Working Towards Win/Win Solutions in Community Affairs Jobs

John Seese, Manager of Community Affairs and Programs, Adolph Coors Company

The concept of "corporate social responsibility" has been widely discussed in recent years. Interestingly, while this concept has received a great deal of attention, in some circles the idea that a corporation has a "social responsibility" beyond operating within the law is openly debated. But most people today would probably agree that if only for self serving reasons a corporation should make an effort to work in the local community and with its neighbors. Typically, the operating division within a company given responsibility to manage this effort is called either community affairs or community relations.

An increasing number of special interest groups are attempting to influence corporate decisions regarding hiring, purchasing, facility expansion, and resources available for community use, among others. Decisions in these areas may impact the community either positively or negatively. And the corporations expect fair treatment from the local communities, as well.

The result of this interaction is a mutual dependency: What is beneficial for the corporation is often beneficial to its neighbors, though there are certainly times and situations when real or perceived differences exist between the objectives or plans of a corporation and the wants or desires of its neighbors.

For example, a company may have plans for physical expansion of its facilities, which would require using property currently used by the community as a park. On the surface, this certainly appears to be an area of conflict between the company and its community. But until all the effects of the expansion are calculated, it's not at all clear that a conflict even exists. Once all the effects are factored in, both the company and the community may end up better off. For instance, the plant expansion, while removing the recreational use of this property, may provide more jobs, more local purchases, and more taxes.

The end result of the company's growth may not be a conflict at all instead, an improved and larger park may be built as the result of the healthier economic environment produced by that expansion.

Another factor bringing a corporation and its neighbors closer together is the changing role of the federal government. In the 1980s, federal aid to community agencies has been drastically reduced, forcing many to become increasingly dependent upon corporate America to provide the resources necessary for their existence. This dependency has led to a pronounced effort by a number of community agencies and organizations to establish and maintain lines of communication with their corporate neighbors. They know that the private sector has the resources necessary for their survival. Given this fact of economic life, a much closer tie between corporate America and nonprofit organizations has evolved and appears to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Be active in any business or professional organizations you can. This will help you stay better informed and create a credible, positive image with people who may be in a position to help you down the road. Professional organizations sometimes have some type of "job line" which can alert you to openings.

Establishing contacts through such organizations can most be helpful. Most call it "networking" (a term I personally dislike but for which I haven't found a better substitute). These people can help by alerting you to opportunities of which you might be unaware. They can also serve as valuable references.

Trying to get a first job in the field can be frustrating. The old Catch 22 "all of the jobs require experience, but if no one will hire me now, will I ever get the experience?" often rings true. This is where persistence pays off. Think about getting into an organization in another field or position. This approach may offer the opportunity to transfer into the job at some point down the road. It also allows you to establish credibility and "show your stuff."

An internship is an excellent way to not only learn more about the field but to meet contacts who may be helpful when you start that job search.

Finding and working with a credible "head hunter" is another option to consider. Be careful. Any yellow pages will list the names of several employment agencies. Use your contacts to guide you towards an agency which knows the field and has the necessary contacts to effectively help you find the right job. Professional organizations can be of help in locating a "head hunter" who may be helpful in your job search.

Perhaps the best advice anyone could offer is to be persistent Do not give up after a few disappointments. Look at your job search as you would any full time job. In fact, you should consider your job search a full time job.

A Final Thought or Two

A career in community affairs or relations offers the possibility of contributing to the corporation or organization, as well as the community. One of the satisfying aspects of this type of work is that it can be a "win/win" situation, certainly the most desirable and enjoyable situation. Being realistic however, situations can arise where the corporation and the community are at odds regarding a specific matter. In these cases, a fine line needs to be walked being sensitive to the community's concerns and simultaneously representing your employer's interests can require a great deal of tact and diplomacy.

Anyone contemplating any career should carefully and fully evaluate all aspects prior to making a decision. Major career decisions are too often made at the urging of someone else or because external factors push us in a given direction. It is important to differentiate between success and happiness: "Success is getting what you want Happiness is wanting what you get"

I hope you become happy and successful.

In his current position, JOHN SEESE is responsible for managing a number of community affairs programs, especially the relations between Coors corporate headquarters and the city of Golden, Colorado.

Mr. Seese has had a variety of positions with Coors since he began working there in 1970. His experience includes management training and development, general personnel, internal communications, corporate communications, and community affairs work.

A 1969 graduate of Colorado State University, Mr. Seese is active in the Public Relations Society of America and a member of IABC.
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