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Center for Professional Development
63 South Main Street, 2nd Floor
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
(603) 646-2215
Fax: (603) 646-1360
E-mail: Center for Professional Development
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Alumni Stories: James McKim '83

Helping Others Help Themselves by Lisa Birzen '03

James McKim '83 and Governor Shaheen

James McKim advises students to be aware of the distinction between a job and a career. "A job helps to pay the bills while a career is with you the rest of your life," McKim explains.

Having worked in corporate America and having started his own management consulting company, McKim, nonetheless, makes a career of helping people.

Graduating in 1983 with a Computer Science modified with Philosophy degree, McKim took many opportunities to help his fellow peers during his college years.

While a student, McKim worked as a Public Room Assistant (PRA) in the Kiewit Computing Services building, formerly located on the northeastern corner of North Main Street and Webster Avenue. In the fall of 2000, the site was cleared to make way for future building projects and the office has since been moved to the first level of Berry Library.

During McKim's student years, however, Kiewit was the center of student computing, housing the help desk, the printout windows and computer terminals for public and academic use.

As a PRA, his job was to "help anybody who came in with using a computer." He enjoyed that experience so much that, looking back now, McKim says: Doing that, I knew that's what I wanted to do and have been doing for the past twenty or so years.

During his junior year, McKim took his computer skills to the Center for Professional Development office and helped students from another perspective. At the time, all local and global internship information lived, and collected dust, in binders crowding the shelves on bookcases in the office.

McKim created a system that stored all necessary information on internships online and provided easy access to students. McKim's program, Leave-Jobs, was modeled on the already existing Dart-Jobs system - a compilation of student jobs in the area - and was his first such 'end-user' application with many more to follow.

Reaching his senior year, McKim, burdened with a heavy course load, work-study and Glee Club responsibilities was, in his own words, "burnt out." McKim shuffled through his last year at Dartmouth to the background theme of Phil Collin's "I Don't Care Anymore."

In truth, McKim had to care, because, in addition to completing his education, he, like other graduating seniors, had to make decisions about life after Dartmouth.

Working at Center for Professional Development, McKim had an insider's perspective to corporate recruiting and went through the process himself along with many other classmates. After meeting with recruiters, however, McKim "gleaned from that experience that [he was] not a big company type."

McKim reassures students that landing employment "can be done without going through recruiting." Staying true to his words, he found an approach that proved more rewarding: the Alumni Network.

"Going to the alumni list is the first thing anyone should do when looking for a job," McKim asserts.

McKim offers these statistics to current job seekers: 15 percent of people who land jobs do so because they sent out resumes and went on interviews. 85 percent of people networked their way into the organization.

He in no way discourages the straight forward route, saying that "you should try to go through the front door of sending in your resume and going through the interview process but don't expect many positive responses."

Clarifying, McKim says, "you do have to know things but it is who you know that will help get you through the door."

McKim not only landed his first job at the Frey Associates through alumni contacts but networked his way into his second job at Digital Equipment Corporation as well.

During his nine years at Digital, McKim climbed up the ladder from technical support specialist to software engineer, followed by software consultant and, eventually, U.S. Client/Server Services Technical Manager. He managed the creation of a computer aided software engineering (CASE) product for the company and provided consulting to global Fortune 100 and 500 companies, as well as to state and federal government agencies. In addition, he "developed and delivered courses for the company's training division."

However, no fairy tales last forever and Digital, affected by the need to 'right-size,' had to lay off many employees, McKim being one of them.

McKim explains that there exists a "constant struggle between what's good for the individual versus what's good for the company." He cites the common occurrence of stock prices of publicly traded companies that downsize going up despite, or perhaps as a result of, a large number of unemployed workers.

The time away from working proved more beneficial to McKim in the long run than he could have imagined at the time. Taking a break from his hectic work and travel schedule allowed McKim to reevaluate his priorities.

Having recently become a father, McKim was no longer keen on spending more than 50 percent of his time on the road. While unemployed, he decided that, "if I can't find a job that will let me stay home for 70 to 80 percent of the time, then I will start my own company."

Following through with his promise, McKim did just that.

With a partner whom he met in Digital's outplacement program for laid-off employees, McKim founded the Information Solutions and Resources Group (ISRG Inc) in 1995.

Despite starting his own management consulting company in Goffstown, NH, from scratch, McKim had a leg up on the process. As a result of downsizing, Digital was "selling arms of the company" including the training division where McKim had made various contributions, thus providing McKim with an income.

His particular situation "allowed [him] to draw a salary while making local contacts in the area." Working for a global company did not provide McKim with information on "who's who" in the immediate surroundings, a part of the legwork that he had to do himself.

Today, McKim's company provides "management consulting and temporary placement for companies in various industries." McKim personally "focuses on the strategic use of human and non-human resources in achieving business goals" and shares his knowledge of recruiting and retaining employees with other companies.

As a result of his own experiences, McKim, fully aware of the impact and setback of unemployment on information technologists, secured funding for a nonprofit organization called Software Association of New Hampshire (SwANH), for which he serves as the Chairman of the Board, to run a training program for dislocated information technology (IT) workers.

The SwANH IT Schoolhouse, as it is called, helps members "upgrade skills from a technology perspective and enhance people skills." Currently, the New Hampshire IT jobless rate is believed to be 4.8 percent, higher than the state's overall unemployment rate of 4.3.

McKim admits that "one of the problems dislocated IT professionals were having in landing jobs is that they did not know how to talk with non-technical people when they went on interviews."

Matching potential employees with companies further becomes complicated because most hiring managers responsible for determining good candidates are not well versed in technological terms and their meaning.

Thus, these two groups, which rely so heavily on one another, "do not communicate well despite being forced to do so in an interview situation."

The Schoolhouse program targets both groups and since its pilot stages earlier this year has already seen some successes with hopefully other offshoots of the program to spring up in other locations.

Running a successful business and lending a helping hand to his community, McKim now spends his time doing what he enjoys and "is successful considering [his] definition of success."

He advises students to set goals and "make sure that job aspirations be in line with those goals," stressing the "need to define success for yourself and not let others' definition steer you in a different direction."

Last Updated: 10/9/13