When I was first getting into the job market, back in 1987, I didn’t hear many good things about recruiters. People called them “headhunters” and dismissed them. However, based on what I’d seen in the world, it seemed to me that they could really be helpful to me.
Back in high school, I hung out with a bunch of folks who were older than I. And one of those friends was a guy who’d been out of high school for a few years, but hadn’t gone to college. He didn’t have a regular job, but somehow he always had more than enough money to do what he wanted to do. He had a tricked-out car with all kinds of custom features he’d added himself. He had money for gas, movies, meals out… pretty much everything he wanted. Compared to his peers, many of whom were in college, he was living the high life. (Of course, this was from my high-school point of view.)
How did he do it? Whenever he needed money, he picked up the phone and called an employment agency, and they found him a job for a few days or a few weeks at a local factory. He worked a while, then stopped and did other things that interested him more. Now, granted, this was back in the early 1980’s, so the cost of living was much lower than it is now, but even so. He seemed to be way ahead of everyone, in terms of standard of living.
A number of years later, after I’d left college, I was in a bind. I was just back from Germany, living in the New York metropolitan area (northern New Jersey), and I needed a job. I had to pay my bills, I had to build up my savings, I had to get on with my life. But having a background in anthropology and German didn’t seem very in-demand. I combed through the want ads, day after day, and I couldn’t find anything that looked like it would work for me.
So, I picked up the phone and started calling recruiters. And they found me work. And along with a steady paycheck, making pretty decent money for someone my age, I got free training in the software and computer systems that were just then starting to come on the business scene. It seems so long ago, that offices actually used typewriters, not computers, and the concept of spreadsheets was cutting-edge, but I lived it. And yes, it did happen.
All because I got connected with the right recruiters — almost as soon as I got my feet back on American soil.
The funny thing was, everyone around me was incredibly dismissive of recruiters. They called them “headhunters” and talked about them like they were scum — a necessary evil that was best avoided at all costs. Of course, that was easy for others to say, when they were well-established in steady jobs with predictable career paths. They weren’t starting from scratch, at a disadvantage. They weren’t living in the new real world of shattered employer-employee contracts and non-existent job security.
Plenty of “grown-ups” said I was wrong to contact them. I was wrong to take “temp” jobs. I was wrong to get professional help in connecting with opportunities. But I knew I was right. And the proof is in the pudding. I’ve done well for myself — better than anyone expected, and better than many who went job-hunting alone.
Over the years, I’ve talked to hundreds of recruiters, and they’ve not only gotten me great jobs, but they’ve also helped me hone my resume-writing and interviewing skills. By interacting with them, I have learned how to better interact with hiring managers and HR reps, and that’s all added up to a pretty amazing track record of continuous employment at some pretty amazing companies.
So, while many folks pooh-pooh recruiters … “head-hunters”… and dismiss them, to me, they’re my best and closest allies.
If you’re not already working with recruiters, you may want to consider it. I’m writing a guide called 7 Answers Your Recruiter Wants to Hear – And Why, which walks you through the main points of working with recruiters. It’s designed to save you time and energy, and also teach you to focus your conversations with recruiters, so they have exactly the right information they need to find you the opportunities that actually work for you.
It’s all possible — you just have to have the right information, and you have to use it in the right way. And that’s what I’m all about helping making happen.