What Unexpected Setbacks Taught Me

I have been in the workforce now for nearly three decades. I have supported contingent staffing, permanent staffing, recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), managed service provider (MSP) solutions, employer branding and everything in between. With a career that has spanned the dot-com boom and bust, 9/11, the Great Recession, and now a pandemic, I have been challenged, tested, and afforded many opportunities to grow in the course of my career. The one constant I can confirm is change. Ups are accompanied by downs, the economic and political climates shift, and the dynamics of recruiting continue to adapt and evolve. Here are a few of the biggest lessons I have learned.

Build and nurture your tribe. You can do anything if you have the right crew around you. Any type of slowdown is a good time t to ensure you are surrounded by the people you want to be in business with – during good times and in bad. Double down on relationships with quality people, invest in and nurture your network, ask for help, and be generous in giving your time and ideas to the benefit of your associates. For what it is worth, this also applies to relationships with family and friends.

Embrace the struggle. It is fun to be successful but you will not grow and learn and maximize your success without making it through some tough times. Early on in my career, my wife and I moved around a lot with Motion Recruitment Partners LLC (MRP), my employer now of over 25 years. From opening and managing different office locations, including in Chicago, Boston, and Orange County, to extensive domestic and global travel, I have constantly been in new environments. Working in different job functions, living in new cities, being forced to navigate new circumstances, and tackling tough times built my confidence and helped me learn a measure of patience. It is not realistic to think that you will always win and it is scary to get knocked around, but it is all part of the journey. Do not panic. Slow down, stay calm, and accept that in struggle you build strength.

Do not quit. Tough times are a good time to reflect on what you are doing. If you are pursuing what you truly want in your life and your career, you will rediscover your strength and passion during the most challenging of times. Put your head down and do not allow yourself to be deterred. Determination, resiliency, and work ethic are a few of the byproducts that were born out of persisting though challenges in my career. Someone told me once that quitting is an easy and terrible habit to acquire. Sometimes you must simply refuse to give up and consciously choose to persist, knowing that you will continue to face obstacles. It is important to stay connected with your goals and intentionally commit, sometimes every day, to continuing to work and fight and strive.

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Learn and improve. It is critical to acknowledge when things are not going your way and thoughtfully pay attention to the ‘why.’ This is when you learn. Allow yourself to feel anxious, stressed, and maybe even fearful. Then, collect your thoughts and focus on what you can do to build the skills and relationships you need to solve and improve your situation. It is important to keep going (see lesson above – do not quit), but equally as important to advance your knowledge and capabilities – to get better. Read, listen, participate, study, and talk to people who are smarter and more experienced than you are. Surround yourself with people who have both different and similar experiences to your own. There have been times when I pushed through with plenty of will and determination, but without advancing my knowledge or changing my tactics. This yielded substandard results and prolonged my development. Some stuff is out of your control, but not everything. It has been my experience that I get better results when I acknowledge a weakness or a deficit, and work diligently to build the skill and knowledge I need to improve.

It is hard to truly ‘celebrate’ the opportunities that come our way during uncertain times, but I think it is important to take up the challenge. You feel determination and persistence and tough-mindedness more viscerally when wrestling with serious problems and obstacles. By embracing challenges, practicing concentration, working intentionally, communicating abundantly, and learning new skills, you will get better. The times will most certainly change again, and you will be better equipped to survive and thrive.

Greg Karr

Greg Karr
Greg Karr is executive vice president of Sevenstep.

Greg Karr

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