My transition from therapist to recruiter - the overlap that was not initially obvious, but has now become clear.
There is no set path to becoming a recruiter. You will hear this time and time again in the talent world; yet, there are assumptions made regarding the type of person who can succeed in this role. More often than not these assumptions are false. These assumptions are rooted in the idea that in order to be successful in any "numbers game," one should be intense, aggressive, and headstrong. However, I feel that skills attained and refined from myriad backgrounds can be leveraged in order to create a strong recruiter. It is my belief that you can maintain a sense of self and personal style in a seemingly aggressive environment - you can mold the recruiting position to your strengths, rather than letting the position mold you into what the industry believes you should be.
When I first began my journey into recruiting about one year ago, I was stuck on the notion that in order to become a recruiter, I had to abandon my identity as a therapist. I came to this conclusion after numerous people in my life asked me why I was transitioning from clinical work into a seemingly sales-oriented position, especially after the years that I had put into becoming a trusted clinician. The implication of these inquiries was that in order to work in a corporate setting, I would no longer be the "soft-skilled" psychotherapist that I had worked so hard to become in the previous years.
Assumptions can be made about anything--and especially about any profession, and the same was true about how people viewed my time as a psychotherapist. To take a step back, I would like to elaborate more on what I feel it means to be a psychotherapist. There is an obvious stigma against the field, warranting terms like “shrink” and “psycho-babble.” Yet, for those who believe in therapy as credible mental health care, I feel it is important to discuss why clients keep up with their treatment. Why do they keep coming back? Are people really going to make an investment in someone else listening to their problems? Do people actually need help navigating toward a solution? Yes, to all three of these questions. We all need guidance at some point in our lives and we all want to be heard. I believe that a primary objective of a skilled therapist is to provide a safe space to share without judgement and to collaborate toward a solution together. I bring this up to highlight the relationship between a therapist and a client; one built on rapport, trust, and connection. This connection is not dissimilar to that of a recruiter and a job candidate - or, at least, not dissimilar from the strong recruiter-candidate relationships.
I will be honest in saying that I was initially jarred by the contrast in energy between the field I had known and the one that I was choosing to enter. Recruiters are hardly as overtly empathetic, mindful, or patient as my mental health professional peers. However, I use the word, “overtly” purposefully, as I have learned that behind some of the most seemingly aggressive recruiters, lies the genuine desire to connect, relate, and help their candidates. Of course, for as many benevolent professionals that we encounter in the mental health space, recruiting space, or any industry, there are also the more apathetic employees who may not be interested in any purposeful mission beyond getting their job done. But, do not let those type of people define their respective industries. There are many different personalities that can make up amazing recruiters - each one having their own customized methodology, and many of whom do not fit the stereotypical mold that the world expects.
I have been challenged on my approach with candidates many times; why do I speak to them softly and with a certain tone? Why do I empathize with a candidate for not choosing the position I am trying to fill? Why do I let them say, "no thank you," and turn down the role? It often felt like I was being asked why I was bringing the therapist in me into my recruiting role. In actuality, I was not bringing any sort of personality into my conversations - I was just being me. I have learned many things about recruiting in this past year, one of which was what I could do differently to keep candidates engaged in process. This is a fair expectation of any employer to their recruiter - certainly, the recruiting field requires that one be skilled in attracting people to their open requisitions (“reqs”). Yet, upon being asked the earlier questions, my initial presumption was that I would need to be more aggressive to keep candidates in my pipeline. In order to do this, I assumed I would have to change my personality to be successful.
What I have learned, however, is that at the foundation of maintaining a healthy pipeline of engaged candidates, is a recruiter who is organized, prepared, and assertive. Assertive does not mean aggressive. You can customize your approach to whatever best suits your personality and strengths. Again, at the heart of any successful relationship there is rapport, trust, and connection. Adaptability is a strength. Resilience is a strength. It is definitely important to be flexible in your environment. Yet, from a therapist or a recruiter, I would urge that with that flexibility you maintain your sense of self, your values, your quirks, and mark your industry with your own individual touch.