Like most people in advertising I have changed roles in my career as opportunities presented themselves to me. There was never any plan. I trusted my instinct and moved to work for people I believed in and the businesses they were leading. The people element was always front and centre of my decision making, the brand was definitely secondary.
Fast forward twenty-something (ahem) years and you realise that along the way your priorities have changed, your motivations are different and you start looking for new stimulus and experiences. When the noise about purpose started a few years back I was ever so slightly cynical. It was only when I actually lost mine that I recognised the importance of it for my wellbeing, energy levels and general state of mind. I realised that this was my opportunity to take back control, make a new plan and in order to do that with meaning I invested in a coach who helped (bullied) me into focusing on the things that make me excited, and with that knowledge really think hard about the different paths I could take.
I have always loved people. I find it easy to talk to the person next to me on the bus, people in shops. I am one of those people who ask complete strangers where they got their bag/dress from. This trait could be positively labelled natural curiosity, but the truth is I am just nosy. However, because I genuinely like (most) people I remember things about them. Therefore “growing up” in sales roles, long before social media, this became my superpower, especially when combined with a passion for driving revenue and business outcomes.
I have always loved solving problems through people and connections – whether that is providing clients with compelling opportunities based on my knowledge of them or head-hunting (informally) for my own businesses and others. I started to realise that whatever I did had to have talent at its heart, but I am not, and will never be HR trained, so what could I do, what was the commercial proposition, what was the product?
A serendipitous cup of tea with Daren Rubins suggested by Jo Hagger and I knew immediately that I had landed on the career that I didn’t know I had been preparing for in every previous role I’ve had. When I told a former boss (Annie Rickard) what I was going to do she said “you have been building up to this moment your entire career”. She saw it, as did my coach and several others. Ironically, I hadn’t.
But having identified what I wanted to do, I still had to convince Daren that I was his ideal work partner and so wrote the most important pitch document of my life (and then sat watching my gmail like a lovesick teenager). As I now know to be his way, he was very considered in his response and one of the things he did was to set me a test to ensure that our judgement about people was aligned. We found a few people on LinkedIn that we both knew well, and I presented my evaluation of their capabilities and personalities to him as if he was a client. I quickly realised that, although my gut feel was strong, I needed to use proof points to create a really robust appraisal. Thankfully, I passed. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In a little over nine months, we’ve had a lot of fun building a business as we start to ‘conker’ the world of talent. Creating a business plan, developing a proposition, activating senior relationships and generating a pipeline of business are all things I’ve always been confident with. The big question of course is whether I could actually do search. So far we’ve placed over 17 super-impressive, transformational candidates which represent true diversity. And whilst our searching and mapping are incredibly rigorous, I actually managed to surface, assess and place my first brief in less that two weeks. Since then, I’ve worked really hard to develop my approach and it’s working. My last search was both complex and challenging but, having presented three outstanding candidates, the clients loved them so much, they took two!
So, if you face a career crossroads, look deep inside for your real qualities, passions, motivators and try to go beyond the obvious craft skills. Get help, build your game plan and start that by understanding your superpower.