I was recently invited to present at a women’s luncheon for the Staffing Industry Analysts’ Executive Forum in London, an event that brings together the great and the good from the world of staffing. As I took to the stage to present to a room full of the staffing industry’s elite female role models I suffered a brief moment of imposter syndrome, asking myself ‘What could I possibly have to tell these amazing women that they haven’t heard before?’
I’m sure many of you have suffered similar feelings of self-doubt during your own career. However, feeling slightly humbled, I shared my fleeting concerns with the room before relaxing enough to talk them through my personal story of working in the recruitment sector, a sector that I love that has given me such a fantastic career. The event turned out to be a great success and many of the women in attendance approached me after the presentation to congratulate me on giving such an open and honest account. Therefore, I wanted to share a few of the key points with you – lessons that I’ve learned during my 23 years in the world of staffing and observations that I hope will inspire and motivate other women in recruitment.
Lesson 1: We are all human and we are all unique. One of the biggest things I’ve learned during my career is that we all have a unique set of skills that no one else can offer. Don’t be scared that you’re not exactly like everyone else! If you are to reach your full potential in this competitive and historically male-dominated sector, you need to appreciate that your true power lies in offering something different. Tune into your own personal strengths and take comfort in the fact that only a diverse workforce will enable our industry to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Lesson 2 – Women ARE different to men, but we can be great leaders too. Being a leader in the recruitment sector is all about people. Building relationships and motivating teams to deliver a great customer experience ultimately leads to a profitable business, and these are skills many women are inherently good at. Our sector has changed; being a recruitment leader is no longer just about closing the deal and being a high biller.
Lesson 3 – It’s okay to do it like a girl. We all have different passions and priorities in life. You don’t need to act like a man inside or outside of work in order to succeed. In my experience, the working mother who leaves at 4pm often gets better results than her male colleague who is still ‘bonding’ with his colleagues in the pub at 11pm. Remember that being true to yourself will enable you to perform at your best. Finding an employer that embraces that philosophy and enables you to get the job done your way is vital.
Lesson 4 – Accept praise and give it to others. Women can be a humble bunch but recognizing and accepting praise for a job well done is really important. We are all role models to other women and girls so when we succeed and are proud of our successes, we inspire others.
Lesson 4: Feedback is a gift. Although feedback isn’t always easy to hear, it’s usually given with the very best of intentions. Accept all forms of feedback as an opportunity for growth. Seek out others’ perspectives and learn from your mistakes constructively. No one is perfect and we all fear failure but remember, we only really learn by failing every now and then! Equally, help others out by offering them your feedback. None of us are the finished article and most women in our sector genuinely want to learn and grow.
Lesson 5: Comfort zones are dangerous. If your goal is to develop, then your comfort zone is a very unhelpful place to be. When you really push yourself to take on new challenges, you grow as a person and as a leader. One of my biggest challenges was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and despite nearing losing my feet to frostbite, I came back rejuvenated and ready to take on anything!
Lesson 6: Keep things in perspective. No matter how tough things seem to be, remember that your worst day is still probably a lot better than many other people could ever hope for. Most women I know in the recruitment sector are pretty good at keeping it real, but sometimes we all need to give ourselves a good talking to.
Lesson 7: Be a female leader. In my experience, success breeds success and I am hugely grateful to the inspirational role models and mentors, many of them women, that I’ve been influenced by throughout my career. Make it your business to empower other women in the recruitment sector. By working together, we can make sure that the recruitment industry is a great place for future generations of women and that it offers fulfilling and inclusive careers for everyone.