Small Town Hiring is Hard

“On my way here today, I said I was going to shut my business down,” she said with a sadness I hadn’t witnessed in a while. “I just can’t find the right people, but I think you might be able to help me.” The tears welling in her eyes said it all. I’ve been there. Felt that panic. But it’s personal when it’s your business.

But let me back up to explain how I ended up here.

This week, I traveled to a town outside of Chicago called Rockford to speak about job postings at a local business conference. Yes, that Rockford – A League of Their Own (movie) fans. This town, once a major manufacturing hub, has been in rebuild mode. You can feel the change when you walk through the downtown, from the freshly painted murals to the businesses lining the streets.

This event hosted by Winnebago Buy Local was no exception. It was filled with entrepreneurs who have powered the change in Rockford. Bonus: it was hosted at Prairie Street Brewing, a company that supported our t-shirt drive for Army Rangers in Afghanistan a few years back. Small world, right? (That story here.)

As the room filled up, I could sense it was different than a local SHRM chapter or the events that I usually frequent, filled with talent leaders and people like you who focus on hiring. Instead, I was speaking to people who have created jobs with companies to support this small town. There’s more on the line than their livelihood. They are powering the potential of an entire community.

Here I was sitting in the web of support they had created for each other. Admittedly, I felt pretty damn special. First, because I didn’t grow up in one place, I recognize how unique the community is, and it filled this space. It made me feel all the good things when I watched old friends make new ones as they talked through the practical steps toward growing their businesses.

The second reason is that I know this is life-altering for these people. No offense to people working at massive companies; I know hiring is essential. But if you work at some 500-person company as the head of HR, one wrong hire isn’t a big deal. For these people, it’s everything.

I think that’s what led to this confession moment and the tears in her eyes. That look that said, I can’t do this anymore. We have all experienced that moment of confession. The moment when we know we need more, but the next step isn’t clear. As a job seeker, business owner, leader, and in our lives outside of work. Whether you are religious or not, I think we all know that sensation of confession and the knowledge of something in your life not being right. The deep knowing that says I want more.

However, knowing and acting are two different things. Like looking into a side-view mirror in the car, problems may appear bigger than they seem. I know many people that are having a magnification experience when it comes to hiring. However, no one feels it more than small businesses desperate to compete with companies who have triple the budget.

Her pain was tangible, but the problem was solvable, and right there, I made her promise me two things. Two things I need you to promise me, too.

One – that she will not quit. The only consistency in this world is that things will change. If you’re feeling the worst of the bad days, I can promise you this. There’s a day soon where you’ll feel good again. I especially want any entrepreneur reading this to make that promise today. I know things have been hard – especially hiring. You can get the right people into your business. (Shameless plug: especially if you write a better job posting.)

The second promise was this. That she would acknowledge how much good she had created in this world and the community. Ten years of business does not go without impact, and whether you’ve worked for 1 or 10 years as an entrepreneur or working for someone else, you have an impact everywhere you go.

So, keep going.

My blog this week is about helping job seekers keep going. Bonus: it’s all going to benefit queer college students in rural colleges to keep going toward their dreams, too.

I am launching a new resume review session where I’ll be a translator to make sure recruiters understand how your skills align with the job. Ask me anything about your resume or LinkedIn to help you get your next dream. Buy a session here.

Feel-Good Bonus: If you buy a session this week, you’re paying it forward. I’ll be donating the money you spend this week.

I’m fundraising to help the Pride and Joy Foundation. This organization provides services that reduce the rate of suicide and homelessness for LGBTQ+ families, offering six career workshops to rural LGBTQ+ colleges.

Even if you don’t need a resume review, I hope you’ll still consider donating to this cause. Anything you can give would mean a lot. You can donate here: Pride and Joy Foundation.


PS: I was on the news, y’all!

Weekly Letters

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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