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As my loyal and regular readers would know (both of you), my eldest son secured a job at his local McDonald’s last year.

Since then I have observed his progress from Initiator (getting the buns ready) to sometime Cook (now that’s amusing – I’m not confident he could boil an egg at home) over the past eight months and listened to him share what he is gaining from his employment. It’s been a great learning experience for us both.

It got me thinking about how my own experiences as a teenager and young adult prepared me for the career that I have in recruitment and what there might be to learn about what to look for in a potential recruitment consultant before they have had a permanent full-time job.

Here’s what my pre-recruitment life looked like (and how it shaped me to succeed as a recruiter):

  • I worked as a casual Sales Assistant at a Mitre 10 store (aged 15 – 22): I learned the importance of time keeping, greeting customers and asking them effective questions (‘What are you painting?’). I learned to ask somebody who knew better than me rather than pretend I knew the answer. I learned to work with people who were older (in some cases, much older) than me and who often had a different upbringing, and outlook on life, to me.
  • I played competitive sport (aged 12 – 22): Although I dabbled in soccer, golf, tennis and AFL football, I was most passionate about cricket. I played a dozen or so games in the TCA First grade competition (one level below First Class cricket) and was a member of a team that lost two grand finals. I hated to lose and I wanted to do well individually and as part of a team to ensure that I was on the winning team as often as possible. Much like recruitment, cricket is a game that has unambiguous individual results but ultimately is most enjoyable when the team wins and you have made a significant contribution to that win. I loved performance benchmarks and understood the importance of always seeking to improve against my own benchmarks rather than worrying about, or focusing on, things over which I had no control (other players). I learned how to deal with the disappointment of, and understanding the important learnings from, losing.
  • I was heavily involved in university student politics (aged 20 – 22): In my third year at the University of Tasmania, I was elected as Clubs & Societies President. The following year I was elected as President of the (Students’) Union which included an ex-officio position on both the University Council and Professorial Board. I learned about campaigning, the importance of being able to write and speak effectively, how to win people around to my way of thinking and when to stop investing time and energy into a losing cause (or person). I learned how to make difficult decisions and how to cope with the resulting resentment or unpopularity.
  • I was immersed in university student theatre (aged 15 – 22): I loved acting. I acted in a vast range of productions; from comedy (University Revue) to modern classics (Equus) to Theatre of the Absurd (Beckett). These many experiences instilled in me the value of preparation, teamwork, and using my voice and body to maximum effect when speaking. I gained confidence in front of an audience.
  • I completed an undergraduate degree (B.Ec, University of Tasmania, aged 18 – 22): It wasn’t so much what I learned in the lecture halls and classrooms of the economics department, it was more the experience of being a young adult on campus and being responsible for organising my life in a way that ensured I gained what I had enrolled for (a degree) and at the same time taking advantage of the other opportunities that campus life offers.
  • travelled and lived overseas (China, USSR, UK aged 22 – 24): Despite my mother doing way too much for me when I attended university (I was still living at home), I did manage to survive on my own in London once I left Australia in search of adventure at the end of 1988. I learned about self-reliance and the consequences of my decisions. I learned that I had been raised and educated with advantages that many other people of my age did not have. I appreciated, for the first time, how lucky I was to have had the family upbringing I had and that, I realised, I better make sure that I didn’t throw that priceless advantage away. Understanding and appreciating differences in people had never quite been so confronting and educational as it was being a resident of London.

Every single reader of this newsletter/blog had no recruitment experience before they had recruitment experience (to state the obvious).

Each of you had experiences that shaped you and made you ready for a career as a recruiter.

What were those experiences?

If you are responsible for hiring trainee recruiters, then I would suggest you place importance on their relevant past. If properly investigated, it will likely tell you whether they are shaped and ready to be a successful recruiter.

What shaped you for a career in recruitment?

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