When it comes to career paths, recruitment is an enticing prospect. It requires the perfect balance of sales savvy, problem-solving, and personal charisma, while offering incredible rewards in terms of job satisfaction, interpersonal communications, room for advancement, and of course, income.
But when you’re struggling to progress a burgeoning recruitment career, all of that (particularly the fat wedge of cash) can seem like a distant, unattainable prospect.
The majority of recruiters start out with high hopes and big dreams, working at large recruitment agencies where all that pep and enthusiasm can get lost amid the throngs of other new, hopeful, and equally eager recruiters.
We often enter these places on a pretty low salary and expend all our energy for the next few years fighting tooth and nail to increase that wage, almost always to no avail.
These big agency working environments are often referred to as grad factories on account of their excellent training and graduate programmes, which is great but what happens when you’re ready to progress? With so many grads in the mix, competition to move up in the company is fierce. And let’s not forget the next batch of eager recruits ready to take your place…
When it comes to progressing your career in recruitment, one of the best moves you can make is moving away from larger firms and into smaller niche recruitment agencies.
These companies focus on a specialist area and place a high value on individual initiative and creativity. They give you all the freedom you need to thrive and grow, while rewarding your hard work with a salary as impressive as your blossoming talents.
If that’s exactly the kind of gig you got into this industry for and you’re eager to get there, or frustrated by your current progress, read on, we’ve got some juicy tips to kickstart your recruitment career…
Your employer wants you to be a success.
Really, they do.
The more successful you are, the more value you have to your employer. So they have a vested interest in seeing you do well. All that being said, here’s a bit of a truth bomb before we dig into some practical tips:
Your employer’s interest in you has a limit and a shelf-life.
The extent to which your employer is willing to invest in your career is largely governed by the type of recruitment agency you work for – chances are that if you enter a larger business on a grad scheme, the company won’t pay you more than a certain amount, no matter how good you get.
They don’t need to.
There are hundreds of bright new recruiters clamouring for your job, happy to do it for peanuts because they need the experience.
So it’s important to know when it’s time to move on. Don’t wait until you’re harbouring a deep set resentment for all things recruitment!
Beyond that, there is the simple fact that a ‘job for life’ is pretty much an oxymoron in the modern workplace. The days of starting out at a company fresh out of uni, steadily working your way up the ladder for years, before retiring as a pretty well-off and influential bigwig are long dead.
It’s not impossible, but it’s seriously unlikely in the current socio-economic climate.
So your job probably isn’t for life, and that’s really a very good thing.
Growth requires freedom, diversity, new environments, fresh opportunities, and change.
You are responsible for your own career development. Even if you currently have a job with the best employee development plan ever, there’s a lot you can and should do to independently progress your career…
When you’re first starting out as a recruiter you’ll have two choices: work for a large firm, or choose to specialise in a specific niche… and neither of these are bad choices. We know that heading into a bigger agency will provide you with valuable training and let’s be honest, how can you possibly know which niche to choose before you’ve even had a crack at the job?!
On the flip side, looking for a position at a niche recruiting firm is an excellent way to progress your career, opening up more opportunities for advancement. Plus, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained in specialising in a particular sector. You can effectively build a trusted network of contacts, really getting to know the industry and the people in it. You may not always know the right person for a position you’re trying to fill, but you’ll know exactly what makes the perfect candidate. You’ll also know people you trust who can recommend candidates and provide you with a lot of insights. There is never time to develop this level of expertise and industry-specific network in an environment where the nature of the roles you’re recruiting for change on a daily basis.
The ability to guide clients in their business development and growth on a long-term basis is also extremely rewarding, as is finding the perfect role for a candidate and watching them flourish, until they eventually come to you as a client needing you to recruit for them.
Niching gives you the chance to see the positive impact of your work first-hand.
That’s good for your job satisfaction but also great for your career advancement, as you can develop a stellar reputation as the go-to recruiter in a particular field.
All of this makes you more valuable as a recruiter, and ensures you have the portfolio, skills, and notoriety needed to land higher paying and more influential positions. This in turn will continue to allow you to become a more effective leader, snowballing your career.
There’s no ceiling to crash into when you’re in a niche environment. The only limit to your progression is your own enthusiasm and drive.
Beyond all of this, the working environment at a smaller recruiter can be more relaxed, and generally has a more evolved company culture, with greater emphasis on development, rewards, and creating a work ‘family’.
As a recruiter, you’ll need to think carefully about discretionary commission; this is a great barometer to use when assessing a job opportunity.
Discretionary commission means the amount you receive is dictated by the whims of fate, or more specifically, your manager. You may have the best month of your career, consistently pull in huge clients and high figures, and still find yourself receiving the same bonus you’d get for doing the bare minimum.
That’s not only a lot of added uncertainty and unnecessary pressure to place on yourself, it can negatively affect your wellbeing, motivation, confidence, future career progression, and the level of trust you have in your manager and company. It can negatively impact your managers and the business as a whole when your performance is affected, so in the long run it isn’t a good model for anyone involved.
Without discretionary commission you know from day one exactly what you can expect. It should all be laid out, with commission a fixed, proportional amount based on how well you perform, not your manager’s opinion.
Agencies with transparent approaches to commission allow you to know exactly what rewards to expect and when. Knowing that your commission is entirely based on your performance, removes a ton of uncertainty and also gives you complete independence when it comes to the amount you earn. While your salary may be fixed, there are plenty of opportunities to help you top up that amount.
The same goes for progression, so whether you are moving into your first consultant role or into a managing position, the right agency is absolutely key. Larger firms might appear to have more opportunities but when you consider the number of new staff taken on each year, those promotions aren’t so achievable.
Any good recruitment agency will provide you with opportunities to develop your skills, enhance your training, and advance your career. But as we’ve already established, you’re the one ultimately responsible for your career development, which means that you should always be on the lookout for new chances to train, learn, develop new skill sets, and have new experiences.
This is particularly true in a professional context but is also true on a personal level. Personal development and growth will, ultimately, only further your career, so try to develop both in tandem. It’s the best way to achieve a solid work/life balance, and is actually genuinely helpful in improving your professional outlook.
So, even if you’re a self-confessed workaholic and struggle to justify ‘me time’, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge you’re working on your career by working on yourself!
The rise of the digital age has changed recruitment in many ways. We’re no longer reliant upon candidates directly responding to adverts or registering with us. There are far more efficient ways of finding great talent!
In the modern world, a huge part of recruitment is actively sourcing the best of the best through various digital outlets. That means connecting with up-and-coming talent in an industry, expanding your network to include leading brands and gurus, or simply searching for professionals working in a particular sphere on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
And that’s all fine… as a starting point. In the midst of new technologies, there are an awful lot of firms who forget the value of human interaction. The reason niche agencies do so well is because they know their markets inside out. It’s about more than reading a person’s CV and having a quick chat on the phone, they really get to know their candidates. That means face to face meetings, it means networking and it means maintaining a continuous relationship. If you forget this, you lose your insight and ultimately your value as a recruiter.
The need for digital skills and an excellent knowledge of professional platforms is essential, but please don’t be led to believe it’s the be all and end all.
Job hunters are increasingly required to leverage social channels to their advantage while looking for work, and as a recruiter you certainly need to be able to jump in and bridge the gap, finding amazing candidates that perfectly fit the roles and company cultures you’re recruiting for. But once that connection is made, it’s up to you to maintain it.
Be sure to keep up with the ever-evolving digital machine by reading the latest news and articles on LinkedIn, following key channels on Forbes, Entrepreneur and other digitally savvy professional sites, and being willing to constantly challenge your tactics.
A big part of staying ahead of the digital game is having an active presence online yourself.
Recruitment has not only evolved to include social media, in the last couple of decades we’ve also seen a shift from a world where the name of the company is simply not enough. Sure, your company’s reputation will guide you and provide credibility, but your own personality, online presence and commitment to your clients and candidates will go a long way.
20 years ago social media hadn’t even been invented yet, LinkedIn didn’t exist, and recruiting firms kept huge databases of CVs and potential clients on file *GDPR alarm bells ring*. Your career, to a large extent, lived and died based on working for one of the big dogs.
Today, it’s about so much more than that. Smaller, more niche recruitment agencies carry a substantial amount of weight, and paired with your own personal touch, you are likely to be considered ahead of larger agencies that have little specialism.
If you can position yourself as a credible and visible presence in the recruitment world and build a solid network of contacts in your chosen niche, while perfectly articulating your own knowledge and professionalism, you can pair this with a specialist recruitment brand to create the perfect formula.
Craft a stellar brand online by blogging, building an email list and sending out a regular newsletter, rocking your LinkedIn profile, or starting a vlog and taking advantage of the massive surge in video demand. Of course, you’ll need to keep this aligned with your company’s brand guidelines, so speak to your marketing team for support and find out how you can both help each other. This alone will set you apart from other members of your team, both with your candidates and with your boss.
One Last Thing…
If you’ve been reading this thinking, ‘Damn, I need to get myself in a great niche recruitment firm’ you’re in luck!
Frazer John is always on the lookout for up and coming recruiters eager to excel and join the team. If you’re ready to take control of your career and work, in a company that’s niche enough to allow you to have a direct impact, and steadily growing at a rate that will enable you to take advantage of amazing new opportunities and further develop your career, we want you.
If you want to have a chat about working at Frazer John, get in touch.