When we first launched Live+Work in Maine just a few months ago, we traveled around the state and recorded a number of videos to use as “success stories” (see them here). In no time at all, we started getting questions about when new success stories would be published…so to allow for many more of your stories to be shared, we’ve created a “Q&A” format. One is for people who want to move to Maine, the other is for people who have already made the choice to make Vacationland work for them. Contribute your own story by clicking here.
First up is Nate Wildes – the newest member of the Live+Work in Maine team (and first employee!), hired as Engagement Director.
My name is Nate Wildes, and I recently joined the Live+Work in Maine team as Engagement Director. (Press Release here)
As a child, I long had dreams of being an engineer, studying something (anything!) involving space ships in a big city. Thanks to my father graduating from UMaine in the early 80’s, my childhood-self decided that I was definitely NOT going to attend school there.
When I got the chance to actually see the campus and learn what programs and opportunities UMaine offered, I quickly changed my mind and embraced their Political Science program as my higher-ed destiny. What better place to learn how to learn and become an adult than a campus with enormous academic diversity, incredible research opportunities, and “real-world” engagement with businesses?
While at UMaine, I found myself recruited out to Cincinnati, OH to work for a consulting firm following graduation. Having met my now-partner Jamie in school, she and I ventured out to the mid-west. After a couple of years in the “flatlands”, we were ready to move back to the Way Life Should Be – there’s nothing like going without what you take for granted to make you appreciate what you had.
Sure, Ohio offered some things Maine couldn’t: enormous fields of corn to gaze at, a football team named after a chestnut-like tree, and a river so polluted that official guidelines said to eat ‘no more than 1 fish per year’…ok, ok – I’m biased now. In reality, the people were incredibly warm and welcoming, the weather was mild year-round and the sun shone for many more hours per day than the East Coast will ever see.
Even still, Maine offers a quality of life you just can’t beat – while I live an easy commuting distance to Portland, I have miles of beaches and rocky coastline right outside my door, with ski mountains an easy day-trip away. While my internet speeds available here on Great Island in Harpswell, Maine are faster than most (100mbps), getting to Boston for the day involves driving a few miles to the Amtrak Downeaster train station, and enjoying their wifi and craft beer for ~2 hours while the conductor does the ‘driving’.
While all of this is nice and important, it’s the people who make the real difference. One of my favorite examples of the ‘Maine character’ is the great lengths we go through to hold doors open for the next person. It’s a small thing, but is immediately noticed when traveling outside the state – I’m pretty sure the unspoken, basic rule of thumb is, “if the person is in sight, you should hold the door open for them.”
When having a conversation with someone who doesn’t live+work in Maine, their reaction is typically one of surprise when they hear I don’t work in forestry, fishing or tourism. Don’t get me wrong – those industries are the bedrock of many small communities in Maine, and will continue to add a lot to our economy and culture into the future. However, there are an increasing number of employees and employers in Maine focused on industries like biomedical research, advanced composites engineering, financial services, technology and software development…need I go on?
The reasons for that growth are varied – but I think there’s one element in particular that supports that development: every single person in Maine (unofficially) works in the tourism industry. People choose to visit Maine for many different reasons, but they choose to come back thanks to the impact individuals have on their visit. Whether you’re a bar tender, banker or trucker – every interaction we have with a visitor to our state can leave a lasting impression. The good news? People are finally taking notice – Maine can be more than just Vacationland!
Jamie and I grew up in different parts of the state; she in Winthrop (central Maine), and I in Cumberland (southern Maine). Prior to meeting in college, we had both spent time outside of Maine – she in New Orleans, and I in Washington, DC. After living and working in Cincinnati together, we had the clarity needed to appreciate all that Maine had to offer.
There’s no ignoring the demographic reality facing Maine right now: there are more old people than there are young people. While some would call that a “demographic challenge”, we prefer to see it as a “demographic opportunity”. Just like in business, every good challenge poses and equally good opportunity. As the minority age demographic in Maine, young people have the opportunity to seize employment opportunities, entrepreneurial endeavors and quality of life choices that young people in big cities simply don’t have.
Employers in Maine are looking for people who ‘think different’ – there aren’t any big consulting firms who hire based solely on the name of your school…employers here want people who can bring a diversity of thought and experiences to their mission. That’s an incredible opportunity.
While a move anywhere can be a big deal, considering Maine doesn’t have to be a stressful experience – in fact, quite the opposite: your vacation can be the best indicator of what living+working in Maine can be like! It’s fairly common for employers to encourage job candidates to spend time exploring our state – they know that quality of life is a critically important recruiting tool, and will go out of their way to demonstrate that. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential employer for the flexibility to explore the area or stay for an extra day or two – they won’t be surprised by the request!
I can walk on the beach in the morning, ski in the afternoon and enjoy a freshly-made micro brew in the evening.