In a competitive job market, securing the right position often requires a combination of patience and persistence. This is especially true in Ann Arbor, with its wealth of opportunities and extensive talent pool. In 2021, Ann Arbor was ranked the most educated city in the country — just one of the qualities that make the city a desirable location for job seekers and graduates. Curated events that connect companies to the broader community often provide direct connections between job seekers and hiring companies. For Ann Arbor SPARK marketing and communications associate Kayla Oderah, the 2020 virtual A2 Tech Trek’s Job Seeker Trek, part of a2Tech360, did exactly this.
Kayla is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and came to Michigan in the fall of 2015 to pursue her master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Michigan School of Music Theatre and Dance. Though formally trained as a classical musician in opera music, she developed experience in marketing and communications throughout her collegiate career with arts organizations and as a blogger.
After graduation, Kayla moved abroad living in Germany and then Ghana. Though living abroad offered a wealth of enriching experiences, she knew that she and her husband would eventually return to Michigan after completing an international job contract. “The Ann Arbor region is rich in both culture and opportunity, so I knew that it would be a soft-landing place for me and my husband upon returning to the U.S. With academic and professional roots in the area, moving back seemed like a no-brainer for us,” said Kayla.
For Kayla, actualizing a job in the U.S. was no small task. Transitioning back into the American job market required a unique approach since she was navigating the application process from Accra, Ghana. Corresponding with companies and team managers virtually was a unique challenge due to the five-hour time difference. “I’d see positions getting filled in a short timeframe on LinkedIn, so I realized that the job market was a competitive one. Taking the traditional route and submitting cold resumes wasn’t a sure-fire approach, especially since I was living abroad and didn’t have the luxury of being in Ann Arbor for in-person interviews. Restrategizing by reaching out to employers more directly was a way to get my foot in the door and the Job Seeker Trek offered the perfect opportunity to do so,” she explained.
By following up on an initial job posting she saw on Indeed, Kayla was able to network and speak directly with the director of marketing at SPARK concerning the open position while participating in the Job Seeker Trek. “Applying for jobs can often feel like you’re throwing a dart at a moving target. Tech Trek’s Job Seeker Trek not only provides transparency and access to hiring staff at leading companies, it also provides the opportunity to make a personal connection. There’s value in allowing companies to put a face with a name,” she said. “Attending Tech Trek gave me the peace of mind that I wouldn’t just be a number in a sea of applicants. I had the chance to make an impression and speak to staff in a more casual setting.”
Job Seeker Trek is just one of the numerous resources SPARK provides to job seekers. Additional resources like Tech Homecoming, the monthly talent newsletter, and the job board on the SPARK website can assist applicants in their search process. “Because I was subscribed to the Ann Arbor SPARK talent newsletter, I was getting regular updates about Teck Trek and important events happening in the area,” Kayla explained. “Both the newsletter and the website played an integral role in helping me land my current position and in making my move back to Ann Arbor a reality.”