“This Is How I’m Staying Relevant As a Talent Acquisition Professional”

How do you stay positive and encouraging with your network when you are struggling being in lockdown yourself?

With difficulty, is the simple answer.

I’m an energy vampire, an extreme extrovert who feeds off other people. Being forced into isolation has been incredibly tough. I miss driving around to meet new clients, delivering talent sourcing training, and catching up with industry thought leaders over coffee. Being in lockdown does not suit my personality at all. 

However, during this time in lockdown, I remembered one of my favorite quotes, by Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

From the first week of lockdown, I decided to make this my mantra. I decided that this was the time to really step up and to give back to my community, the South African recruitment field, which was going to be really negatively impacted by COVID-19. 

As a talent sourcing trainer, I was extremely fortunate already to have several companies that had booked my services before we went into quarantine. By pivoting this training online, I luckily kept very busy for the first five weeks of lockdown. I also watched how the virus was impacting the industry, and the people who work in it. I did not like what I was seeing. 

At first there seemed to be a lot of confusion, which was to be expected as people adjusted to working from home and moved their meetings and interviews online, all while trying to homeschool their children. The main theme I heard was that companies were all implementing total headcount freezes. This was not great news for both external recruiters and internal TA teams. 

I sat back and thought about how I could add value and stay relevant during these unprecedented times. I had already lost half of my income, given that I source talent globally and countries were shutting borders. At the same time, I could not just start handing out my training for free, as this would mean suicide for my training business, nevermind that I still needed money for household expenses. 

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So I decided to make myself available in other ways. I decided to collaborate with people who approached me for assistance — from vendors and other trainers to TA heads and agency owners.

Below are some of the activities I’ve done during lockdown that have kept me busy. I cite these not to gloat or self-promote. Rather, my hope is that other recruiting professionals might similarly feel inspired to look for ways that they, too, can add value to other people’s lives — and thereby their own. Here’s what I did:

  • Launched a webinar. I partnered with two brilliant ladies — Celeste Sirin, an employer branding expert, and Jane Moors, a recruitment/business coach — to launch a webinar series called “Collaborate to Navigate.” The aim of the series is to encourage recruiters to start working together for the greater good of the industry. Sessions have been really popular, generating some robust conversations around current issues with which people are struggling.
  • Guested on other webinars. I have been a guest on several webinars for tech vendors, trainers, and motivational evangelists like Seize the Day. This has been an amazing way to help others not feel so despondent and alone. We are all in the same storm, but we definitely are not in the same boat — meaning that some people need greater support. I hope in my way I’ve been able to provide that.
  • Helped students. I collaborated with several student organizations and groups by appearing on their webinars or podcasts. Topics included how to make your CV stand out and how to interview effectively. I found this to be a great opportunity to give back to young adults who don’t always have role models in their lives to whom they can turn for assistance.
  • Served as a “therapist.” I have made myself available for numerous phone and Zoom calls when people have just needed someone to listen to them. Some want to rant, others cry. Still others are excited to tell me success stories, while others want to brainstorm ideas. It has been an emotional rollercoaster at times, but I really wanted to be there for people. This has probably been the most difficult activity that I have gotten involved in. It’s been emotionally draining, but also fulfilling.
  • Socialized on the socials. I have also tried to keep people up-to-date during this time. If I read an interesting article or heard an valuable snippet of information, I shared it on the usual social channels. We may not be able to connect in person, but we can still connect. For example, one of my LinkedIn posts during this time turned out to be one of my most popular of all time. It also seems to have spurred more than 200 new connection requests.
  • Cheerled for peers. I have also maintained my status as head cheerleader in SourceCon South Africa Facebook Group. We are a community of 1,000 recruiters and sourcers who are all keen to keep our sourcing skills sharp. This community has been my rock, and I am forever grateful for all the safe, informative, and interactive discussions that have taken place there. I encourage you to lean on your communities and not to be afraid to ask for assistance. I have been very pleasantly surprised at how willing people have been to share during this time. 
  • Contributed content. Such as this article.

As you can plainly see, I did not do anything that was really out of the ordinary or cost a lot of money. I was just there for people and gave back where I could. On the flip side, I have been richly rewarded by staying busy, and I have even picked up three new clients as a result of my efforts to maintain relevance. 

So, who still does not believe in karma? 

Vanessa is determined to bring the ‘Human Element’ back into today’s Recruitment Process. She believes that people are the core building blocks of every business but that doesn’t mean that we can treat every ‘block’ the same.

Vanessa has over 10 years’ experience in the Recruitment Industry and has specialized in the IT Applications space for most of this time. Before starting her career in Recruitment, she taught unruly children in London; operated a chairlift in the USA and taught people to Scuba Dive in SE Asia.

She has recently moved into the Internal Recruiting space to focus on her latest passion for Employer Branding; Talent Attraction and Social Media Marketing. Vanessa loves presenting about these topics and sharing her knowledge, and experiences, with others.

Vanessa’s non-profit Side Hustle is co-hosting South Africa’s longest running Twitter Chat, #JobAdviceSA. This is a weekly chat that has helped several Youth to put a CV together; to interview better and to find jobs.  Vanessa’s mantra is “Life is too short to work in boring jobs….” The same attitude can be applied to the way she has lived her life and how she tackles each day.

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