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Recruiting and Retention Series: Testing the Waters of Electrical Distribution

By Bridget McCrea

A 2-year program leads this tED “30 Under 35” winner to a job and subsequent promotion at a large, national electrical distributor.

Armed with a freshly-minted college degree from Michigan State and eager to make his mark on the workforce, Maxwell Gabin started looking around for career opportunities that would align with his own goals and aspirations.

One of those opportunities stood out almost immediately. Known as the “Distribution and Services Leadership Program,” Rexel was offering a 2-year-long program that introduced candidates to the various vocations within an electrical distributorship.

“It was a full-time job,” says Gabin, branch manager for Rexel in San Diego, “but it was great because it gave me hands-on experience with counter sales, inside sales, outside sales, warehousing, purchasing, and energy solutions.” Gabin also took part in various special projects and, at the end of the 2-year program, was able to choose from various job opportunities.

“Whatever function you like the best and that you think is a good fit is where you go,” says Gabin. “I liked that because I didn't want to just jump into logistics or management full-time. I wanted to test the waters first.”

“It Was an Easy Choice”
Gabin says he was attracted to his current employer for more than just its Distribution and Services Leadership Program. For example, he says the fact that the firm has locations all over the U.S. meant he wouldn't be tied to working in the same place for his entire career.

“They basically said, 'We have locations that you can work out of in 50 cities,” says Gabin. “San Diego is beautiful, and I was already here, so it was an easy choice.” For his starting position, Gabin opted to work in the company's e-commerce division. He says it was an unorthodox choice for most program graduates, but one that he was very interested in.

“In our industry, e-commerce is still relatively new, so this wasn't necessarily a 'typical' role someone coming out of the DSLP would select,” Gabin explains. “Most people choose outside sales, inside sales, or purchasing. But the company was open to be doing e-commerce, which was great.”

Promoting Mobility
Gabin, who has since taken on a branch manager position in San Diego, says he enjoys working for a large company that has numerous positions open at any given time and wide geographic coverage. “There are a lot of people moving around here, either taking on new roles or going to new branches,” he says. “Here in San Diego, for example, the prior branch manager decided to move to Denver, so she went to run the branch there. I was lucky enough to be here, so I got promoted.”

Gabin says he's also had the chance to take part in company-run boot camps. Rexel holds the boot camps three or four times a year and sends employees across all job functions at a particular branch to the events over a month's span.

“They'll send us to Portland to meet and listen to VP-level leaders discuss the company's overall strategies and goals both for customers and for employees,” says Gabin, who also sees the events as a good networking opportunity. “The more people you meet here, the more exposure you have to different advancement opportunities, so participating in these events is really good for career growth.”

How About Friday Flex Days?
Asked about Rexel's benefits package and whether it played a role in his job selection process, Gabin says the package is “fairly straightforward.” He says he'd love to see the company adopt a “Friday Flex Days” policy that he's been hearing some buzz about lately.

“One of our manufacturers was telling me that she works it so she gets every other Friday off,” says Gabin. “That's pretty awesome, and something that would definitely help retain talent in this tight labor market.”


McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.



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