I was fresh out of college and had just started my first recruiting job at a staffing company. There was so much to learn, and the other more tenured recruiters around me looked so busy. The excitement of my first job quickly turned into the reality of a steep learning curve. I’d see my manager walk into the office, and I’d stop what I was doing to ask him a question. This had become a habit over my first two weeks on the job. When he sensed as much, my manager stopped me one morning before I could utter the first couple words of my question he said, “If you don’t have three questions, sit down and get on the phone. When you have three, come find me.”
I insisted it was a really quick one this time, but he refused and turned toward his office. I sat down feeling deflated. How could I move forward without getting this all important, life changing question answered right now? A couple hours later, I had two more questions, but as I stood up, realized I’d found an answer to the original one on my own… still short. As the days and weeks progressed, the number of times I went to his office for questions became fewer and fewer. It certainly wasn’t because I’d learned everything I needed to know within the first three months on the job. Far from it. (In fact, one of the things I still love about recruiting ten years later is that it’s an industry where, week after week, I’m always learning something new.) Instead, that need for constant consultation decreased because my manager taught me early-on one of the most basic, but important lessons in my career: how to be a problem solver, and the positive impact of encouraging others to develop this same skill.
As time went on and my career moved forward into managing teams of my own, I learned that it’s also easy to slip into the habit of becoming someone else’s crutch. I’ve found myself tempted to play this role, sometimes out of an eagerness to be helpful, and sometimes because it’s just plain faster to give someone the quick answer or instant feedback they’re looking for. That’s solving the problem… right? Not actually.
Every now and then, I do a self-audit of sorts that I encourage others to try as well. Spend a day or two paying very close attention to who you go to with questions, and who comes to you for the same. Is this a mentoring relationship, or is one of you the crutch? Are you finding a significant amount of your day is occupied by someone with a constant need for feedback and guidance, despite that person regularly being on the right track without your guidance? The easier course of action may be to keep doing what you’re doing, squeezing in time between phone screens to answer someone’s IT question (when you don’t work for IT). The more effective course of action might require you to do some redirecting and pushing others to find their own way. In my experience, that shouldn’t be construed as impatience; rather, it’s a purposeful decision to invest in someone else’s development, a decision I’m glad my supervisor made.
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On a final note, if your experience in the recruiting world has been anything like mine, you know that technical advice on how to do our jobs faster and smarter is available at your fingertips. But what about a more general advice that’s helped us get where we are? The more macro-level advice that’s shaped how we work and how we think about work? I’ve found that my peers have a lot of great advice to share, but don’t, because no one’s asked them to. For the better of the community, ask you to make time to think about the best advice you’ve received in your recruiting careers, ask others for the same, and start sharing.
This was an article inspired by Jenny DeVaughn’s SourceCon presentation.