Be Kind to Newbies

When I started at Jonathan Scott International in June 2002, I had absolutely no clue what I was going to be doing. My sister-in-law had called me in early May to inform me that the recruiting agency for which she worked was hiring for a position called ‘Internet Researcher.’ She knew I was into computers, and since I had never been to Cincinnati to visit my brother she invited me up from Tampa, where I was living and waiting tables, for a long visit over Memorial Day weekend that would include a job interview. I got the job and used every last dime to move all of my worldly belongings up to Cincinnati to start a new life. Never would I have imagined being where I am today from those humble beginnings.

Aside from the training in recruiting I received from Jon Bartos, the owner of the company of which I was now an employee, a woman from another local Management Recruiters International franchise came to our office a couple times in my first two weeks to give me some additional instruction specific to Internet research. She was an Internet Researcher too and had been asked to help me learn the ropes of sourcing. Once I really started getting good at sourcing, another MRI researcher and I breathed some life back into a dormant Internet Research (IR) listserv in the MRI system and started reaching out to other researchers through the network to meet and share knowledge. By the time I left that job, there were over 500 participants in our listserv conversations with IR responsibilities within their offices. To the best of my knowledge, that list is still active today.

Bill Gates once said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” To that I say, “Be kind to newbies. You never know where they’ll end up — or the impact your kindness will have!”

Each of us has our own story of how we got into sourcing. No one started off in this profession equipped with all the tools they’d need to be successful. Somewhere along the way, someone showed them how to do the job. Whether it was a professional trainer or just a fellow sourcer who wanted to see them succeed, others had to be involved. Kindness and patience to help someone learn how to excel in this line of work had to be present. And there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone you spent time with grow and excel in their career.

Over the years there have been a number of people who’ve been a major part of helping me to get where I am now. And nothing makes me happier than to pay that kindness forward. I’ve been in sourcing for just about ten years now and I realize that at some point, I will need to pass the baton. By taking a new sourcer under your wing, showing them how much fun this line of work can be, and teaching them what you know, you are cultivating the next generation of talent that will come up in this business.

Being kind to newbies in this business will encourage them to continue pursuing knowledge — and isn’t that what this profession is all about, the pursuit of knowledge? However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you are working with new sourcers:

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  • Stoke the fire. To me, nothing is more refreshing than to see the hunger for knowledge in a new sourcer’s eyes. There is little that fuels that fire more than taking interest and sharing knowledge, and little to put it out quicker than discouraging, ignoring, or disregarding that passion. For those of us who’ve been around the block a few times, it’s easy to get jaded and to say, “Been there, done that!” when new folks start talking about sourcing. As sourcing veterans. it’s important to encourage creative thinking and problem solving. After all — we were once brand new to this business ourselves.
  • Remember where you came from. Nothing is more arrogant than forgetting that you were once new and thinking that no one was involved in helping you achieve success. One of my favorite quotes came from a very successful man I heard at a conference back in 2005; he said, “Remember where you came from, and always reach back.” Put yourself back in their shoes — remember how you felt when you were new in the business and keep in mind that a lot of the insecurities, nervousness, and excitement that you felt are probably being felt by that new person reaching out to you as well.
  • Be proactive with new team members and those who’ve impressed you. If you are working directly with a new sourcer, be proactive. Offer to take them to lunch, ask them what their first req is and give them some pointers. What this does is it lets them know that you are available if and when they have questions about how to do their job. Outside of your own team, if you’ve noticed someone who has potential (through social media, their blog, etc.) reach out to them and let them know that they have impressed you. I remember being impressed with the writing of a young recruiter who wasn’t even a sourcer at the time and reaching out to have a conversation. That individual is now one of the three Grand Master Sourcing Challenge winners. You never know what may come from those conversations.
  • Don’t try to be all things to everybody. If I pursued mentoring all of the new sourcers who ask me for help, there would be no time left to do my job let alone have any sense of a personal life. In my role now, I do get a lot of requests for help from people who are new to the business. While I want to, I simply cannot help everyone on an individual basis and if I tried, I would go mad. Admittedly, I know there are some emails that don’t get answered the way they’d like and it’s never intentional. But I do know my own limitations and I have to adhere to them if I am going to continue to be effective myself.
  • Don’t be afraid to refer. I have a friend who used to send thoughtful responses to every email request for help she received. This became a strain on her time and the appreciation for what she did just wasn’t there. While she wasn’t looking for praise or thank-you’s, she knew that she needed to be smarter about what she was doing. Often, newbies don’t know exactly what questions they should be asking to learn — or even what they need to learn. Because you’ve done a good job with your personal branding, you might be the first person they’ve reached out to. As stated above, you can’t be all things to everyone — but if you’re worth your salt in sourcing, you should know the appropriate people with whom to connect. Try referring them to someone more local or specialized.

A German translator friend of mine is heavily involved in the American Translators Association and each year she leads one of the opening sessions for their annual conference which happens to be a new attendee orientation. I thought, What a wonderful way to help new folks in the business get acclimated — not just with the event, but with the leaders and also with other newbies! So we are going to do a New Attendee Orientation at SourceCon in February as well — partially because I think new attendees need some tips on how to get the most out of their conference experience, but mostly because I want to meet the people who are attending SourceCon for the first time and I want them to meet one another. It’s tough to meet others when you’re at a conference for the first time and you don’t know a lot of people — I want to encourage new sourcers to pursue learning, and not just from the sessions but from one another as well. If you are coming to SourceCon for the first time or you’re new to sourcing, this will be a fantastic way to get your conference experience started off on the right foot.

Having new sourcers in this business is important for its continuity. The more we can encourage their passion and uplift their efforts, the better off we will all be. Never forget that you were once new yourself, and pay it forward.

What’s your story? Who inspired you when you were new to sourcing? Share your personal account in the comments below!

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter and SourceCon.com with ERE Media. She currently works as Sr. Manager, Technical Talent Sourcing for Walmart eCommerce. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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