Recruiters: Be Your Own Therapist

Talent management and recruitment, or really any of HR’s core functions, can be one of the most rewarding professions out there. It comes ready with excitement, positive challenges, and constant opportunities to learn. It is this sense of fast-paced, interesting work (with people, you do enjoy working with people, right?) that appeals to so many young professionals and is a contributing factor as to why the field can often be a difficult career to break into. However, as with any profession, those already entrenched in the war for talent have their own share of difficulties.

Within the ranks, it can often seem that opportunities to advance are rare. Outside forces dictate the how and why of advancement and everything from market demands to internal perception of the function to closed-door politics can come into play. Outside of building a strong resume and giving the proverbial 110 percent, moving up the corporate ladder is an undertaking that falls outside most talent professional’s locus of control.

As difficult as it may be for established employees, those trying to break into the field are too often left with the feeling that they are just butting their head against a wall, looking for the well-kept secret that has prevented them from landing that first all-important gig. Establishing, building, and maintaining a career in the talent management arena can be without a doubt a frustrating endeavor.

A quick tete-a-tete over drinks, on a professional message board or at a networking event, will often show that talent management professionals, often reserved in the workplace, hold no qualms about airing their grievances off site amongst their peers. Whether in a classroom setting working toward a graduate degree, attending a professional certification prep class, or simply kicking back after a long day — those working in field, the people listening to and fixing problems all day long, have their own fair share of issues.

Some of the more commons complaints I’ve heard over the years from talent pros (and others in the HR field) include:

  • Employees do not appreciate us.
  • Senior management does not see us as adding any value.
  • The business thinks we are nothing more than overpaid paper-pushers.
  • Nobody respects us. Nobody.
  • There are days when I just want to throw in the towel and start over (as in find a new career).

One of the biggest issues with HR departments and the recruitment function within them is that they fail to do for themselves what they do so well and with great vigor for the employees (both current and potential) in their organizations. Advocate.

Rather than complain about what irks them, those working in the profession need to take a stand and get to the root cause of their nine-to-five headaches. Feel like employees don’t appreciate what your team does? Show them that you are more than a caricature out of a Dilbert strip they read years ago. Recognize employee contributions, establish rapport, build relationships (inside the organization not just outside it), and get out and do a bit of management by wandering around.

Have a feeling down deep in your gut that senior management doesn’t believe you bring any value to the table? Show them how the department affects the bottom line. If you have a retention plan, make sure the powers that be realize the benefits and savings it has created. Has your team managed to reduce time to fill or other recruitment-related costs? Report on it. The key is to show not just the warm and fuzzy but how you and your team are real players in keeping the organization on track fiscally.

Are you an automaton pushing paper all day? Even if you’re not, do you feel like one? If so, look for better ways to manage your desk. Keeping a close eye on your calendar and workflow will allow the department to pursue activities that contribute both intrinsically and to the bottom line of the organization.

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Not getting any respect? Feel like you are the organizational equivalent of the last kid picked for a playground pickup game? Don’t just sit idly by.

Figure out why there are professional respect issues, and work toward building a reputation as a business partner. Develop programs that benefit the business without creating inconvenience. Establish processes and procedures that make sense and are relatively easy to carry out. Create an environment of “can do” and pretty soon even when burdened with delivering bad news; your colleagues outside of your department will be looking at you differently.

Hate your job? Does the grass look greener on the other side? Then maybe it is time to ask yourself a few questions. What is it that you dislike about your job? Is it the work itself, the workplace, the culture, the industry, your team? Maybe your current role isn’t challenging enough? Consider seeking out new responsibilities, projects, and see how you feel. Being unhappy as an talent professional may not mean a career change is in order; perhaps, it is simply a matter of getting a fresh start.

On the other hand, if you have looked at everything with an open mind and just do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, it may actually be time for a change (only you can decide). Talent (and really, all HR) professionals are fortunate in that so many of the skills we use day in and day out can translate to other professions. Some additional education might be in order, but well worth it considering the potential payoff.

Over the course of an entire career, there are going to be stumbling blocks and brick walls — maybe more than anyone working in the field would like to admit. But it does have its share of upsides, and most any professional with a substantial period of experience under their belt is going to admit that the good almost always outweighs the bad.

Erik Smetana is an HR strategist and talent leader with extensive experience working in and fostering teams and innovation for an eclectic mix of organizations including Fortune 500 companies, international not-for-profits, and institutions of higher education and research. His thoughts and opinions related to all things "employee experience" (and occasionally other topics) can be found online at


5 Comments on “Recruiters: Be Your Own Therapist

  1. Thanks, Eric. ISTM that a recruiter should be content to get paid well, in full, and on time. It’s irrelevant whether they think you’re as good as “they” are; it’s highly relevant whether you have the power to do your job effectively without too much interference. When it comes to power, Frederick Douglass said it very well:
    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…”



  2. This is a great post. Just like any career sector, HR has it’s own share of problems and aggravations which can really weigh on those working in the trenches. Your advice about showing your value is a great way to make sure you’re appreciated. Another idea might be to start embracing new technologies and forms of recruitment. Whether this is an online recruiting platform or speaking to candidates through video interviews, using new technology can help companies see you as forward-thinking.

  3. Josh: You’re right on target… one part is being willing to innovate as a professional, the other part is embracing innovation (technology) to make the function operate in such a way that it creates more value for all of the stakeholders.

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