What are we? An Industry or a Profession?

After spending the day yesterday doing a full day in-house training program for one of my most loyal training clients in Columbia, MD, I wandered down to Washington, DC, last night (after an O’s game at Camden Yards, of course, w/friend and peer Dan Simmons) to attended the ASA Chapter Leadership Council Meeting they have every April for the leaders of their affiliated ASA state associations. It is a fantastic event that I have now attended the last two years as VP of ISA (Illinois Staffing Association), and an event I would highly recommend all state association leaders who are affiliated with ASA (American Staffing Association) attend in the future.

In the opening comments made by Tracy Rettie, Assistant Vice President, Chapter Relations and Education, she regularly referred those of us in staffing as an “industry.” That struck me as odd.

When I think of an industry, I think of smokestacks, widgets, THINGS.

What are those of us in Search, Staffing and Third Party Recruiting? Are we an industry? Are we a Profession? Why? Please help me understand what you think AND WHY. I would love the perspective, and I think it is an appropriate, and important issue for us to concern ourselves with.

Now for those of you who know me, well, you already know I have some opinions on the issue, but before I share my thoughts I would love to hear from some of you first.

Industry? Profession?

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Can’t wait to read what you share, and who knows, maybe even our resident curmudgeon, Dave Staats, will even join in…don’t know about you, but I am always thrilled to learn from what Dave has to say!


Jeff Skrentny, CERS, had an inauspicious start in the search/recruiting profession as his first placement quit after 93 days. Then he was sued by his client. Despite that start, Jeff has been a thriving executive search entrepreneur for the last 23 years; and has also been a trainer, author and motivator for his profession for the last 15 years, as well as a business consultant and advisor for its producers, managers & owners for the last 10 years; all while still running his search business, Jefferson Group Search, in Chicago. You can read his blog for search entrepreneurs & professionals at www.SkrentnySPEAKS.com.


4 Comments on “What are we? An Industry or a Profession?

  1. We are a profession within an industry. I personally don’t think of industry as necessarily hardware, per say, but to me the phrase it holds a wider brush than “profession” in terms of description. Because there are different types and kinds of recruiters, recruiting therefore is a profession one holds within the wider “industry”. Industry is not necessarily a bad or negative thing: to be “industrious” is to be efficient, engaged, working….\all the good that we do for our clients and candidates. That said, specializing in industrial organization and manufacturing as my client base, I really like the word “industry”.

  2. I liked Elizabeth’s comments – having never really thought about this, I’m not sure I’d be offended by either reference.

    I did a quick Google search on “recruiting industry”…holy cow! I’d never realized how often the two are combined. Same goes for “recruiting profession,” but it yielded only half the results.

    Having spent the majority of my recruiting life on the corporate side of the fence, I’m all to aware that many in HR do not view recruiting as a profession (not saying I agree with them, just stating the fact).

    I certainly view recruiting as a profession. When I talk to somebody about what I do, I generally refer to my profession and that it’s focus is within the wireless industry. But again, I don’t have a hang up either way.

  3. I think in the beginning ,for me at least, it was a bunch of crazy kids and there was and still is an extremely low barrier to entry. Once someone is in more than say,two to 4 years though, the stick rate becomes extremely high and words like profession and practice probably apply to us at least as much as any other profession or practice. I think it has a lot to do with how each player approaches it. I know Jeff and Dan Simmons are professionals with practices. I like to think I
    am and it’s the approach of most of the people I associate with. I can certainly see the “staffing industry” as different though and I could make a case for that term being more aptly applied in an endeavor that has many people making parts of a placement than more of a ‘broker doing deals’ feel. How’s THAT for my ‘Clark Kent’ side?

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