In this month's "Ask a Recruiter" column, Talent Representative Lauren Friesen tackles the question she gets asked most often.
The question I get asked most, after “What’s the rate?” is “How did you get into recruiting?”
These days, I never get Sunday Dread or stare at the clock at 2pm, watching the hours tick by like molasses, counting the seconds until Happy Hour (well, sometimes the Happy Hour part). I feel like a pretty lucky dude(ette) because I was able to completely change my career successfully smack in the middle of my 30s, start doing something I am truly passionate about, and also incorporate my past experience in a relevant, and—hopefully—helpful way.
How Did You Get Into Recruiting?
My degree is in Art and Graphic Design, and I worked as a Designer and Art Director for 15 years. I really, really liked it, but after working in an agency environment for a decade, becoming a mom, and entering my 30s (which kind of felt like my 80s at the time), I was getting a little burned out and realized I didn’t really ever want to become a Creative Director. The part of design I enjoyed the most, perversely, was the hands-on/trench warfare aspect of agency life, but the same thing was slowly killing me and leaving me with very little time to spend with my family. Having a two-year-old at home limits the number of days you can stay at work until 3am working on a pitch.
I left, and freelanced for a couple years, which also wasn’t for me. We moms are used to eating the burned piece of toast, drinking the small Slurpee, eating the pretzel that was on the floor, and sometimes that translates into taking freelance work for very little to no money because “it looks fun!” As my great-grandmother would say every Thanksgiving: “I’ll eat the neck.” That’s the kind of freelancer I was. I learned a lot about myself, and realized that what I really wanted to do was help people navigate the weird world of job hunting, and help them find jobs that were as fulfilling and as exciting as the one I was lucky enough to have for 10 years as an Art Director. Because no matter how educated and experienced, or how awesome your shoes are, EVERYBODY feels like it’s the first day of kindergarten during a job interview, sometimes.
Long story short, here I am, and loving every second of it. In interviews with talent, I get a lot of inquiries into how and why I got into creative staffing, and if I like it. It seems like there is a lot of interest out there among Designers and creative types, but you do have to know what you’re getting into!
How to Become a Recruiter
Here are four aspects about the job to consider before pursuing a career as a Creative Recruiter/Talent Representative.
1. Leave your tears at the door
The hardest thing, BY FAR, for me as a new baby Talent Rep was having to tell people they didn’t get a job, and keeping my opinions to myself when I feel like they were truly the right person. Clients surprise you every time, and at the end of the day, we’re here to serve them, and it’s a delicate balance that you have to dance between client services and being a good advocate for the people you are working with as Talent. I thought I had nerves of steel after going to design school and working in an ad agency. I mean, I’ve had work ripped apart in front of multiple people and it didn’t bother me too much. But it’s a whole different level when you are dealing with people, and money is on the table, and decisions are affecting people’s lives.
It’s hard not to get emotional about that. If you are going to be a crumpled heap after every job search, you might want to reconsider.
2. Math. Oh God, the MATH
I met my first husband in Algebra 1. WHEN I WAS 21 AND IN COLLEGE. THE SECOND TIME AROUND. Yeah. Math is not my strong suit. It’s not like you have to know calculus to be a Talent Representative, but you’d better have a rate sheet pasted in front of your face at all times and a calculator glued to your hand if you find yourself unable to do basic math, because people do not respond well to being told their rate is 10 dollars lower an hour because you couldn’t figure out splits, or client budgets. As with any job, the devil is in the details, which is one reason I think that former designers are great at this, because we tend to be crazy organized and are trained to proof, proof, and proof it again.
3. These are people, not brochures.
Working and connecting with people is, by far, my favorite part of this entire thing. I love meeting new faces and hearing their fascinating stories. There are so many talented people out there changing the world and it gives me faith in humanity. But, people are people, not widgets or commodities, and they do weird things. So be prepared for people to bail on you at the last second, to take another job when you thought they were PERFECT for the one you interviewed them for, or to get angry at you when things don’t go their way. We’re the liaison between Accounts and Talent, and sometimes we’re the ones who get blamed for things that are out of control. The most important thing to do is to stay calm, and listen, listen, listen. Which brings me to….
4. Are your listening hats on?
You might think you are a great listener, and maybe you are, but you’re probably not. I like to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. I love chitchat, and I love connecting with people, but the most important part of this job is listening to people and hearing what they’re REALLY saying. This isn’t a first date; your job is to connect, but also to get the facts across, and then be a sponge. It can be a tough balance to strike, and one that I’m always trying to work on and be better at. Sometimes I feel as Art Directors we’re trained to charm and woo and present stuff and therefore we talk A LOT. And it’s a good thing! But it’s NEVER a bad thing to learn how to be an active and better listener, and it will take your recruiting game up to a whole new level if you do, and most importantly, you’ll have the trust of the Talent you work with, which is currency in this industry.
Is it Time to Change Careers?
Changing careers is hard. Following your heart instead of your head is hard. But I feel like it’s the best thing I ever did, and this is something I can see myself doing for a long time to come. It’s hard to be a newbie after you’ve been an expert for a while. It definitely takes some humility and flexibility and willingness to get in there and learn new things and put your pride aside. Exploring a career in creative staffing when you come from a creative background can be a great transition if you’re willing to look at things with new eyes and be open and flexible. That’s a lesson that can be applied to many transitions in life.
Lauren Friesen is a former Art Director turned Senior Talent Representative in Denver, Colorado. When not playing job fairy for Artisan Talent, she enjoys long distance running, interior design, vintage perfume collecting, and reading vast amounts of true crime.