Developing Tenacity: Leslie Pyfer’s Career Story

Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire and empower others on their own unique path. We share job search stories with readers to inspire your job search and to help us all better understand the job market.

Meet Leslie Pyfer, a product developer in apparel and accessories. She moved on from 20 years working at the same organization and recently found a great new role at a small, creative company.

What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

Originally, I worked as the women’s pack and bag product line manager, for Dakine, for 20 years. For the past 3 years, I worked as a product consultant with emphasis on women’s lifestyle bags in the outdoor market and successfully helped launch a women’s lifestyle bag line for a local Hood River company.  It has been a super fun project, and I’m still involved in it.

This past May, 2017 I started working full time for Kerrits Equestrian Apparel as a product developer.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I was not necessarily looking for a full-time job. Since I started my own consulting business, networking was very key in finding clients and that helped me land this job. But the whole process took a little less than a year.

When I started working on my own, my networking skills were non-existent, so making the effort to get out there was not easy for me. I was able to continue working for myself, but the high and low of getting paid was stressful. In the fall of 2016, I started to feel the draw to being back in a collaborative environment and to focus on one product line vs. several short-term and long-term projects. By the beginning of 2017, I decided to be open to what may come my way – either full time, part time and/or consulting; I wanted to not feel like it had to be one or the other.

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How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

Because I had been involved with Dakine for 20 years, I knew I had many resources at my disposal, it was just a matter of realizing who/what they were, then reaching out. By this time, my networking skills had improved, so I was way less tentative in attending networking events, reaching out via LinkedIn and emailing friends of friends that may know the person I need to get in touch with. It is all about building relationships, and I made sure I was more than willing to return the favor to people in my network that asked for my help and/or referrals.

I had been building my relationship with Kerrits, through networking, over the past few years in hopes that I could interest them in launching a bag line geared toward their equestrian customer. It wasn’t until the timing was right that they reached out to me and offered me an interview for the apparel developer position. I was excited to be asked, as this does not happen often.  The Kerrits HQ location is very close to Dakine, so they were very aware of my successes and experience.

Probably the best tactic for me was tenaciousness. I developed a thick skin and learned to not get too disappointed when a person or project didn’t follow through despite my effort.

I really do feel like LinkedIn was the best tool for me to utilize. I spent time online everyday networking, made sure to update my profile as needed, and spent time reading and reacting to relevant information that pertained to my field.

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What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

I had a really exciting lead and several subsequent interviews and discussions, only to find out a few months later that the position was “on hold.”

I had spent a lot of time networking to get the interview, and then to have it just end was really disappointing. I decided then and there that everything does happen for a reason; I know I did everything in my power to land that position! It wasn’t meant to be.

I also struggled with attaining any kind of excitement from recruiters. I only had one Portland-based recruiter connect with me, but was never sent any kind of lead. The other recruiters I contacted never bothered to get back to me, and that was disappointing.

Regardless, I still return the favor. Paying it forward is never a bad idea.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

When the going gets tough, take a break and go for a hike or go skiing or walk your dog.  This really helped me when I felt like the path was not opening up; tomorrow is a new day with new connections.

Also: always network.

Why do you love your job?

I love that I am working for a smaller company. They are not too tied down to the process and are able to react faster to their consumer wants and needs.

I am also working with a few people I have known for over 20 years as well as many new people I am just getting to know. Starting a new job, knowing a few people makes the adjustment a little smoother!

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