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October 16, 2017
On the record

Carin Sychterz helps new hires and their families with their relocation needs

Photo / Jason Paige Smith
Photo / Jason Paige Smith
Carin Sychterz, director of Maine Career Connect, helps new hires and their families with their relocation needs.

The Bangor-based organization Maine Career Connect started in 2013 after, through surveys, the University of Maine found that 40% of faculty was considering departing due to lack of partner accommodation, family integration issues and difficulties connecting with others in the region. MCC, receiving fiscal sponsorship and networking support from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, seeks to solve those challenges by offering comprehensive services for newly recruited employees and their families, thus reducing employee turnover.

Carin Sychterz, who started as part-time director of Maine Career Connect in October 2015, has been instrumental in leveraging the organization's model for helping new hires and their families with their relocation needs and, as a result, achieving 100% retention of those new employees.

Sychterz was a trailing spouse herself, arriving in Maine in 2012. Her background includes nonprofit and business writing experience, and event planning and project development.

Mainebiz caught up with Sychterz between clients. Here's an edited transcript:

Mainebiz: What was your charge when you joined Maine Career Connect?

Carin Sychterz: I was tasked with expanding the organization. I continued to work with the University of Maine, and with other employers, like Penobscot Community Health Center, C&L Aviation and Emera. I've worked with approximately 50 new-hire families; and with Michelle Hale from the University of Maine I've been shepherding the organization's expansion to Portland, and possibly Waterville and Presque Isle.

MB: How does the service work?

CS: During an employer's pre-hire phase, I usually spend an hour talking with hires about life in the region or up to three hours giving a community tour to the potential employee. I ask, 'What's important for you?' If someone has children, schools are the No. 1 thing they're interested in, followed closely by neighborhoods. Once someone is hired, I work to locate the right living situation for them, helping to place them in a situation that meets their personal and family needs as well as their budget. Then it's little things — how to register their car, who provides their internet services? The third thing is helping partners find jobs. That's the most challenging piece, and one of the most important.

MB: Examples of job-related support?

CS: A client's wife took a university job. He has a diverse background, and you'd think he'd receive 15 job offers within the first month of moving to Bangor. But despite many conversations that I set him up with, he was having a hard time finding anything. He was about to go on the academic job market and I persisted, with the help of an active advisory committee. We took him to events and continued to set up meetings with more people, and now he has a full-time job and adjunct work at two universities.

MB: And non-job-related?

CS: The university hires a lot of international faculty, and most of the partners can't work right away due to visa requirements. The university has found those are the first faculty members to leave, because the partners are sitting bored at home. So I look for volunteering opportunities for them. Another international client was denied benefits until she secured a Social Security card, which takes many weeks. This just didn't seem right, so I made a few calls and things were settled quickly. I have another couple whose parents were coming to visit. 'What should I do with my parents?' 'Well, here are some activities and places to visit.' It's those little things, during that first year, that are crucial to retention, that make them feel connected to the community, and then they want to stay. I tell clients, 'Here's my cell phone number: Call me anytime.'

MB: What's the potential for expanding the service?

CS: Any organization that is relocating people to the state needs these services, because anyone who's coming here, who isn't from here or doesn't have family here, needs to feel connected. Connected people care about their communities and the people around them. They work hard to make their community and our state the best place to work and live.

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