So, you want to manage?

ImageSo, you are a successful recruiter with a number of years experience behind you. Like any ambitious person you want to develop your career and the time has come to step up into a management role or take on some wider responsibilities. It is not that you don’t want to recruit anymore, or that you are looking for some easy gig where you manage from your ivory tower. It is simply that you want to learn and develop your career.

But the company you work for is small. There are a couple of leaders, possibly they own the company, but beyond that there is not very much in terms of management.  Even less in terms of other roles that will give you the development you are looking for.

Maybe the answer lies in joining a bigger company. But a lot of the bigger companies have taken out levels of management and roles that have been deemed surplus to requirements as they look to cut costs in a tough market.  You find there are simply not a lot of opportunities out there, let alone in the right type of company for you.

You are offered roles that look like management positions but in reality they are not, even if they have that title. You might be offered roles  “with a view that you can build a team around yourself ”, but you have had that carrot dangled in front of you before and know that is largely an empty promise.

You think about starting your own agency. After all you have been a successful biller so should be able to transfer that into your own business. But you are not in a position to do that, and even if you were, would you get the development you want by doing this?

So what are your options now?

It is a scenario that many recruiters who I meet find themselves in.

On the one hand I sympathise. About a year ago this was me. I was very fortunate to be presented with an opportunity to take some equity and thereby a leadership role in the company I worked for.  If not I would have either had to leave a business I loved, (if I could find that role), or leave the industry to take that next step.

On the other hand, I appreciate that recruitment businesses need to run lean and it makes no sense to have lots of managers or people in roles that don’t directly generate income.

Some people reading this will sit in the camp that working in recruitment is just about making loads of cash and if you are motivated by anything other than that you shouldn’t be in agency recruitment. (Funnily enough a lot of people that say that are currently managers who don’t bill!!!).

Others would say that if you are good enough you will get promoted or headhunted…. but by being ‘good enough’ they usually mean ‘billed a lot.’  Promotions, especially if it is internally, usually go to the highest biller by default. You are good but not the number one biller – so these opportunities pass you by in favour of a higher biller. (As a side note I personally think that whilst a track record is obviously important there is a solid argument, and many examples, that the best billers don’t necessarily make the best managers).

Do I have the answer? Nope. But it is something that both companies and the industry as a whole need to properly address.  Otherwise we are going to struggle to retain and attract good business people and future leaders. And as the recruitment industry matures and continues to find it’s place in an ever changing market, surely these skills are needed more than ever.

Some agencies are on the front foot, recognising this is something they need to address. Even if they cannot necessarily offer their staff that opportunity tomorrow, they are at least having that conversation with them and putting plans in place – and not just an empty promise or token after thought in the yearly review.  Like with everything else, if you have ambitions to develop your career, learn new skills, take on new challenges or something else beyond what you are doing now, you need to be with a likeminded company.  Are you?


Luke Collard


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