It’s Been One Hell of a Ride

On June 2 I will have been in Executive search twenty years.  Twenty years is a long time to do anything, especially being a “headhunter”.  I hate that term by the way.

Like most careers, it found me, I didn’t find it.  I was working for a women’s clothing company out of North Carolina when I had a bad flight from St. Louis to Chicago.  Without going into all the details, let’s just say we had a belly landing and I became a very nervous flyer.  Problem was; in that job I had to fly everyday…so my choices were simple…get over my nervousness quickly or change jobs. I chose the latter.

After analyzing what I really liked about my past job and what I didn’t, the part that stuck out to me was my love of recruiting their sales force.   So I looked at this profession because it gave me a similar opportunity, although in a different industry.

I accepted the job at Management Recruiters of Appleton and began my 20-year career.  I’ll never forget my first day, June 2nd.  I walked in, only to find out my then boss was not going to be at work due to an accident his Granddaughter had over the weekend.

The front office assistant welcomed me and took me to my desk.  I was excited but nervous – I had stood on many a stage in my previous job…but now I was once again the rookie.  I had noticed plaques on the wall of one of the Account Executives who obviously had been very successful – so I sought her out and said, “I look forward to learning from you.  Obviously you have been very successful”.  I’ll never forget as long as I live her exact words back to me.  “Once you’ve been here a year you can talk to me, before that I would rather you not”.

Wow!  Ok, here we go.  But you know what?  Being the competitive person I am; it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I decided at that moment I would show her how it was done, and within six months I had surpassed her year long number and was Rookie of the Year.   I’ve always said God works in mysterious ways.

My boss ultimately came in and it was time to discuss my “desk specialty” – what industry I would serve in assisting to find talented employees.  I was very candid, “I really don’t care the industry, as long as it has nothing to do with women.  For the past nine years I have hired and managed high maintenance women, so I would prefer to work with men.  Honest story – I loved my job, but after nine years the ability to work with men and have less drama was of appeal at that point in my life.  Construction became my desk specialty – and twenty years later, I still love the industry!   At the time however, I knew nothing about construction – and I mean nothing!

I looked at the database.  One Construction Company – that’s it.  And it was Bolt – meaning Boldt – not even spelled right.   I knew I had some work ahead of me.

Fast forward.  I purchased my book of business in 2002 and opened Employment Resource Group Inc.  I still love this business.  We serve many more industries and not only conduct searches but also consult on retention, empowering employees and succession planning.  I’ve always said I want for our clients and candidates what I have found, my life’s vocation.

I’ve learned much in my twenty years.  Here are a few gems for thought…

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Candidates are rarely as good as they claim and no one is as bad as some would want you to believe – but the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  Our job is to assemble the truth.

Why people are successful is rarely technical in nature. It is values and how their values match the company’s values.  If it’s a good match, they integrate in and are successful.  If not, it can be a terrible failure and expensive.  Finding out what’s important at the core, the values – that’s critical to a successful new hire.

Almost everyone goes through a professional mid-life crisis. Typically between 45-55 years of age, one realizes that they aren’t as engaged or excited about going to work everyday.  They start to swoon about the grass being greener somewhere else.    Then on the QT they come to see me.  Our job is to help people figure out what really is important – because many factors are in play.  Potential income loss, moving to a less desirous culture, benefits, and the list goes on.  Finding a way to bleed passion and energy into their current role is part of our retention strategies….and important in keeping our client’s high performers.

Company leaders are normal folks, just like you and I. While you can say their pocketbooks are bigger, so are their worries.

There is no such thing as a perfect company. If I find one, I’ll meet you there.

It’s hard to instill some of the things most important to success; hard work, intuition, self-motivation, sense of urgency. I am convinced this is a DNA thing.

Leadership is hard – I reference the feeling like this. Think of being the peer who always plans happy hour.  Then you become a leader and now you are no longer invited.  Yep, that’s the feeling.

Social media is awesome – but don’t abuse it. Your whole life does not need to be an open book. Especially in a job search.

Never grow stale. Reinvent, innovate and change every chance you get.  If you don’t the world will move right past you.

I wish I knew then what I know now. I remember telling my Dad during a heart to heart that he sure got a lot smarter as I got older.  Of course he laughed. Business is like that too.  If I was smarter back then I would have bought Apple when offered.

Twenty years.  I still love what I do and can’t see myself doing anything else.  It has taken courage, heartbreak, and tenacity and in return has given me joy, happiness, financial stability and lots of laughs.  There really isn’t anything better.