“I want to be an astronaut.”
“What’s the hardest part of being an astronaut?”
“Pressing the right buttons at the right time.”
A delightful young human featured on Humans of New York a few weeks back said this, and it got me thinking… it used to be so simple when we were younger; considering what we wanted to do for a living and articulating why we wanted to do it.
When we are faced with career decisions as adults, we often want a change, but we aren’t always sure what that is. When we really start thinking about it, perhaps we feel like we don’t even like what we do anyway, but the choices seem infinite, so we stick around a while longer… and before you know it, another year has passed.
It’s incredibly easy to become overwhelmed by the choices we have ahead of us, especially when it comes to career choices. If we try to fathom all of the infinite possibilities available, we run the risk of choosing none whatsoever.
That’s what happened to me with recruitment. As an underwhelmed agency recruiter, my first thought was that I should change career altogether. But when I started to really consider this, the many different options available almost became too much to bear. So I stayed, and stayed much longer than I really wanted to. Largely because it felt safer than doing anything else (I know I’ve also been guilty of doing the same in my personal life at times!).
When the urge for change became too large for me to ignore, I became determined to push past the indecision. Instead of trying to answer all of my many unanswered questions at once, I decided to take it back to basics: simply to meet as many different people as possible and to see where that took me.
I connected (and met) with a myriad of different people working in interesting companies, people working in different professions and importantly, people with a different take on life.
Many of these meetings have since turned into friendships, but started in just this way, sharing ideas, looking at how we might be able to work together, or whether just knowing each other might be inspiration enough.
I became intoxicated by the art world, and started to run social media for a gallery in my spare time. Soon I was promoting artists and meddling with curating shows and all sorts, surrounding by an ever-growing throng of talented humans around me.
Opening up my network, beyond my sphere of traditional recruitment contacts, generated a huge amount of inspiration within me, and one from which I have benefited tremendously.
The first ‘professional’ step outside of agency recruitment came in the form of a contract role for a rail company. I’d placed the HR Director there a number of years back, and she, seeing my potential, decided to offer me a role within her team. I joined Colas Rail as HR Projects Advisor and I was there 5 months on a contract basis. This role was incredibly important to me for a number of reasons: it was completely different to anything I’d done before, I travelled the country, building totally new experiences and learning what it feels to be on the ‘inside’. It showed me that my experience was not so far from this, and that actually, the mystery that the world beyond recruitment consultancy held, was nothing to be afraid of.
Having faced those demons, one of the people that I’d met on my magical mystery tour of networking (and someone who has gone on to become a dear friend) reached out to me to say they had a role, and to ask if I would be interested in applying. He was the (then) interim Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Shazam. Had I not had the experience at Colas Rail, I would never have had the confidence to put myself forward for the role at all – crazy, huh?
As soon as I joined Shazam, I felt like the role was made for me. Ever changing, ever challenging. Surrounded by an array of super-smart people, and with a daily quest to keep my team focused on finding even more of them.
The pace of working in a start up is the thing for me that’s most exciting. Week after week I am in awe of what the brilliant humans I am surrounded by have cooked up next. None more so than my own team – our role is pivotal and they deliver brilliantly. We provide the engine oil that keeps everything going; the humans that we bring in are the key to the development of our business.
I keep up my network of contacts across the board, in many walks of life. I am instinctively curious and know that most of my learnings will come from others. I am fascinated by the way people do things, the decisions they make and what makes things tick – happily all key traits for a Recruiter!
My point here is this: if you want to change what you are doing professionally, don’t get lost in the midst of endless possibilities. Instead simplify, just like our young astronaut friend. What do you like the look of doing and why do you like the look of doing it? For me, it turned out that far from needing an entirely new profession, I simply needed to change my perspective.
Select a handful of interesting humans who work in companies you are genuinely interested in, and suggest meeting them for coffee. LinkedIn is a great place to find them. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Then you find someone else. They won’t be upset that you’ve asked in the first place. People love to share ideas and wisdom, and will no doubt love to hear some of yours also.
Collaborative networking is truly where it’s at, and has absolutely been the biggest agent for professional change for me.