Recruitment. It’s like running a marathon, just harder

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Not so long ago, I ran the Sydney Half Marathon.

That’s 21.1 kilometres around the streets of Sydney. Took just over two hours for me to do it too.

But running a Half Marathon is no big deal. Even at my age, and with my drinking habits. Thousands do it regularly. In the Aquent business we have plenty of real athletes, some of whom comfortably run full marathons!

So why tell you this? Well, running this marathon reminded me of a very important life lesson. And it’s a lesson that has huge significance for anyone who wants to be a great recruiter and make a long-term career in this industry.

The story goes like this.

I suspected I might be a little unfit, so I went for a jog around my neighborhood. Problem was that after three kilometres I had to stop as I was out of breath and felt dizzy. Bad news. I was seriously unfit! As I hobbled home, I made a rash promise to myself. It was 9 weeks until the Sydney Half Marathon, and I decided I would get fit enough to run it.

So easy to say. So hard to follow through.

But I was determined, and I started training. Gym. Road running. Running on a treadmill. It hurt. I hated every second. The gym was full of smug dudes who looked like models from Men’s Health magazine. Running the streets was cold, and friends of mine would honk and laugh as they drove past.

One week into my programme, I got home from a run and I started to waver. “This is ridiculous,” I thought. “I am too old for this rubbish,” I reasoned. “I don’t need to actually run a marathon to get fit,” I persuaded myself. “I am far too busy. I have travel coming up. There is no time to get fit for this,” I tried to convince myself.

By the time I got into my warm living room I had decided to give up the stupid half marathon idea, and I was on my way to the fridge to grab a beer (which I had given up for 9 weeks too by the way!)

Suddenly an image flashed into my mind. I was sharply reminded of a conversation I had had that very afternoon with a recruiter in our Sydney team. This person was a good recruiter, but young and relatively inexperienced. He was going through a rough time. Two bad months. Offers turned down. He was despondent and was telling me he was not sure “if recruiting was right for him”.

During that conversation I did not hold back. I talked about persistence. I spoke of the fact that nothing worth having ever came easy. I spoke of courage and character. I told him stories about bad patches I had had, and how determination had turned things around. I examined how building a
reputation and a real business took time. I shared my opinion that often you feel as though you are getting no traction, but that all the work he was doing would pay off in time, and when it did he would feel pride and self-esteem and a sense of achievement.

And every word I told him is true. But as I hesitated at the fridge door, about to grab the beer, I realised what a hypocrite I was being. How could I tell this guy to knuckle down? To persevere in the face of something he found difficult, when I was giving up on my half-marathon after only 6 days training?

I closed the fridge and the next day hit the road again. Over the next two months I trained four or five times a week and I hated almost every session. I got a calf injury and came so close to giving up. I made so little progress for the first month that I felt I was getting less fit instead of more fit. I had to travel overseas for work and the temptation to give up training was overwhelming. But I held firm
and I trained in hotel gyms and I jogged along the murky Singapore River in 90% humidity, when I could have been in the cool bar of the Marriott hotel.

School holidays came around and I took the family on a holiday to Borneo and with only two weeks to go until race itself, I resisted the hotel in-pool bar and jogged down the main street of Kota Kinabalu instead – to the utter amazement of the locals who were sensibly resting under shady trees, or sitting under fans drinking iced tea.

But that conversation with the Sydney recruiter kept coming back to me. Don’t give up. This will pay off. You have to put in the hard work before the rewards come.

One week out from the race I went to the Sydney Botanical Gardens and ran 15 kilometers. I did the distance, but it hurt so much I wanted to lie down under one of the giant Port Jackson fig trees that line Sydney Harbour. I truly came so close to giving up on the race there and then.

On the day of the race I nearly didn’t get out of bed. It was cold. I knew that 15 km had nearly floored me. How could I run 21 kilometers? At the event itself were 10,000 runners. And trust me this was no fun-run. No one was pushing prams or dressed in Superman outfits. These guys were serious! They all looked like East African Olympians. Skinny with all the right gear. I felt well out of place and
half felt like slinking off and going home.

But I did the race. And I was pumped and sped through the first 15 kms as though it was a stroll in the park. It got harder after that, but I finished, ran every step and I did it in a better time than I expected.

And it felt great.

No doubt it was worth all the hassle and the pain.

And so is it with our jobs. It’s true that often people have early success in our job. A good match, a bit of good fortune, a client or two inherited. It can make you look good and there is nothing wrong with taking wins when they come around.

But real success? Building reputation that will last? Developing sophisticated skills? Building a portfolio of loyal clients? Evolving into a trusted advisor? Generating referrals and word of mouth talent? Generating repeat business? Securing clients who use you exclusively?

That takes time, perseverance and effort.

It takes consistent activity. It takes moral courage to do difficult things like cold calling. It takes ego strength to withstand rejection and poor results. It takes an open mind to learn new skills and work at the things you are not good at.

And slowly but surely the rewards will come.

Recruitment or running. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Views: 87

Comment by Charles Van Heerden on August 18, 2010 at 7:37pm
Great story Greg and having done quite a few half-marathons myself, it certainly takes real commitment and lots of effort.

It reminds of when I started out with running, and was advised to run from water point to water point. It taught me that we need to set progressive goals (recent research at Harvard confirmed that this type of goal-setting results in higher probability of achievement). Having goals for each day, week, month etc. is a sure way of making progress and getting to the end point.

I think we learn a lot about ourselves when we hit an obstacle, very similar to when we run and encounter a big hill. After every uphill is a downhill, you just need to persevere.


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