How I got here

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Starting a new blog requires some introductory sharing, since some of you who find it might now know me, and even those who do might now know the story of how I got here. I’ll try not to be overly self-indulgent, but we’ll need to get this post out of the way. And trust me, I do want to know about you. I’m much more interested in you than in hearing the sound of my own voice (or the sound of my own typing).

So here goes. I’ll tell you about my journey to employment branding.

I started recruiting in the mid-90s. It was kind of recruiting lite. I took an entry level job at a temp agency a few years out of college; we’ll call those the recession years. I would love to say that I took those few years to find myself, but the path kind of chose me and what I was really focused on was paying rent. I am sure a lot of you out there have had those special years as well.

After finding success in that environment, I thought about what my next step could be; something not too scary, not too big of a jump. So the next position was to recruit for a consulting firm. I’m not going to say too much about this other than it was not right for me. Some things that were promised in the interview weren’t delivered. I should have asked more and deeper questions. I ended up feeling alone, unsuccessful and realized I made a big mistake. This is important. I’ll come back to this later.

From there, I went in-house for a traditional corporation. I led a team, enjoyed living in downtown Chicago, but there was no career path. This company’s recruiting department was not very big and it was very flat. So next, I turned my sights toward a big company, in the tech space with a great reputation. I was referred by an employee at Microsoft, got the job and relocated to Seattle.

I’m not sure how to encapsulate my twelve years there. So I’ll give you the highlights. I started as a recruiter, then became a team lead and a manager. In 2004, I started a recruiting blog that got a lot of industry attention and I started doing a little writing and public speaking. Eventually, I ran a programs team, which did training, competitive intelligence, and other staffing-related programs. At one point, I was asked to take on a role I wasn’t particularly excited about but it was supposed to be for a short time. It was a significant need and I was told I was the person who could do it. So I took it on and decided it was not something I wanted to do long term. Then my manager left. And I was kind of stuck in this position. I spoke with our GM about what I wanted to do (build community in the talent space) and that kind of work just wasn’t available (at least it wasn’t back then). Anyway, that is when I left. I’ll spare you all the details of leaving a company you were with for 12 years and how I felt about it. Lots of conflicted feelings for many reasons.

Throughout my recruiting career to that point, what I really enjoyed was engaging candidates; not in interviews or cold-calls, but helping people understand what it was like to work at the company I was employed by. I had experienced major life changes as a result of joining new companies, and I had felt the pain of making a bad career decision. Turns out that experience, though terrible, helped me get where I am now. I also developed a perspective on branding and marketing as it relates to employers; that no employer is perfect, but every employer has a storytelling opportunity. I felt, and still feel, that sharing with a sense of transparency and authenticity helps the right people find your company and keeps the wrong people away. I saw the direct impact of this from the blog I created; I saw peoples’ minds change, I answered questions, demystified some perceptions, and could count the hires my blog work generated for the company. The result of my, or anyone’s, focus on authentic and transparent conversation is more productive recruiters, who don’t have to wade through as much volume of unqualified resumes, and better employee retention, because people know what the experience working there will be like before they join.

While I was at Microsoft, I had a number of people from other companies reaching out to me for advice. And that kind of made a lightbulb go off over my head. I realized that what I had learned from my experience to that point was something other companies valued. I decided a career in consulting made sense and it allowed me to tap into my affinity for not only helping companies tell their stories, but also my desire to help job-seekers pick better than I had in the past.

That was 2011 and early on, I decided to double down on employer branding. I’ll share more about why in another post.

So anyway, this is it; my path from entry level recruiter to employer brand consultant, including the horrible career mistake that helped get me here.