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Recruitment – coming of age and the role of the trusted advisor

I can remember the cut and thrust of being a London ‘City’ Technology recruiter like it was yesterday. In 2005, recruitment was a very different industry and one which was probably its own worst enemy.

Sadly, concepts like ‘exceptional customer service’, ‘sustainable business model’ and ‘people development’ didn’t feature as high up the priority agenda as they should and unsurprisingly many companies unfolded quickly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Looking back, it was all too inevitable, but at the time, clearly I had absolutely no foresight that this was the predicament I was likely to find myself in, along with many other overly-confident ‘twenty-somethings’ at the time. Having to push twice as hard to earn 70% of your previous earnings was a reality for years to come for most. Incidentally, this became the catalyst for my career to move to Asia, so every cloud has a silver lining, which is ironically something that experience can teach you.

And this back story brings me onto the point I would like to explore. The problem with recruitment as an industry is that, for many years, it has been associated predominantly with the ‘young and hungry’ rather than experienced professional. Never has an industry been more laced with prejudice when it comes to the interview process, with euphemistic feedback such as ‘I’m not sure he’s going to be a culture fit’, being used in place of what we all know to be age related. Now I find myself in my late 30s, I am starting to seriously question the viability of this.

The great thing I find about getting older is that this goes hand in hand with experience and experience is simply priceless. Referring back to my opening point, having been through a global financial crisis and, I might add, felt it at a very personal level and come out of the other end of it, you do earn your stripes as a result and this confers credibility. I am certainly not one to undervalue the emerging Gen Y population and their contribution to the world of work. That said, a key characteristic I see as a learning point for this age group is to foresee risk and work strategically in a manner that takes account of this. I might add that many Gen Y folks I speak to are unable to describe in any depth what happened in the last financial crisis, though maybe that’s another more personal gripe of mine over being well informed about current affairs! I also believe this shortcoming of the Gen Y population could be deemed a strength. To illustrate this point, who remembers acting on stage fearlessly as a child in front of a big audience? And would you be so brazen now having been shackled by the negative experiences you have accumulated over the years? Mark Zuckerberg has also inspired many 28 year olds to believe they could (or should?) be a billionaire by their 30th birthday.

At the age of 38, I can absolutely say, I feel as passionate and excited to be working within this sector as I ever was. If anything, I feel more so, because experience tells me that I have more to bring to the table and being confident about your value is a cornerstone of job satisfaction. My belief is that this applies across the board to all people in all industries, though my hope is that recruitment is now an industry that has grown up and this is attributable to the many long-term recruiters that have stuck it out for the last decade and beyond. The fact is, the recruitment sector needs experience to help with balanced, critical decision making, streamlining recruitment processes, providing feedback about employer brand and so forth; we no longer operate within the transactional world of CV brokerage. As such, to be at the top of the industry, recruitment professionals need to strive for client partnership through service excellence and in the wider sense, understand ‘specialisation’ and how to build a viable business platform. In short, such sophistication of approach requires judgment, which can only come with experience.

I could of course talk about how the experience I have had has improved me as a manager, though the older and more experienced we get, the more we realise how this is a never-ending process of learning, so I will save that discussion for a future blog. For now, I would like to focus on one point and that is that there’s now no longer any shame in being a lifetime recruitment professional, especially given the needs of the market. The role of the experienced, trusted advisor is a noble one. I guess I’ll re-evaluate at 48.

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