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That time when I swallowed a watermelon

People coming into in-house recruitment roles for the first time often ask me for advice on how to get started, and what to focus on.

Anyone who has made a similar move, being in recruitment or otherwise, will know that there is so much to do coming into a new role that the to-do list can become a little challenging at best; at worst, completely overwhelming.

I’ve used this phrase many times before, but you really can’t swallow a watermelon whole, so please please don’t try to. You really do have to cut it into slices (I pinched that line from my current boss, Chief People Officer @Shazam, Charmaine Norville – so it’s even more fitting here, given I’m sharing a little of what I’ve learnt in my time at Shazam).

You will no doubt have arrived with a ton of ideas and a heart full of hope, and please hold on to that, but my first piece of advice would be to be open and just absorb EVERYTHING. Be prepared to work out what the business truly needs when you actually get there.

Which brings me neatly to Slice 1 of our watermelon:

Slice 1

Be yourself. I can’t emphasise enough how this is the single most important component for all of us at work. Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to be something else to please other people. They have hired you because they believe you to be a total badass. So be the total badass that only you can truly be.

Slice 2

Focus on the people. Map out your new organisation as quickly as possible, and also the personalities you find within it. You will hopefully find a ton of immediate allies who are delighted you are there, but you may also be met with a little resistance from others, particularly if you are the first Recruiter that they’ve had join the team.

Many of the people in different departments may have led parts of recruitment before, and it’s therefore important that you take on board what has happened before lovingly and openly. See their knowledge as a blessing, not a curse. Approach them as a friend, not a foe, regardless of what you might get back.

The first few weeks should largely be spent just getting to know people and getting to know stuff. Building strong relationships is key, and looking as many people in the eye as you possibly can really will be pivotal to that.

When I first joined Shazam, I had to build a ton of relationships with folks in the US that I wasn’t going to meet in real life for a little while. Whilst that wasn’t ideal, we overcame it (like all good long distance relationships) with Skype and frank, regular, open communication.

Slice 3

Now is the time to re-align your strategy. You will have no doubt started with a road map in mind and a list of things you wanted to achieve in your time there. Now that you have real world data on how things are actually working, re-prioritise your list carefully.

Shift your priorities to fall into three categories; short, medium and long term goals. Some of the things that I wanted to do year one at Shazam I am just getting to do now, and you have to be prepared for that.

Change is a process, and people may not quite be ready for the change you are hoping to bring immediately. Some change will be necessary right away, but don’t be afraid to alter your own road map to support the overall success of the business, and also your own success within it.

Slice 4

Now it’s time to get stuck into those quick wins. What are the things that you can change super-fast that will create the most impact? How easy are they to achieve? What are the things the organisation is finding the most painful? From the foundation of those super-strong internal relationships you have already started developing, it should feel relatively easy to start getting this stuff done.

Focus on those hard-to-fill roles that may have been open for a while and create a strategy around their swift delivery. There is nothing that will help your internal stock rise more than taking someone’s pain away.

Are there other things relating to process that you can fix super-quickly? What are the team’s biggest challenges when it comes to hiring? Focusing on this area in detail in the first few weeks of your new gig won’t have you going far wrong.

Slice 5

Along the past few weeks, you should have had ample opportunity to assess the team’s capability when it comes to hiring. You may have some great quality hirers already there, but I would now consider offering some form of training on recruiting to all staff.

That’s exactly what I did when I joined Shazam. This wasn’t about prescribing an interview approach to people – my team are super-smart and don’t want or need someone telling them what to do. This was about humanising the hiring process again, and switching the mindset of the people within the business. It’s easy for us all to forget just how hard interviewing for a new role is, so my sessions really focused on that area.

This is where you start to really work on your candidate experience from the inside out. And that has to start with the way people are treated and get to feel when they interact with you throughout an interview process. You have an opportunity to create a brand advocate in every person your business comes into contact with.

Slice 6

Build a bullet proof hiring process. Simplicity is everything. Get a great ATS. Get the team involved in it. Make sure everyone know what their role is – all of the time. Over communicate. Manage expectations well. Deliver.

A great process will give everyone a great experience; internally and externally.

Slice 7

Tell everyone what you and your team are up to. Start to send weekly update emails to your hiring managers, coupled with regular live catch ups. Look at the way you measure everything and don’t be afraid to try different things.

What kind of data is most useful to the business? Be prepared to provide different things to different people. One size does not fit all.

Slice 8

Bring your focus back to branding. How can you give the rest of the world more access to what is happening inside your brilliant business? Perhaps consider using social channels to help get your message out there and show the world the real you.

Where do the humans you are looking for in your business ‘live’? Do they go to meetups? Do they go to events? Do they prefer certain kinds of websites over others? Meet those people on the platform that works best for them. This kinda stuff doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, be prepared to get creative. Are there people within your business who can support you with this? Working on these types of initiatives with the wider organisation will also present an awesome opportunity to get to know folks a little better, and take that relationship to a deeper level.

For me, slice 8 was also about taking that brand advocacy a little further, and getting the team to see their own roles within the business as one of brand advocates also. Encourage them to start sharing their work with the world on a personal level; perhaps considering blogging, speaking at events etc.

Slice 9

Re-assess everything, raise your game and start over again. Build out a new road map every 6-12 months. Keeping it fresh will not only keep your role challenging and exciting for you, but also ensure the business is getting the very best it can in terms of its people resource – and that truly is the key to its success.

Slice 10

Make lots of friends in recruitment. Compare notes. Build a network that will develop to become mutually beneficial and supportive. Call upon those people with your challenges, allow them to do the same, and start to build a community around you.

And finally…

Be sure (at regular intervals throughout the watermelon consumption process) to check in with yourself. Are you really being the real you at work? Do you feel confident and able to deliver your role well? Are you finding ample opportunity to let your soul shine?

I support being the real me at work with regular meditation, coaching and by being very honest with my own self-assessment. A simple; what went well, what could I have done better and what should I never do again works wonders.

A focus on your own growth will support your growth in the role you are in and in turn, your career. That way everybody wins.

That time when I unearthed a total badass 

I read an amazing book recently. Scratch that. I discovered an amazing human recently. Sure, I’d heard her name and her legend somewhat. But until I took the time to read her book; Lean In, I really had no idea of how exceptional this human is. She’s a total badass.

That person is Sheryl Sandberg.

What makes her so exceptional is the abundant realness. Realness is unbelievably important to me. The realness in saying; hey, this is me, I go out and I do the best I can, each and every day. I rise to life’s challenges. I am grateful. I am evolving. I am far from perfect. But I am real.

I am unashamed about my realness. In fact, it’s one of the things about me I am most proud of. I am lucky that I work for a company that absolutely celebrates and embraces that.

One of the biggest comments I seem to get over and over again when I write my blogs is someone thanking me for my honesty and candour – and I’m always slightly surprised by this each time.

We owe it to one another to keep it as real as possible. To share our stories, our triumphs over adversity, but also to be transparent about our journey and our struggles, acknowledging what it might have taken for us to get where we are.

Sandberg absolutely captures the essence of the internal dialogue I have had with myself as a woman and I know that will be the same for many others. I can’t speak for men on this subject, but I know that myself and the many different brilliant females I am proud to know, are hard on ourselves in just the way she describes.

She talks of the difference in the way that women describe their experiences vs. men. She talks about how a woman will usually only apply for a job if she is completely convinced she ALREADY has the skills they are looking for. Rather than throwing caution to the wind and applying anyway, which Sandberg suggests, is the male approach.

Women only feel truly comfortable when rising via merit, when someone says; hey you have earned this promotion, here you go, its yours. The reality though is that we need to get a whole bunch better at taking it. Leaping for the opportunities that scare us a little. I know that’s what I did with my role at Shazam.

I have recently called myself to account on is the way I present my ‘career story’ to the world, and the way I have allowed my own detrimental inner dialogue to steer that. I may have even written some of my blog posts from that very standpoint.

Someone asked me earlier this week how I had ‘managed to land a job like Shazam’ – with a very barbed emphasis on the how – having come from an external recruiting background. I laughed along with them, and explained how I’d been extremely lucky to meet the person that brought me into Shazam, and how grateful I am that I did. And it is true. I am both of those things.  But what I should have articulated was that I got my role on merit.

I need to get better at being clear about that with myself and the rest of the world that: 

  • I got here because I was able to cope with the pace, and the amount of change that a company like Shazam goes through.
  • I got here because my small company background, meant that I have been conditioned to operate positively and swiftly whatever the day might bring.
  • I got here because I am a problem solver, first and foremost; there’s nothing we can’t fix with a bit of thought.
  • I got here because I am tenacious, and took Shazam into my heart. I thrive here because I work my ass off to help create an effective recruiting function that provides the people that Shazam needs to fly.
  • I got here because I took every opportunity that entered my peripheral vision and grabbed it with both hands.
  • I got here because I live with the focus of continued development, of self and everything around me.
  • I got here because I make a choice every day to be happy, and to be the best version of me I can possibly be.

The role might have been presented to me, but I won it and made it permanent. I also made the connection with the brilliant human that reached out to me for the role in the first place. 

I didn’t just lean in, I dived in. I created (and continuously evolve) great processes. I developed (and continuously develop) new initiatives. I built a team that has assembled an exceptional collection of humans that deliver amazing work and help make Shazam the very best business it can be.

What is your ‘story’? How do you allow your internal dialogue to colour the way you present yourself to the world?

We all need to get better at being our own cheerleaders and we can work together to help us all improve on our internal dialogue. We need to hold each other to account when we can see and perceive negative attitudes towards self. I am blessed to have a rich and diverse group of friends that work to hold ourselves and each other to exactly that. Male and female. 

In the work context, we can also make sure that credit is taken where credit is due. If we can see that someone isn’t comfortable in claiming their own, we can lovingly point it out and help them along their way. We need to celebrate one another’s successes abundantly. We are all badasses.

And the next time someone asks me how I ‘managed’ to secure my role at Shazam, I hereby make a pact with myself to become better at being my own advocate, at celebrating my own badassery. I will simply reply; because I am a badass.