My French Connection

Paris City Photo

Photo Credit: Suzanne Gillen

The following is a guest post from our very own consultant, Jon Barron. Without further ado…

I had less than a year of experience working in executive search when my boss emailed me along with every other Associate at our company, asking if anyone spoke French. My interest was piqued, as I had been studying French from the ripe age of twelve. More recently, I had made multiple French speaking friends abroad while traveling. I always enjoyed testing my conversation skills and really felt they were better after several drinks. I was young and trying to set myself apart from the rest of the entry level Associates, so I felt bold enough to walk down to my boss’ office and offer a hand. This ended up being one of the best career decisions I have ever made and it opened up doors for opportunities that I had only dreamed about until then.

There was a new assignment that had just come in and my company needed someone who could call into automotive factories in France and look for Plant Managers. Our client was a well-known automation company that made parts for cars and they were looking for someone to manage several sites in a region a couple hours southwest of Paris. “Start calling, let me know what you can come up with,” I was told after a brief overview of the details of the role and company.

I had no idea where to begin. What do I do? Who can I call? Has anyone else called French companies like this before? There were no other names in the database; I had nowhere to start. Can I actually speak French well enough to make this work? I started to second guess if I could even start this assignment, but knew I couldn’t walk back into my boss’ office and tell her that. For a little while I panicked and thought I was destined for failure, that I never should have taken that walk down the hall and volunteered for this. I thought about giving up…but I knew that at the very least I had to give it a try.

I reached out to a colleague in the Netherlands who taught me how to find specific phone numbers for manufacturing plants in France. I started coming in excessively early to call Europe; lo and behold the French came back to me like riding a bike! I was meeting people, being introduced to their coworkers and I started receiving resumes of qualified candidates. It was working! I was ecstatic and felt great about the people I was bringing forward. The senior consultant paired with me was happy and so was the client. Eventually the position was filled and my boss told me we had a new long term client because of my efforts and that I had done a great job. A few months later she asked me if I wanted to work in our European headquarters, which I had been chosen for, exclusively because I had volunteered for the search in France. It was the greatest thing I could have asked for and at the time I had never felt more fulfilled in my career.

All it took was a leap of faith and belief in myself. I stopped second guessing my ability and instead when asked to do something, I would just do it and learn on my feet. Of course there have been times that I’ve failed but for the times that I tried, my efforts opened up doors and led me to where I am in my life right now.

Learn more about Jon here.

Jon Barron
Gaines International | Allen Austin
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