Born and raised in Leamington, Ontario I have been deeply saddened and affected by the news that H.J. Heinz will be closing its facility in June 2014. I know first-hand how devastating this news is to such a proud community, a community that for over 100 years has been honoured to be known as the Tomato Capital of Canada.
In my industry, I guide clients on a daily basis through career transition and job loss. I discuss the stages of loss each client can expect to go through and I strategize with each client on how to actively take charge of their situation and come out on top. We discuss ways to stand out from the competition and create a personal brand and/or statement that showcases their value to new employers. Basically, I treat each client as an individual and together we evaluate their personal situation, needs and capabilities.
But now, I must admit that I have been humbled to realize that this is more than just job loss for one individual or an entire factory. This is a tremendous loss for the ENTIRE community of Leamington. A town that has at its center core the very factory that will be closing its doors. This is a loss that will be felt in more ways than simply job loss for the factory workers and staff. The very heart and soul of Leamington is H.J. Heinz and has been ever since I can remember.
There is the Big Tomato Tourist Information booth, placed right beside the Art Gallery which hosts a gallery of pictures and memorabilia about the history of H.J. Heinz, and then you have the annual summer festival proudly named the Tomato Festival which includes a tomato stomp and crowns the town’s Tomato Queen each year. Heck, even the community recreation and fitness center was named after the first Canadian born President of Heinz – The FT Sherk Complex. These are just a few of the ways the town of Leamington has welcomed HJ Heinz into their hearts and homes. I can’t even begin to mention the wonderful smell and aroma throughout the town each harvest season or the farmers and how this will affect them.
But as I sit here and struggle to help my friends and family back-home come to terms with this great loss, I keep thinking about my individual clients. What would I say to them? And I think the most important thing I say to each client is that they have to start thinking of themselves as their own corporations, think of themselves as “ME INC.” and approach their job search with this frame of mind. I tell my clients that they are solely responsible for their future and have to manage their career as if it were a business. My clients and I discuss creating a “career business plan” of sorts whereby they highlight their mission, vision, and career goals and draft a plan to achieve these goals. The next step is to brand themselves and market their distinctive value to prospective employers – all with the aim of getting the interview to sell their value in person.
And so, not only do I believe that each and every individual affected by the closure of H.J. Heinz should begin to start thinking about their “career business plan”, but I also think Leamington as a community needs to start thinking of themselves as “Leamington Inc.”. Unfortunately, the time has come where Leamington can no longer be known for the largest tomato factory in Canada and has to begin the long and dreaded search for a new identity.
Normal feelings of shock and depression will be intensified for quite some time, and frankly should be embraced! But approached with the right attitude, this can become the chance of a lifetime – a chance to step back and redefine who you are as individuals and as a town! A town that should be proud of its roots, but also proud to take this great step forward and look at this as an opportunity to reinvent yourself!!!!
With all of this being said, I do have to finish by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with each and every citizen of Leamington as I know this will be a very hard and challenging step forward. But if ever there was a town strong enough to pull through this loss, it is Leamington!
I wish all of you great success as you begin to reinvent yourselves.
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