When Trying to Switch Career Fields Makes You Feel Like D’Angelo From The Wire

Liz Desio Career Advice, Career Paths, Communication, Recruiting, Talent Acquisition

Why is it so hard to transition from the field you started in?

Yep, you guessed it — I’m spending my quarantine days and newfound unemployment watching The Wire, and I can’t recommend it enough. Seriously, if your boyfriend is annoying you about watching it, you should actually listen to him, because it’s amazing, like possibly-better-than-breaking-bad amazing.re

I began The Wire at a very interesting point in my career and life, and it has drawn me to make some very inappropriate and definitely problematic comparisons to my situation and those of the characters. To start off, if you haven’t seen The Wire — the first season follows both a group of police officers and a ring of drug dealers in 1990’s Baltimore.

It does an incredible job of altruistically portraying the brutalities taking place on both sides of the War on Drugs, drawing on the corruption taking place within the police force. The Wire gets you to empathize with all of the characters, no matter how ruthless or wrong they may be in different situations. This is what makes it such a beautiful show, and why we should all love it (and also hate the War on Drugs). The other seasons seem super promising as well, but as I’m only midway through season 2, I can’t speak to them yet.

So how am I comparing this mind-blowing show about drug dealers and the police to my job search? Don’t stop reading yet!

In season 1 of the The Wire, I learned a great deal about how gangs work — namely, how difficult it is to get out of the game once you start. Our main character, D’Angelo Barksdale, is the nephew to drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, meaning that he has basically been raised to participate in the drug trade. There are little signs of his uneasiness, his desire to get out, and eventually (SPOILER ALERT) his lack of allegiance to Avon in the end leads to his murder in prison. At the end of the day, all D’Angelo wanted to do was move beyond his first job and explore a new profession…and his circumstances prevented him from having that option. So if it’s not a life or death issue — why do so many of us in our current field feel so much like D’Angelo?

When I was laid off from my Campus Recruiter role at my former company, I had conversations with my manager, my partner, and many former colleagues to get advice on my job search. Right around the time I was laid off, I was set to transition from HR to the Digital Comms team, and I was so psyched to get a chance to write professionally (because as you can guess, that’s what I love to do).

So when I lost that opportunity, everyone told me my best bet would be to stay in a recruitment function in order to land a new role — after all, that’s where majority of my experience is. But the only reason majority of my experience is in recruitment, is because my first job was in recruitment. And, much like D’Angelo Barksdale, that path was unavoidable to me due to my circumstances at the beginning of my career.
I was an editorial intern, working mostly restaurant jobs to pay my rent in Brooklyn.

When I reached the breaking point with lack of sleep, a mounting credit card bill, concerned parents, and a desire to be able to take time off for Thanksgiving, I found myself interviewing at a recruitment firm. There were exactly 2 things that attracted me to this job: One, it paid $40K starting salary, which at the time I thought was bomb, and 2, they hired people with no experience. I worked there about a year and a half, and since then, I’ve been unable to make the career switch into something more creative — since I started as a recruiter, I’m only ever considered a recruiter. My amazingly talented manager at my previous job, who is me plus about 4 additional years of experience, feels stuck in the same trap.

What is it about recruitment that makes it so hard to transition out of recruitment? Especially when most people fall into it in the first place?

Recruitment is a field that teaches a wide swath of applicable skills. It teaches you sales practices, business development, client-facing communications, and relationship building. It makes you a self starter, a team player, and a professional empath. It teaches you to be a market expert in any industry, even when you are at the junior level. Certain roles, like my Campus Recruitment Manager role, even teach you project and personnel management, marketing, and proficiencies in numerous operating systems.

So why isn’t recruitment a more respected job in the industry? Because contrary to popular belief, not “anyone” can do it well. It takes a great deal of impetus and talent to be successful — and many people who start off in the field, like myself, are hard workers as a consequence of their circumstances. We needed something to pay the bills, or stay on top of our student loans, or gain experience in an office setting. We are liberal arts majors, creatives, people who think outside the box. And we deserve to be seen as nothing less than those things when we apply for any job, or try to make a lateral transition.

So recruitment has been good to me. And I do enjoy it — but like D’Angelo in The Wire, I want to have the freedom to choose something beyond my first role, because I’m not who I was when I first started my career. Until I figure that out, I’ll be applying to jobs and bingeing The Wire, so be on the lookout for a career-focused article on Stringer Bell. You know I won’t be able to resist that.