events. Eventually visiting a couple of companies to offer my services, which is as far as prospecting efforts went. My web page was nice but not updated, Sigma Solutions only offer recruiting services for the manufacturing industry and from time to time I was exporting professional talent to the US through visa TN1.
Suddenly, you appeared in our lives like a hurricane! The US embassy was closed for visas. Network events were canceled. No more in-person visits to customers and no more face to face interviews. As with every unusual situation, we all had two options: fly or fight!
But how to fight with you if you are almost invisible and present everywhere?
That is when I found I had to fight with myself, with my old ways of doing things. I started to see how the business had to go digital. Not only mine but most of them. This is when I was presented with the opportunity to hire a digital marketing agency to help me grow my business and move away from the old methods that would not bring new customers…
Probably you already know that developed countries were communicating through apps and platforms and tons of gadgets before you were born. However, in a developing country like Mexico that was not so common.
So here we go, starting to use terms like “copy” in social media, SEO, Google AdWords, web page optimization, chatbots, platforms like Mailchimp for digital campaigns, or Slack to communicate between remote teams. And even starting to promote my business on my personal Facebook! (Which I never gave thought to before.)
And I found that leaders and employees were as confused and uncertain as I was, but at the same time trying to innovate as well.
For example, branding became more important than ever for companies. No matter what service or product they provide.
You can’t have any more networking events, job fairs, or “meet up” events unless they are digital, at least not like the “old days.” All you have now is your digital presence and the way to bring valuable content to your audience. Because, you must be -and look- like an expert in your area. On the other hand, people looking for a job started to create impressive personal branding strategies that I have never seen before to obtain companies’ attention.
I can see you are now scratching your corona and wondering, “But again, could you explain what all of this has to do with me?”
Well, thanks to you I had to reinvent Sigma Solutions through a new concept. Offering new services such as convenient recruitment packages according to customer needs. Or, training for desperate hiring managers who were trying to learn how to interview candidates (and not kill them in the process) when recruitment for the manufacturing industry was almost gone.
I had to start speaking in webinars, researching trends in job markets, understanding how my customers were thinking, and offering them my help in times of uncertainty. If it were not for you, I would be attending local network events with 20 people instead of organizing webinars with attendees from all over Mexico.
Thanks to you I have a well-structured company with great collaborators that are happy working from home, one of them just had a baby. My web page looks better than ever with a friendly chatbot ready to help.
But of course, not everything is sweet.
There are a lot of challenges for 2021, figuring out ways to get used to this “new reality,” (such as how to cope with uncertainty, use our soft skills as strategic chess pieces, learn how to upskill and reskill in our careers, etc,) but again, you transformed our world with its ups and downs, and forced us to be creative, innovative, and think outside of our comfort zone.
So, with that honest “thank you” being said, can you just go and disappear from our lives now?
I miss the piñatas and family gatherings on Sundays. I miss hugging my friends and receiving a candidate with a firm handshake. These things will never be the same through Zoom.
Sorry, did you say something? You’re on mute.
Not yours truly at all,