In this Sarbanes-Oxley environment, I’m going to start with full disclosure and hope you will keep reading: I am not a recruiter. I’m not married to a recruiter. My children are not recruiters. I don’t even have any close friends who are recruiters. But I know a lot of former recruiters who’ve used what they learned starting out in recruiting to build successful careers in something else. Some of them even asked my advice somewhere along the line or took one of my company’s assessments — and, interestingly enough, most of that happened after we ran into each other at a holiday party.
So here it is: A hot job market for recruiters again, and young recruiters’ hearts lightly turn towards thoughts of career progression. But the problem with assessing your career in recruiting is that recruiting is a very complex function. Rarely does someone perform all the aspects of it by themselves. In fact, there are ten distinct facets in recruiting which interlock to get the job done. Even if you are a sole proprietorship recruiter working from your laptop and cell phone, you aren’t likely to be doing it all. (I am referring to strictly recruiting tasks — not making coffee, which, quite properly, belongs to the barista at the local coffee purveyor/wireless network emporium where you probably spend some work research time.) Here they are, one to ten, in no particular order. Start by checking the one, or ones, you really like to do and crossing out the ones you don’t. The ones you feel lukewarm about can stay for now, but really, do you want to do something you aren’t passionate about for the rest of your life? If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life at it, why waste the next year or so?
- Networking. This is something that people either love or hate. If you are neutral about networking, you haven’t really tried it. This could be due to not knowing where to go to find people to network with. There are professional networks (including recruiter and HR organizations), social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Ryze, and some organizations that provide both. ERE is one with both: Between the networking opportunities on the website and at conferences, everyone’s covered, even the very shy.
- Negotiating and closing the deal. This is an art. When it’s done well, it’s like magic. Everyone walks away feeling satisfied, and the results can be measured in bottom-line numbers. If you like this, you only like it when you are winning. Can you tolerate when you feel you aren’t winning. More importantly, can you turn a loss into a win?
- Grooming the candidate. This is another art. You know that every candidate, even the most perfect one, can be improved for presentation to your customer. You take great pride in the small but important enhancements you make as you shape your candidate up a bit, smoothing out those tiny wrinkles and making sure he or she is well-rehearsed and accessorized for success.
- Cold-calling. This may be part and parcel of your job and you may dislike it, but before you write it off, ask yourself this question: Is it the actual calling I don’t like, or the fact that I have all this documenting, recordkeeping, and reporting that consumes all my time that really irks me? If it’s the environment rather than the task that you don’t like, consider what it would be like if you just had to talk with people all day and never had to make a note.
- Organizing. On the other hand, you may dislike the asking-people part and love the documenting, reporting, and management part. Most people who are really good at one are really not good at the other, so if you’ve checked cold-calling and organizing, you are one of the more self-reliant people in this world. That can be an advantage in some environments, but it will likely make you less of a team player.
- Sourcing. Sourcing is a bit like treasure hunting. You turn over a lot of earth, sometimes with something that looks like a detailed strategic plan and sometimes with just your gut instinct to guide you. If this is your top choice, the plans you make are often useless, but that gut instinct of yours often leads you to unexpected treasure, the kind you didn’t know even existed. That’s the nature of the natural sourcer.
- Pre-qualifying. You take the time to learn what’s needed, but if you can’t get just the right person, you can see the possibilities in someone who is “almost right.” You are great with assets, human or otherwise, making sure you get them where they’ll do the most good and you even like to do it on time.
- Matchmaking. Time isn’t your strong suit, so your assignments are often late, but you love it when you make it happen. You share the joy in the “perfect match” whether that’s to fill a position, set friends up for a date, or pass on the name of your ace plumber to your colleague who woke up to a flooded kitchen.
- Background checking. You love to solve those gritty little problems and, if the truth be told, you are a bit nosy about other people’s secrets. Each successful conversation with a prior employer where you wheedle more than “name, rank, serial number” is a personal triumph for you, and you do keep score.
- Data management. Let all those thorny interactions with people be done by someone else. You aren’t a hermit; you just prefer working with data, tending the gold mines, and providing information and even a bit of wisdom to those who approach you with respect for its value.
Now that you’ve figured out what you like best, what are some potential career paths for you to consider? If you checked networking, have you considered business development, or even going into business yourself? Networking is essential for business development. If it’s your own business you’ve been considering, start with writing down your vision for it. The larger it is, the bigger the team you’ll need to help you get there, so start by developing those relationships. (Hint: Those other people will like doing those things you just crossed off your list.)
If you chose negotiating and closing the deal, then you are a natural for strategic consulting on either side of the table. If you have had a long career, are appropriately credentialed for your intended customer base, and truly understand the internal politics of organizations, your counsel will be valuable to senior management and professionals in outplacement. If you have extensive experience in a narrow industry or niche market, consider positioning yourself as a consultant within that realm.
If grooming the candidate was your top pick, have you dreamed of becoming a coach? In professional coaching, as in most things, education and credentials count for a lot in the marketplace. Before considering “quick and easy” routes, sit down and plan (you love to do this anyway) how to become an expert and how to get the word out. Great ways to practice the skills you’ll need include mentoring. If you can’t do this at your present job, consider giving to your local youth mentoring project such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
If you opted for cold calling, leading a sales team may give you the action you crave. Your only problem is that there just aren’t enough hours in any one day to do everything. Leading a sales team lets you multiply your effectiveness without burning out. If you can’t move up in your own organization, you might want to spend a few of those precious spare moments looking at other possibilities.
If organizing is your passion, no matter how much technology you already use, consider expanding your toolbox. You would be great at managing computer networks that support the myriad activities of complex organizations. It comes easy to you but remember that most of us can’t keep track of our car keys and glasses, much less the critical information that runs our businesses.
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If sourcing was first or second on your list, consider purchasing in almost any industry you are interested in. Sourcers know just where to look to get the right component, whether that’s a critical piece for a manufacturing line or the right person to fill out a project team. Do you like eBay? There’s a whole new industry based on finding things, or customers for things, that didn’t exist a few years ago.
If you prefer pre-qualifying, you are good with the kind of details that are important to finance, compliance, and human resources transactions. You care about the people who need the details, so you are as careful with the numbers as you are with the people. You’re also well-disciplined, so if you end up in HR, don’t be surprised if people ask you to help them with problem employees.
If matchmaking excites you, you are the kind of person that others respond to well. Two areas you may never have considered are politics and development. This is what they have in common: Development consists of getting people to donate to an organization and politics consists of convincing people that the “donations” they make, in the form of taxes, go to help important causes. Consider how your gift of gab can best be put to use for the general good, including your own.
If background checking makes your day, you have what it takes to become a successful private investigator. You might not want to be Dirty Harry or join your local police force, but those investigative skills can be used even while sitting at a computer and without the use of deadly force. If it appeals to you, you can start by investigating what it would take to become a private investigator.
If data management gets your attention, there is a whole new breed of librarian, the knowledge management professional. More likely to be called digital librarians, these are the experts in storing and, most of all, retrieving, important information. The tools are so much more sophisticated than the card catalogue of your early years that there are graduate programs in this field for specific and diverse industries.