Finding Your Niche - 6 Years Later On The Staffing Career Journey

On a bright morning in Lake Tahoe I reached a moment of inward reflection thinking about what I personally needed to do to get to the next level in my career - and on Tuesday June 24th woke up bright and early to take the drive to Emerald Bay with my daughter on the Lake's West side.  It was looking out on this amazing "Jewel of the Sierras" that it hit me. It was 6 years ago in 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession I found myself thinking about my recruiting niche and stared down on this bright blue lake to gain perspective on my own recruiting/staffing journey - it was at Solutions Partners where I found the ultimate opportunity mixing HR Consulting Skills and Staffing wizardry - it lead to an amazing fill and an amazing fee which opened the door to my family gaining some much needed extra money.  I felt at peace with my decision to take on staffing again, and realize what I was personally capable of.  You can read that blog here:

That was one of my first blogs on this site.  I was reminded back then that staffing had something special to bring about great outcomes in business and a win/win for all involved.  It was back then the economic circumstances hadn't fully found their way to Silicon Valley entirely which was somewhat insulated.  But, as it were - the very keys of economic instability found me.  I venture to say - that many times we will find ourselves with a few staffing bumps and bruises.  Be that as it may, I had to learn first hand how to overcome the economic instabilities.  In 2009 - the economy finally hit the Boutique HR Consulting Firm that I was part of and forced me to part ways with a place that had opened so many doors for me and renewed my confidence in what was personally possible in spite of economic circumstance.  I can be candid here.  Staffing and HR are not easy worlds to work in.  But their true rewards are without doubt simply powerful.  Since Solutions Partners I found my way to NetPolarity and ADP - both of which honed staffing skills to a new solid level.  It was while my daughter tagged along that I realized how truly blessed I personally am.  I need to constantly remind myself why I get up to go a few more rounds when staffing outcomes have tested my mettle.  I honestly felt at peace and found my niche at ADP.  I don't really understand all the ins and outs, nor why life's challenges for work/life balance, a quest to deliver and find a fair shake for each candidate that comes to my door, or staffing challenges of volume and change dictate a new flavor of staffing prowess.  Finding your niche is not about just filling jobs, in a sense helping others along the way delivers a very real opportunity for growth in more ways than one could ever really hope to realize.  A year ago when we planned a family reunion at the end of this June to go and be with my sisters, and their families and my parents and my spouse I never fathomed how truly busy I would be coming into July.  A number of factors in the business including the way others go about certain process steps and changes in what I believed were factors that I personally felt comfortable in only to have moments where I at times found myself doubting over 4 years at times and others really feeling strong in my pursuits, it was here in Lake Tahoe once again where I needed a sense of renewal.  Looking down on this lake later from a Helicopter ride with my family surrounding me, it hit.  Nothing could ever be more valuable then my family.  My job, my colleagues, my worldly possessions, my own way of viewing the world are all small potatoes when compared with the blessings of my family.

As we flew forward so much hit - this picture seemed to say to me - I really am one cog in the wheel, just one part of a bigger puzzle - and I need to open my mind to the fact that I can achieve so much with the help of others and colleagues, friends, and family.  When the going get's rough, when volume in my job, volume in my life, busy moments and the daily grind of fighting to make a living - really is my recruiting/staffing venture in my minutae of striving to overcome challenges - is that all the most important pieces now?  What can I do is the question?  How will I renew and re-instill that recruiting fire.  Looking down from above nearly 2000-3000 feet in the air - it hit me.  One can only conquer life's challenges when you have a larger perspective.  I think that's what I was hinting at in that blog above there - one of my first on this you can see - challenges are real, but so is the perspective of seeing the bigger picture for the long term focus.  That's what Lake Tahoe taught me.

Later - while trudging along the sand my curious daughter in all her 7 year old energy showed me something I needed to also remember - the inward fight and curiosity she carries to everything she does.  We went to the Tallac Historic site on our way back to the South Shore where our resort was, and I couldn't but help admire my oldest as she keeps me her dad young.  She is what gets me up out of bed each day along with my other 2 kids, and my amazing wife.  Seeing my family renewed my sense of purpose about why I go to work.  That was readily clear.

As a humbling statistic glared me in the face being part of close to 250 hires in a 2 year time span in my current company I think while travelling over all these miles to CA from UT, and then back again, it really couldn't have been any more clear.  While our purpose is to fill jobs there is something more to life, and I suppose if we can think of our own journey that may be more readily clear how important a staffing function truly is to more lives than just our own.  Someone once asked me - why do you do what you do?  I explained - I help folks find jobs, I help fill roles for my company - in short I help change lives.  Perhaps it is secondary to all we do.  The interviews for fit, the sourcing string, the offer close and negotiation - how often do we find ourselves in want of new hope, how often when the pure volume of our efforts and staring at your staffing desk of nearly 35-45 openings do you ask yourself this one question - HOW WILL I DO THIS?  AND WHY DO I DO THIS?  The simple answer is this - you do this because you enjoy the thrill of helping others.  You get a twinge of excitement when the fill is achieved OR when you have had multiple fills all in a row.  It's when you have personally fought tooth and nail, to make even the toughest hiring manager happy.  Where you did everything in your immediate power to not let ANYTHING stop your forward progress.  Where each mystery and finding step you took was literally a stab in the dark when you had that new manager, or you were just fighting to get through one more day, one more call, or achieve one more offer.

The matchmakers today in the staffing world must remember this - HR is so much more than a "cost center".  It is so much more than a bunch of "paper pushers".  It is so much more than just a req number or more than a Human Capital OR cog in a wheel when you bring someone new on.  Staffing is the sum whole of ALL of this.  The Employee Life Cycle from Hiring to Onboarding to Performance Management, to Retirement, to Compensation and everything in between are all matters of vital resolve.  Whatever it takes to master the perfect storm of multiple openings. Whatever it takes to fill the most pressure cooker jobs, - it is your niche, finding your rythym and comfort with life's moments that capture the day.

I can think of no greater calling to my life's work than my staffing outcomes.  The folks who became my colleagues, the fire in the belly that closed that most difficult of openings, the very tenacity to keep dishing out a few more calls even when that one job was indeed the "toughest fill yet", or the Purple Squirrel reqs.  

But when you found the purple squirrel and they were hired.  When that manager gave everything to almost knock your staffing momentum to a moment of fear, was it not the confidence of the colleague you worked with on your team, or the kind words of a partner whom expressed - "you are amazing" but yet you just needed that renewal to find that?

Is it any wonder that the perfect string, the perfect silver bullet in recruiting is never the same per each requirement?  In dealing with Hiring Managers - themselves equally as human as the candidates they hire, is it any wonder that recruiting still is and will always be a contact sport?

When you were just about to give up - when all the volume and busy steps on your desk were at a point of no return where you had put every candidate forward you could and scheduled every last interview.  Was there not a moment when you saw the 20 to 30+ hiring month?  Or in smaller volume shops even the 5-10 hire month?  Was it not then that you looked inside yourself to your own proverbial Lake Tahoe moment?  

It was this renewal of purpose I suppose that I needed.  It was this momentum builder to get me back in my groove and my renewal of purpose to give a little more and when I came back to 500 emails and dozens of matters needing my very attention and zeal that I this week dusted off an old picture of 6 years ago at a time where I couldn't help but fill fulfilled in a new way I had never before felt.  It was a steady reminder of why I do what I do in recruiting.

As I close this blog post - I add one final thought - work/life balance - the quest of every recruiter to balance life and the careers we choose to pursue with the volunteerism and other important values we hope to bring to our culture. As I saw my daughter walking along a Tahoe beach without a care in the world in her Pajamas no less at 8:30a on a beautiful Tahoe morning it hit me.  I HAVE found my staffing niche.  Recruiting HR/Operations Professionals, and others in an amazing environment like my current company I have found fulfillment.

Perhaps the lessons here learned will open new doors along the way.  I think it's safe to say Recruiting will be a part of me for years to come.  I think it's safe to say I have found my niche.  Whether it be sourcing to raise awareness, or a passion for renewing my recruiting fire, I think it is above all a pure need.  I have found as I did 6 years ago - that staffing and recruiting are the zenith of my HR Career.  Many HR Professionals fear staffing yet to find one's niche to overcome the volume, the multiple emails, the noise as it were in our immediate environment.  Whatever it is that takes us to this point of challenge when all things you have strived to do made both hiring manager and candidate happy and you again and again and again kept going and filling jobs even when everything inside of you says: "This is perhaps my toughest search yet" and then you overcame that challenge through sheer grit, determination and a dogged focus, it was then in an amazing moment the incredible outcomes came to bear and the matches fulfilled your mind for success.

It is there that everything falls into place.  Most of all when a candidate comes back and says to you "You made a difference" and the hiring manager says "There was something different about this go around" - it is then you may someday as I did look out upon a lake and say to yourself - THIS IS WHY I WORK IN STAFFING, THIS IS WHY I DO WHAT I DO.

Most of all as I saw my daughter skipping along this Lake Bed and Beach I thought to myself - THIS IS WHY I WORK PERIOD.  For my family.  While the moments of career success are desirable, while everything I wish to make happen and find in my life are core - it is my family after all who remind me the importance of being HUMAN in a HUMAN Business.  The mask of technology, the mask of core success is nothing compared for those who love you closest, and the family that will stand by you in thick and thin.  Finding your niche in staffing does propel me on my way, but my family is truly my greatest treasure.  

On a date night with my wife after playing some Air Hockey, and a few moments of peace while my neice watched our kiddos I found myself walking with my wife under the stars.  I thought for a moment - how blessed am I?  I have a job I love even when it stresses me, a wife whom will in many respects work with me, kiddos whom love me for whom I am and colleagues and teammates whom don't ever give up on me - not to mention a boss of the highest caliber whom by example leads the way.  It is in these things truly I have found my niche.  But it is most fulfilling when you have sorted out in your life why you do what you do.  I think I needed that reminder this past week which gave me a new jump start as my company's new fiscal year begins with a wide variety of changes coming.  I found perspective once again as I did in the depths of the Great Recession only a few short years ago high up staring down on a gorgeous Lake in a summertime sun.  Thank goodness for that.

Think of it - as I wrote in my piece "Staffing Karma" - there is something to be said for the lives we touch and the recruiting momentum we take on.

It also was here that my Mom whom recently suffered a broken knee and whom recovered through her courage found her way to be with us that I also found great examples.  Having been in the hospital struggling to recover she kept her hopes alive.  There really are so many inspiring stories I have seen in my Staffing realm.

I suppose in 2-4 more years Lake Tahoe will call once again and send me away with a bird's eye view of just how small my overall problems are in the grand scheme.  But staffing and my staffing niche are also at center of the very being of my entire focus.  Bring on the last half of the year.  Bring on success.  Bring on a new Perspective.  Bring on Staffing Momentum ONCE AGAIN.  Through strong resolve and focus ANYTHING can again be accomplished.  I FIRMLY believe that.

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Comment by Matt Charney on July 2, 2014 at 8:35am

Thanks for another great post, Mike - it made me legitimately miss both front line recruiting and Lake Tahoe. Exceptional perspective as always - and appreciate your sharing your experiences with us.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on July 2, 2014 at 10:10pm

I completely agree w/. Matt here Mike. I always enjoy your perspective. You appear to have always kept things in check. Recruiting is 24/7 and I always tell my team you need to find an 'off switch'. 

there is something to be said for the lives we touch and the recruiting momentum we take on.

That solid. Thanks for always adding your voice to the RBC mix. 


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