There are 10,000 agencies with a turnover of over £250,000. The sector is worth £35.1 billion. For a lot of students nearing the end of their degree recruitment will be a career they might consider. But how can you tell if it is really the job for you?
If you’re a student and anything like me, you picked a course when you were 17/18 because you liked the subject. You didn’t really consider what career would follow because, frankly, that’s years into the future. Plus you didn’t want to be a doctor so it wasn’t like you had to take a specialist degree. But hang-on, suddenly it is the future. Two-and-a-half years went by pretty quickly and you’re graduating this summer. Sh*t. What next?
About a decade ago, that was me! I studied international relations and politics, but I wasn’t cut out for lobbying, and party politics didn’t interest me enough to commit myself to it through an internship (unlike some of my friends). The people I knew doing those things had more passion than me for both. What I had done was a whole load of extra stuff; student radio, newspaper, sport, volunteering. I’d been a student union person, I loved student representation and I’d won elections. So I thought more of that. Work in a university. That’ll fit… But I struggled to find a job. First off there aren’t many around and it’s really competitive. I came second and third on a few occasions to people with more experience. So I had to go back to the drawing board and I felt a little lost. One day I saw an advert for a job I didn’t understand, but sounded like it described me. It talked about being good with people (generally I’m not too bad despite what my wife says, and she married me so must be lying or a hypocrite), and being driven (when my heart was in it, absolutely), and ambitious.
Before I knew it I was a trainee recruitment consultant.
I think this is a shared experience for a lot of people in recruitment. Honestly you don’t dream of being a recruiter when you’re 14. Sorry, if you did you’re a bit odd. I think it’s a career that finds you. And that is a shame because it’s a very misunderstood role that is of huge value, no matter the lazy stereotypes.
So let’s lay some foundations for you and dispel any myths. The job is a sales job and it is not a quick or easy route to money. It’s hard, because there is a lot of competition. You have to be able to convince people that they should work with you instead of the next consultant at the next firm, or even instead of the algorithm or product that’s just been released. So fundamentally whatever firm you work for you have to be able to sell yourself.
So you need formal sales experience, right? No! Send any idiot that tells you that in my direction and they can argue with my career to date. If you are thinking about recruitment you need to ask yourself; do my peers like me, do they respect me? If you are the captain of a sports team, head of a society or have been voted into some kind of position of authority then you probably have the skill set to thrive in recruitment.That will help you form relationships based on trust and credibility. Working in retail won’t. I’m not saying that it means you’re unsuitable, just that there may be other experience that are better indicators the role is for you.
Money is often cited as an area that’s key to entry level consultants. You’ll be told you have to be money hungry; rubbish. If that’s the only thing driving you then don’t bother because you’ll lose interest fast. Of course we all want to be able to have luxuries in life, and there is certainly the opportunity to earn a lot, but it takes time to develop the relationships needed with clients to do that. So you need to be a determined and ambitious individual but you should be driven by wanting to be rewarded more broadly: recognition in good work, in helping a client or a candidate, in being valuable to those you work with. If that is your driver you’ll earn the money and be more likely to make it (professionally) in the long run.
You also have to be curious and want to learn. If you’re sitting with a business leader you want to recruit for you have to have knowledge and enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter what brand you work for if you aren’t interested in them, and their problems, and the market or sector they work in. They aren’t going to trust you with something as critical as talent if you don’t!
I also want to share why I think you should definitely work in the sector… it’s exciting!
Honestly, I have found myself talking to people who brief the government, making the coolest technology, run the biggest companies, have the best ideas. I get to network in a group of genuinely extraordinary people. Aged 23 I was at a swanky restaurant having dinner with board members of a huge company talking about the strategy behind a joint-venture that was all over the media. That’s incredible. Not many other jobs give you the same kind of exposure to such a varied and interesting working environment.
Recruitment gets a bad press but that isn’t fair, and as I’ve already said, I think it’s lazy. Sure bad recruiters leave a sour taste in the mouth and I have plenty of room for improvement. But done well you are providing a valuable service that helps transform companies and individuals careers. You will help them to unlock some of the most successful and rewarding experiences they’ll have. It is a sales job with room for an individual and innovation. The fierce competition will force you to find ways to be different and memorable. It can be a hugely rewarding career path.
When I started at Harvey Nash I told my parents it’d be a good experience for six months to a year at most. I’m still here. It is the most happy accident of my life and one I’d push you to consider fully.
If you want to explore a career in recruitment, then get in touch.