Wednesday Wisdom: Babies, Bathwater, and Recruiting Careers

Dear Claudia,

I started recruiting about 3 years ago, and work for a small executive search firm. I really loved my job until about 6 months ago when it changed from just candidate development to include business development. The environment is hyper-competitive, and I struggle to bring in retainers (actually, I'm pretty bad at it) so I'm always at the bottom of the producer list. The fun has gone out of my job for me, although I'm unsure if the problem is that I need to get out of recruiting, or just this office. Any suggestions for me?

Struggling in Cincinnati

Dear Struggling,

This is a tough one because we often blur the lines between what we do and who we are as recruiters. We build relationships, which is the fabric of daily life, and we get paid for doing so. However most of us would benefit from coming out of auto-pilot for a moment to refresh our choice of profession. Life is too short to spend without intention.

Certainly I can't tell you what the right decision is, but I can offer you a framework to make your decision. I urge you to grab a few quiet hours with yourself, and think about the following:

1. Where is your Joy?
When did you last love your job? What exactly did you love about it? Get clarity about the pros and cons of your role at that time: a piece of paper, a line down the middle, and honest reflection will do you nicely.

2. What are your weaknesses?
We all have things we do well, and things we could do better. What's on each of these lists for you? Take another sheet of paper and divide it into four parts, and jot some notes in each of the quadrants relative to your current role:

The bottom left is your "unconscious incompetence" quadrant: what you don't know that you don't know. This area is usually empty for most of us, because we lack the ability to see ourselves the way that others do. Want to know more about this view of yourself? Ask a few trusted friends or peers, and listen without making judgements. Difficult exercise, but worthwhile.

The top left is your "conscious incompetence" quadrant: what you know that you don't know. Things hit this box when a catalyst raises your awareness about something, and a learning curve results. Identify the tasks that you need to learn to develop mastery in your new job; separate from this, think about your desire and motivation to do these tasks. Understanding the difference between task and motivation can add clarity to your decision.

The top right is your "conscious competence" quadrant: what you know that you know. This is the practice sector where your actions are not yet automatic; you still have to think about each step to get it right. There was a time when candidate development skills were in this quadrant for you; most likely some of your business development skills have already crept here too. Competence and confidence grow together; as you get better at something you believe more strongly in your abilities, which in turn helps you do it better.

The bottom right is your "unconscious competence" quadrant; what you don't know that you know. When things hit this section, you do them well without thinking about them. This is competence in its highest form: not everyone gets here with every task, nor will you. But acknowledge what you can do at this level.

3. What are your key factors?
Be a candidate yourself for a moment. What does your perfect job include? What are the most important factors that affect how you spend your day, who you work with, and what you accomplish? Write them down and rank them for importance to create an independent measuring stick you can hold up to any opportunity -- not just this one. Now you're prepared to make some real decisions about your career.

At the end of the day, only you know what is best for you. If you loved your former role as much as you say you did, it may be time to explore other recruiting environments before throwing the baby out with the bath water. Talk to corporate recruiters, contract recruiters, agency recruiters -- everyone sees this job from a slightly different, and equally valid, perspective. Above all, I encourage you to pay close attention to this experience: assuming you don't change professions, you'll have learned some valuable lessons by walking a mile in the candidate's shoes. I wish you well in your decision.


In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

Views: 150

Comment by pam claughton on May 28, 2008 at 7:22am
I agree with Claudia. I also think the answer is in the question, as it seems like you loved your job until sales was added to the mix. There are two options that I'd suggest, first since you once loved your job, see if it can be fixed by talking with your manager and honestly telling them that you love the candidate development and that is your strength and would prefer to lose the bus dev, if that is an option. If it's not, then the good news is that there are many executive search firms would would likely jump to hire you! It's very common to separate functions so that cand developers and business dev people are two completely separate jobs, so elsewhere you can just focus on what you love and are good at, the cand development.

Good luck,


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2022   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service