The Greatest Sourcing Advice I Ever Learned

I recognize the people at the bar. They are heroes of mine, mentors to say the least. I’ve followed their careers long before mine ever really began. I learned from them. I read everything they wrote. If one of them made an appearance on a webinar, or at a conference, you bet I was there. I was in the background, listening, scribing and salivating to every single word they said.

Following them online was easy. Butterflies formed in my chest like that of a nerdy schoolgirl when the popular guy asked to borrow a pencil when they accepted my friend request. I liked, loved and laughed at every post they shared. I found myself caring about their kids, their families, their pets, heck even the unusually large portions of proteins they ate for dinner. If they sold it, I bought it.

Now here I am at the pinnacle of sourcing conferences, the Grand Dame of Cybersleuthing events, the freaking most exciting, exhilarating an all-around behemoth of sourcing and recruiting shows of my short-lived career. And somehow, I am about to break bread with these goddesses and gods of search strings. The essence of how I got here still baffles me.

I was a hard-working young recruiter, wannabe sourcer, that was passionate about sourcing and finding the impossible. I liked to break things, then put them back together. I was never trained, and no one knew who I was, which was, in fact, a blessing in disguise. When you are “just another recruiter” and surviving off of spamming and occasionally winning the numbers game, the heavyweights don’t pay any attention to you, and quite frankly, neither do candidates. I didn’t have any ego-driven titans of the industry, who started long before I graduated from middle school, marking their territory on me and claiming their stake in my imminent future.

I knew I was mediocre and I knew what I was doing, well wasn’t quite working. In my first five years as a recruiter, under four different employers, I never once received a training budget. Conferences were a myth, a mirage, a waste of expenses. Out of the pocket, SHRM PHR classes were in season and the latest fashion trend. Back then, SHRM was hip, cool, and the only way to move up the corporate ladder of HR doom. Why learn to write a Boolean string, when you can learn to write a severance letter? Geez, sign me up! If you can’t source them, you can at least lay them off.

Knowing there was a way out of tracking vacation hours and listening to salacious complaints of interoffice romance, I basically lived, breathed and died by any and everything free. If you hosted a sponsor-led webinar, I registered. I didn’t care if my name and email would be sold to the highest bidder, and my inbox would be spammed with newsletters and holiday greetings. I was so thirsty for knowledge. I was desperate. I would have practically gone to a conference and sat through a day-long timeshare style demo of a product that would likely never make it past beta testing if it would have paid for my trip. In those days, my mind was just as starving as my bank account, which meant I was in the prime position to learn. I was a sponge.

I likely learned the ins and outs of sourcing, search engines, and modest hacking through memorizing SourceCon articles. Pre-social media, your entire sourcing celebrity career was dictated by who discovered the new free tool, and who hacked LinkedIn. No one remembers who invented the tool, but if you were the first to write about it, you were a saint. If you could use a linkdomain: command in Yahoo, then likely you were making a fortune off teaching what was right in front of us all along. It was all the information we were too busy ever to notice.

SourceCon was all I had. It was the only being that understood me. It was where the early sultans of our craft scribed their secrets and showed tricks I had never seen or heard of before. SourceCon opened my mind to a whole new world of finding candidates. Once I discovered SourceCon, my mind became overstimulated with different paths and avenues to find candidates online. Who knew that Google indexes websites differently than Bing and each search engine has its own unique set of Boolean commands? SourceCon became an addiction, a drug if you must. I had to have it. My day didn’t start until the latest article was uploaded on the interwebs. I was turning every trick I could to be a part of this sourcing movement.

SourceCon was changing me. Sure, I learned invaluable and more imaginative ways to find candidates, but SourceCon actually changed me. I became more innovative. I became a natural at manipulating URLs and reading source code. I downloaded any and every app that would pull up creepy facts about the general public. I wanted to know where all my friend’s sister’s cousins and first dates lived, worked and played. I was helping just about everyone update their resume, so it was about time I learned how to peep into their lives. Call it returning the favor, or just plain stalking (we know it as sourcing).

My self-esteem and confidence were growing as a sourcer, and that only meant one thing. It was time to share. Sharing my endeavors as a blossoming sourcer on the world’s largest sourcing platform was too intimating to fathom. So, I started a small little blog called Recruiting Rockstars (appropriately named for the group of developers I was working for who called themselves, the IT Rockstars). I started blogging about my search strings, my tricks, my hacks, my everyday movement as a sourcer. This became my journal, my record of growth, my proudest achievements of overcoming mediocracy.

To my dismay, people read it. People commented. Some people even called (it was common actually to use the phone in those days) and wanted to share their experiences with me. They wanted to teach me more efficient ways to find candidates. They wanted to share their secrets with me. Secrets that were never to be published online in fear that they will one day disappear. With every blog I published, I would learn two to three better tricks and tips.

The more I shared, the more I learned. I found my people. I found my tribe. Who were these strangers that called me out of the blue and cared about how I found candidates? What was in it for them? And more importantly, how the heck did they find my number?

Well, these were the “people at the bar.” The humble teachers that would give you the shirts off their back to show you more productive ways to find candidates. The kind of people that take time out of their day, away from their families, their friends, their pets, that giant piece of meat or vegan substitute, and their jobs to do your job for you. These were the members of the SourceCon community.

I was hooked. I was all-in. I knew this community was all I cared about. The most humbling moment in my career was the day they took me in.

I’ve attending hundreds of conferences in my career. Call me biased, but SourceCon is as good as it gets. Sure we could sell you a $10,000 license and hire celebrities and famous authors and unleash a circus at our events, but we aren’t like that. That’s not us.

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Our celebrities wear jeans with holes in them. They rock hockey jerseys, and 12-year old SourceCon t-shirts. They dye their hair purple, except the ones that are bald. The bald ones design laptop stickers, purple squirrel memes and tell jokes every chance they get, but they also have the best stories. Our celebrities volunteer at SourceCon, and not because they have to. They genuinely care more about your experience than theirs. They’d rather welcome a new member to the community than cram one more sourcing nugget into their brain.

This will be my seventh conference as your “editor” and head cheerleader for sourcing nerds alike. There is an easy way to program an agenda. In fact, just about every conference takes the road most traveled. I could tell every speaker, all 32 international sourcing superstars, to show us what they got. They could stand on stage and bedazzle us with their fancy boolean strings and their geekiest hack. They could pull rabbits out of their hats all day long and leave you in bewilderment. Newbies would run for Mount Rainer and succumb to all tricks that our speakers could show. But believe it or not, that isn’t SourceCon.

SourceCon isn’t the place for self-promotion and one hit wonders. I’ve had front row seats for the entertaining magic shows of sourcing keynotes and headline performances, all to rush home and discover that what I learned doesn’t work and will never work for me. Sure it looked freaking cool, but show me something that will fill my position. A girl has got to eat for crying out loud!

A trick and a treat are always lovely, but it’s not how I learn, and it’s not how we learn. We learn from other’s mistakes. We learn by listening to stories of those elite sourcing tycoons that were writing Boolean strings before Larry Page graduated from preschool. We learn from shared experiences. We learn when we can relate, and we learn through anecdotes and narratives.

Our conference in Seattle will be as distinctive as it will be humble. There will still be the usual sourcing creatures lurking behind the shadows with their faces illuminated by the glow of their laptops, tempting you into roundtable discussions of Chrome extensions and people aggregators. Some well-known sourcing sovereign will capture your attention with their witchcraft and potions. There will be an intense sourcing hackathon and a celebration of individuality.

Don’t worry; we’ve already kidnapped Susanna Frazier and brainwashed her into writing the hackathon and not participating in it.

We are bringing back Out at SourceCon and adding another hangout for women and non-binary sourcers alike. We will still get to be us — those red-headed stepchildren of HR who don’t quite fit into that box.

This SourceCon you will hear some of the greatest sourcing lessons ever learned. You will walk away from SourceCon with more wisdom and knowledge. You will join the lines in the expo hall to interact with the innovative technology companies that are molding and shaping our industry. We will force you to meet dozens of new friends in our peer to peer and roundtable sessions. But, most importantly, you will leave SourceCon as a member of our tribe, our community, our team.

Which brings me back to those people at the bar. My friends, my family. They’ve taught me everything I know. They celebrated my crafted and quite frankly made it better. The greatest sourcing lesson I’ve ever learned is to share. Share hard and share fast. The more you share, the better we will all be.

Come join us in Seattle. I promise it will change you.

Shannon Pritchett is the editor of SourceCon. As a lifelong student in the recruitment industry, Shannon is passionate about improving it. Shannon has a diverse background in training, sourcing, international recruitment, full desk recruiting, coaching, and journalism. Shannon got her start in the recruitment industry at Vanderbilt University and later worked as a Senior Recruiter for Internal Data Resources and Community Health Systems, Social Media Recruitment Ambassador for T-Mobile USA, Director of Recruiting for Moxy, Trainer with AIRS, and last as a Manager of Global Sourcing and Training for ManpowerGroup Solutions RPO.

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