Eight Years? I Almost Didn’t Survive One…


Eight Years? I Almost Didn’t Survive One…

Jason Howlin recently celebrated eight years in recruitment. However, his first year was far from easy. Jason talks to us about the challenges he faced in his first year, and how he overcame them to become one of Saragossa’s top consultants.

What was your entrance into recruitment like?

In a word? Rough.

I came into recruitment not knowing anything about what I was getting into. I had no sales experience, and the first day I walked into the office I realised right away that I was quite different to most of my new colleagues.

The first three months were bloody difficult. But the six months after that were even harder. I somehow managed to survive (despite not making many placements and making many, many mistakes along the way). For some reason I’d thought that recruitment was something I’d be able to just figure out, and that all of those client and candidate relationships would simply fall into place on their own, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be as simple as that. As someone who’d always been able to solve problems before, not being able to put what I thought I knew how to do into practice didn’t sit well with me at all.

Towards the end of my first year, I sat down with one of our Directors, Rory, and told him I was thinking of leaving in the next couple of months. I told him honestly how I was feeling and how I was starting to think that I just wasn’t cut out for this type of work. Rory didn’t interrupt me – it wasn’t hard to see that things weren’t going well, and all of the training I’d received over the past few months didn’t seem to be helping. He simply told me that he knew I could do the job, and that if I could just bring myself to work that little bit harder then I’d be able to succeed.

What changed?

Having someone show faith in you and tell you that they know you have it in you to succeed turned out to be a great source of motivation for me. I wanted to show that this faith wasn’t misplaced.

My major problem up to that point had been something that’s not unusual for someone starting a new job – I wanted everything to be perfect, and when it wasn’t I couldn’t handle it. I started second-guessing myself, often shying away from asking the important questions because I didn’t want to hear from a client or a candidate that things weren’t going so well. Eventually I realised, however, that expecting everything to go smoothly all the time simply isn’t realistic – especially in an industry like recruitment, where everything is dependent on those fickle, changeable and downright unpredictable creatures known as ‘people’.

In recruitment, you’re dealing with people every single day. All of these people – clients and candidates alike – have their own ideas, goals and preferences, and it’s your job to constantly juggle and try and find as happy a medium as you can between them, all the while knowing that, at any point, someone might change their mind at the drop of a hat and render everything you’ve just spent weeks or months trying to set up completely irrelevant. This can be disheartening at times – it certainly was for me – as I hated feeling like I had no control over my own success.

But once you realise, as I did (eventually) that you can’t always control everything, things become a whole lot easier. Things can still annoy you, of course – my blood pressure still skyrockets when a candidate pulls out of an interview last minute or a client puts a role on hold out of nowhere – but with time you learn to simply accept these things as part of the job and stop treating them like the end of the world. Shying away from problems doesn’t make them go away – problems arise in every job, and all you can ever do is try your best to resolve them and learn from them as best you can.

What advice would you give to people just starting out in recruitment?

Remember that everyone is different. We all progress at different speeds and not everyone is successful right away. Just because you’re not closing £20,000 deals and taking clients out to lunch every day in your first week doesn’t mean you’re a terrible recruiter.

I’d also recommend anybody starting out to invest time in self-development, and in taking the time to learn about the specific industry in which you’re operating. During my first year, I read more about technology, data science, recruitment and psychology more than I ever had in my life, and having this extra knowledge was a major help when it came to building relationships with clients.

Above all, though – remember that you’re working with human beings. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions, and don’t be afraid of getting some difficult answers. Things aren’t always going to go your way, but try and take things in your stride. You’ll get there eventually – hopefully with more hair than me!

Saragossa are a talent provider specialising in the Financial Technology, Financial Operations and Data Science sectors. Our role is to match clients with high calibre candidates. Our work encompasses filling temporary contracts along with building permanent teams and resourcing projects. To find out more, please contact enquiries@saragossa.co.uk or call 020 7871 3666.

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