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Life as a recruiter


Ten years ago to the day, I started at Marks Sattin and felt it would be useful to share my experience for anyone looking at starting off in the recruitment industry.

I fell into recruitment (as many do). I’m sure the career officer at my old school is still instructing students to move into politics, medicine, military, banking etc. Unfortunately, none of these felt suitable and whilst many friends have gone on to achieve great things within these disciplines – I wanted a career that would allow me to be less governed, more interactive and dare I say it, chaotic!

Following stint(s) at university, I was 100% sure I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work in a business, I knew I wanted to work with people; however I didn’t know what that looked like. I worked from an early age, originally in a sports shop whilst at school, then various bars through my gap year and university, telesales (for a bit) and interned for Mary Portas’ PR company, Yellow Door. None of these satisfied my interests and recruitment was introduced to me during a night out with a friend.

The in depth conversation consisted of:

“What skills do you need” - I asked.

“You need to think on your feet, be personable and sell” - he replied.

I was confident that I could think on my feet, I hoped that I was perceived as personable and selling, well that’s not something I had excelled in, but felt confident I could learn given the right training.

A week later, I had two offers on the table and decided to join Marks Sattin. Things were very different 10 years ago, only a single office on Haymarket with around 40 consultants. Initially, I commuted from the South coast which meant getting up at 06.00 and getting home at 20.30, it really wasn’t that bad – would be a lot easier with an iPad! Walking through the office on day one, I saw almost every facial expression and emotional sound known to man – from the jubilant screams of ‘YES’ to the unmistakable sound of a forehead dropping onto the desk in despair. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was intrigued, albeit a little apprehensive, this uncertainty was exciting.

A year in and I was absolutely loving it. The ability to be your own brand, originate relationships and meritocratic reward had meant that I was hooked. Things were going very well, candidates were in demand, clients were battling to secure talent and people in recruitment were busy finding people and enjoying the occasional mid week beer! That was until late in 2007, when the credit crunch arrived, and things changed dramatically. Marks Sattin, like so many others was unsure of the impact and severity of the crunch, so it was hard to create a meaningful strategy to cope with the declining market conditions. We scaled back our offering (not headcount) and moved people into the ‘core’ teams which the brand name is synonymous with. Consulting revenues took a real bashing and I moved into Commerce & Industry Qualified Temp. The market for temps in London was buoyant to say the least, however I had to learn a new skill in a very different landscape. Whilst canvassing businesses, I was often met with “Have you been living under a rock?” or “Did you not learn to read at school?”. To be honest, it was good to just hear a voice. Many clients had left their respective companies or slammed the phoned down when it connected.

A couple of years post crunch and business was really good, I had a number of temps out on assignment and repeat business with a number of firms. I enjoyed mentoring more junior staff and I moved into a managerial role.  In a sales business, often firms promote good billers into managers – with varying success in my opinion. I was cautious, however determined to make sure I continued learning and benefitted from this new exposure. I was fortunate enough to have a great existing team and make good hires (I’ve  since made my fair share of bad ones too!). We all grew personally, but more importantly as a unit – helping each other diffuse the lows and enjoy the highs. The time came when I wanted to experience something new as I had been managing in Commerce & Industry for two years and felt the time was right to move on. I didn’t want to leave Marks Sattin and after chats internally, I became Manager for Banking & Capital Markets Perm.

Moving into banking recruitment was arguably one of the most challenging roles I have had in my career. Learning the market, understanding the products and building a completely new client and candidate pool was an interesting and steep learning curve. The regulatory reform and lack of approved headcount in 2011 were clearly pretty big external challenges too! Like any team in any market, you sometimes need to go back to basics and make sure everyone knows their individual role and what the collective team strategy is. We restructured our offering to reflect the demand. We stabilised and then grew at a very healthy rate, building a good reputation in the market and attracting competitors to joins the ranks. We held career evenings, launched branded marketing campaigns and took on multiple vacancy mandates – we were working hard to build a strong team which was recognised internally and externally. Life was good, but steady and I felt another challenge was needed – something bigger this time.

My MD knew that I was having my professional ‘itch’ and wanted to try something new. He called me into his office with the Regional Director and asked if I would be interested in going to see the Reading office which covers the Thames Valley region, with a possible move on the cards. It was an opportunity to run an office, which is far closer to running a business than being one of 20 managers in London. I drove out to the office to understand the opportunity and knew it was the change I was looking for. Stepping into the office and meeting the existing team, I encountered many of the feelings I had when I took that first walk around the London office 10 years ago. Things were very different, there wasn’t the comfort of seeing my friends or having someone there to immediately turn to – it was great!

 In April, I will have been working the Thames Valley market for two years – time has flown by. The team has grown from 3 people to 10, revenues have increased dramatically and we are growing our client and candidate coverage day by day. We still have a lot of work to do, however things are moving in the right direction.  We operate across multiple industries, wide reaching geographies and at all levels, which means that professional life is varied, exciting and dare I say it, chaotic (at times).

In summary, I am an Associate Director of a leading recruitment business, I am happily married, I own a nice house and picking up the keys to my new car on Friday – all before the ripe age of 34!  

So if you are considering a role in recruitment, you could do far worse in my humble opinion!

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