Stick or twist?

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

I own a recruitment agency, and I spend much of my time talking to the 86% . I speak to people – or at least I try to – who are not necessarily actively looking to change jobs.

Most people ignore me, and that’s okay. Modern communication makes it very easy to try your luck, and just as easy to ignore an intrusive and uninvited stranger. Some people might think that it is bold to contact someone you don’t know, completely unsolicited. It might be to do it by telephone, but that’s a dying art. It’s 2019, and most communication is done electronically. And you don’t need large cojones to send an email.

So, my days are often taken up looking for people and then trying to engage with them.

I have a few rules; a code of conduct that I always try to adhere to, and I wish I could say that all recruitment people are the same. They’re not though. To some degree, I understand it. Time is money, and the laws of capitalism say that anything goes in the pursuit of a profit. Well, they say it if it suits one to say they say it.

Me? I’m not going to hide behind the fact that I am in recruitment to make a living, but as the most important part of the recruitment equation is the candidates, I think it is entirely appropriate to treat the people I talk to with the utmost respect. It isn’t always a two-way street, but that’s because of the industry I find myself in and the reputation it has developed over the years. I use LinkedIn a lot, and a recurring theme is how recruiters leave applicants hanging after they have applied for work. Sometimes even after they have been interviewed.

We all need to adhere to the golden rule, and I can’t quite get my head around the fact that we often don’t. Telling someone that they were unsuccessful is one of the worst parts of my job, but in my experience, people appreciate being told straight. If you don’t have the nerve to deal with the difficult aspects of a job, then go and do something else.

Sorry. This is a bugbear of mine. I’ll stop the lectures and get back on track.

I think that for all our sophistication, we are, in essence, fairly simple creatures. We don’t like change too much. Familiarity is a comfort blanket, and if something isn’t broken, why would we want to fix it? We have plenty of metaphors for this kind of thinking, and that’s because there is something to be said for keeping things just as they are.

The trouble is with these trains of thought is that we have a fairly limited time to build a career. Stay too long in a position, and you look like you lack ambition, whilst hungrier people (often with less candles on their birthday cakes) go flying up the employment ladder. The other side of this coin is that if we move too often, we look like a “job hopper”, and employers do not view this favourably, for obvious reasons. It’s a balancing act.

And of course, the problem is that if one moves with too much haste, one can end up unhappy, albeit with a bit more money. And a bit more money can be important at times, but it doesn’t make a person happy, in my experience. Certainly not happy enough to make up for that feeling of impending doom that creeps up on a Sunday.

It’s a proper quandary, and I am sorry to say it is people like me that often force the issue. I say I am sorry, but there are actual times where someone gets a great new job, the client gets a great new employee, and I get a fee!

I would advise anyone to proceed with caution. Of course, remuneration is a factor. People rarely move jobs unless there is a pay bump involved, but it can’t be the only reason to move. When I was taught to interview people, one of the questions we always asked was what’s your most important thing? And when people said money, it made me cringe a little.

We spend a stupidly large amount of our extremely limited lives in the workplace; about thirteen whole years (365/24/7) by the latest estimate. The same source suggests we spend only one year socialising. Add to this four and a half years in education, 26 years asleep, four years travelling to work, four years eating, twelve years watching television, and suddenly life looks all too short!

Those thirteen years – and this is a peak time in a person’s life – should be spent as positively as possible, shouldn’t they? Look, I realise that not all of us are lucky enough to be doing a job that has us gaily skipping into work each day. Much of my working life has been repetitive (it still is) and a bit of a grind (ditto), but there have been many positive aspects to it – and usually that was the people I worked with and the working culture that we produced. That can be a bit of a crap shoot, and the dynamic can change all too quickly, but working with people you like is very important.

And the management style can have a huge impact. I have seen workplaces utterly dominated by a poor manager. I worked for a charity once, and the culture of fear that the appalling manager had deliberately developed made it the most unpleasant working experience I ever had. God. She was just horrible. I thought working for a charity would be somehow different, perhaps more enlightened. Or something. More fool me. I did take her on. And I lost, obviously, but taking her on is the one thing about that experience that I don’t regret.

There are so many factors, but the most important thing is not to let one’s career stagnate. Getting too comfortable means that you will miss out on opportunities, and in likelihood, be taken for granted. If the penny drops that you need a change too late, your fate might be out of your hands. The employment market is ruthless at times.

So, if you get an email or a call from a pesky recruitment bod like me, should you stick, or should you twist?

Seriously, I’m asking you, because I don’t have a clue.

I don’t know you. I don’t know what makes you tick, and I don’t know what’s important to you. Recruiters have one, obvious angle: they want you to get the job. They might be nice about it (let’s face it, they should be nice about it) and you might even get along with them. Hell, you might even like them.

But they want you to go forward for the job because they will get a slice of the fee if you get it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not your concern. I have been at the end of the equation where I have matched a great, friendly candidate with the right role, they have interviewed well, the client has loved them, and they have been offered the job. Only to turn it down. It’s deeply frustrating, but it’s the nature of this beast. Experience (and maybe a bit of maturity) has taught me to respect the decision and move on.

I suppose I do have a little advice, even if it is a little vague.

Take your time. Put a lot of thought into it. Don’t just chase money. And above all:

Do what is best for you, not for all the other people in this equation.