Michigan Shifting Gears is a three-month career-transition program for corporate professionals interested in pursing new opportunities. There are three stages of the program, which participants advance through during the months. The first focuses on retooling, the second reinventing, and the third, relaunching. The event includes networking sessions, mentoring, guest speakers, case studies, and opportunities with small businesses. In addition to the teachings, participants are required to complete eighty hours of pro bono work with an early-stage small business, and to compete in a business simulation workshop. Each cohort of the Michigan Shifting Gears program experiences an intensive Marketplace simulation exercise aimed at driving small business fundamentals.
The attendees of the event have diverse backgrounds, including marketing, product management, communications, psychology, and engineering. More than half of the participants have over twenty years of professional experience, and most are currently looking for work. They are expected to use the skills and knowledge they have gained from their education and professional experience to leverage new opportunities through Michigan Shifting Gears. The involved small businesses have offered career opportunities to hardworking members of the program. Sixty-nine percent of program participants will start a new job within six months of completing Michigan Shifting Gears.
The Michigan Shifting Gears website quotes Dr. Diana J. Wong, CEO and President of Sensei Change Associate and creator of the Michigan Shifting Gears program, as saying “Michigan Shifting Gears helps participants better understand the entrepreneurial environment and repackage the skills they already have to take advantage of the small business opportunities that are growing in Michigan.”
Throughout the three months, participants receive career assessment and professional coaching, along with a mock job interview. During a three-day intensive workshop, the program members compete in teams using the Marketplace Live simulation. The groups challenge one another to win the Strategy and Business Policy level. All six quarters were completed during the three days, which is not an easy task. Ruth Chis, the Program Manager for Sensei Change Associates, said “The Marketplace Simulation is one critical component in the comprehensive curriculum to support professionals in learning to manage their careers by increasing their strategic thinking and business acumen.”
The simulation allows for participants to prepare for their internship with a small business start-up. “The Michigan Shifting Gears program supports professionals in their career transition, and the Marketplace simulation is very valuable as participants have an opportunity to refresh their business skills and strategic thinking for their next opportunity,” Chis said. The program used peer evaluations to provide feedback to the participants. It also gave team members the opportunity to practice giving constructive and positive criticism. Chis said Marketplace Live exceeded the program’s expectations. She described the simulation as the “whole package,” noting especially the “excellent service, great visuals, and real-time information.”
The Michigan Shifting Gears program is valued at over $5,000, but it only costs participants $500. The additional program cost is underwritten through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Registration includes, first, viewing the informational presentation, and second, participation in a live, question-and-answer session with program facilitators. The Michigan Shifting Gears Cohort will begin on September 18, 2012. In 2013, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in partnership with Sensei Change will offer four cohorts of the Shifting Gears Program. Please visit www.mitalent.org/michigan-shifting-gears for more information.