Since I made the transition from Corporate America into recruiting a few years ago, I’m frequently contacted by people who want to pick my brain because they’re interested in making a similar change. I’m happy to have these conversations, and do my best to provide honest feedback to consider in making their decision.
Often, there are a number of things that they’ve not thought about while envisioning raking in huge search fees and working a few months of the year from their second home on the beach. (Isn’t that what it’s like to be a Recruiter?) Here’s a few things I suggest pondering before making the leap from the lush corporate life to the life of hunting, killing and preparing your own food as a Recruiter:
1. Don’t go out on your own before you try it first. Just because you “know a lot of people”, have interviewed before, or have spent time in sales, HR or recruiting in the corporate world, you have a lot to learn about becoming a Recruiter. First, find a good Mentor (I chose the firm I work with because the owner has been a success in the biz for over 30 years), and then join a firm where you can learn the ins and outs of recruiting by actually doing it. Once you’re successful, know that you enjoy it, and have established a strong reputation/network, there’s plenty of time to start your own business at a later date.
2. Carefully choose which type of recruiting you want to do, along with the right firm/culture. Know and understand the differences between retained, contingent, staffing firms, employment agencies, etc. and talk with Recruiters in each area to determine which would be the best fit for you. They’re not the same, and often the skills and approach necessary to succeed in one area are vastly different from another. Just as important, firms within the same industry are also not the same, and you’ll want to identify a company that has the culture and structure that is the right match for you.
3. Understand that recruiting is an emotional business. Sure, there are good days and bad days in Corporate America too, but when your livelihood primarily depends upon the decisions and actions of others, you may find yourself opening a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a successful placement one minute, and then drowning your sorrows in it the next. Sometimes, no matter how well you personally have blocked and tackled, candidates and clients do really stupid things that cause deals to blow up. So, make sure that you have a strong support structure in your life – family, friends, a dog, a good shrink, etc. to help you stay motivated and grounded, instead of having your life turn into a roller coaster ride that makes you so nauseous you just want to get off.
4. Really think about the big company vs. small company dynamic. I’d guess that most recruiting firms are small – say 25 employees or less. If you’ve worked in a larger company, you’ll miss some stuff. The firm I joined is a family-owned business and has 10 employees. They’re all great people, and it’s a very team-oriented environment, but I’ve worked for some large organizations in the past where I’ve led teams of more than 10 employees. Here, I’m the “boss of me“, and if there’s a hill to be taken, I’m the one leading the charge, carrying the equipment, and bringing up the rear. Not bad at all. Just different.
5. No, you don’t understand the value of the benefits your company provides for you. As mentioned above, if you’re joining a recruiting firm, you’re likely joining a small business. Small businesses either don’t provide benefits, or the benefits are super expensive to discourage participation. Unless you have a spouse’s plan to hop on to, you’ll likely have to acquire some or all of your own benefits, and those can be pricey. No more company paid Life Insurance/AD&D/Disability or matching 401k contributions. As an HR exec, I spent years immersed in the dollars and cents of benefit plans and communicating the value of those benefits to employees. But, it took leaving Corporate America (and those affordable/no-cost benefits) to make that hit home for me. (Doh!)
6. Make peace with money before you start. Sure, the income potential for a successful Recruiter can be great, but the recruiting Rock Stars didn’t start out at the top. It takes time to build your business and establish relationships. Also, recruiting typically involves some sort of commission-based income, and you’ll quickly realize that steady direct deposits were indeed a beautiful thing. My Mantra now: “I used to make money for a living – now I earn my money”. It’s a mindset shift, and you’ll need to ensure that you have the personal discipline to manage a variable income stream. And most important – never, ever get into recruiting because of money. If you’re in it for the money, you’ll wind up making poor decisions to push deals together to get fees. That approach will lead to a damaged reputation, no clients – and NO MONEY.
For me, the change to recruiting has been an extremely positive and rewarding one, but there are days when I do miss spending endless hours in the Board Room in meetings doing “strategic planning”, revising/re-revising budgets to hit bonus plans, implementing the latest and greatest plan to increase employee engagement/reduce turnover/improve retention/stop the troops from revolting – or whatever HR leaders are working on today. Ummm… I take that back. I don’t miss any of that!
Jennifer McClure is a Vice President at Centennial, Inc.,a Cincinnati-based recruitment and coaching firm, where she’s charged with strategic recruiting efforts, executive coaching and business development for the firm. Send her an uncustomized LinkedIn invite at your own peril…