I had a birthday the other day and that’s always a time of reflection for me.
This past October marked my 40th year in recruitment and staffing.
As a 23-year old I began working at a well-established Manhattan “employment agency” best known for putting college grads into jobs where typing plus your degree was your fast track into more substantive roles in advertising, publishing, TV production, nonprofits and Wall Street.
I commuted daily on the LIRR – long before cell phones and laptops were passenger accoutrements. My fellow commuters played pinochle, did a lot of reading, bought each other drinks in the Bar car and took cat naps between stations. I think they chilled way more than today’s riders.
Penn Station looked very different in the 1980’s, as did Times Square and Bryant Park. It was pre the revitalization of Manhattan. I’m glad I got to see both the gritty and grim, as well as the dramatic and shiny makeovers. I worked in midtown in both old and new buildings. My tools of the trade began with an IBM Selectric typewriter, then a word processor& eventually PCs and Macs. I used to get handwritten “while you were out” messages because voicemail hadn’t been invented yet and I relied on colleagues to pick up my ringing desk phone to tell me whose calI missed. And – when that pink message pad changed to a yellow sticky note – wow, what a novelty!
I wrote the Sunday ads that appeared in the New York Times – what I call “the original job board.” I would judge how well I captured a job seeker’s interest by how packed our Reception area was on Monday mornings. Standing room only made me giddy. Lines out the door and I was on a high all day. – All of them wannabe candidates eager to get their crack at the first interview; they sat ready and waiting with newspapers in hand, ads circled in red Sharpie ink. Applicants balked at taking typing tests – because after all, “I didn’t go to college to type.” Today, their toddler progeny navigate a keyboard with alacrity and none of those old QWERTY prejudices.
So much has changed and yet it hasn’t.
People still struggle with writing a cohesive resume. Job seekers still need coaching and calming before an interview. Employers still take too long to make a decision and often lose the best candidate in their desire to see “who else is out there.” What HAS changed is the concept of career and job tenure. People have become more savvy about what they want from their employer. Work life balance is a major consideration and growth, mobility and professional development outweigh long range stability with a gold watch waiting at the end. Taking a career risk is admired, not admonished.
HOW people find employment is dramatically different.
We “make online connections” … set job alerts with specialized criteria on niche boards and cultivate our personal brands so that employers find us instead of us finding them. Everyone wants to be that “passive candidate.” Both companies and employees care about culture fit – the ability to thrive in an environment that matches your individual values and needs. Passion is valued by employers seeking to hire and by talent looking to find meaningful work. My industry and the profession of being a Recruiter has elevated. The old employment agency mentality has been replaced by an understanding of how the right recruitment/search partner can impact both candidate and company. Having the right placement expert in your corner is like relying on a valued physician, a personal trainer who pushes you or an auto mechanic that keeps your car humming. All of them occupations that help you in your journey as you get to where you want to go.
Yesterday’s temp is today’s gig worker – someone who contracts their time and skill set and actively seeks out experiences offering new companies and geographies. Recruiting is boundary-less. People work from remote locations. It is no longer essential to fly the top candidates in for a showdown. Now that can be accomplished with Zoom interviews by hiring managers who might even scrutinize backgrounds and book titles on the shelf behind the interviewee in their quest to get a better sense of him or her.
We dress differently on the job – even the most formal of employers are likely to have business casual Fridays or dress down days. Now the job candidate who shows up in a tie has an equal chance of getting a thumbs up, as well as a thumbs down.
We have a huge span of generations in the workplace. Baby Boomers to Zoomers (Gen Z) – those who prefer a business card to those who will only use a vCard. All should do better at trying to appreciate and value each other’s strengths rather than dissing their differences. We text too much and talk too little. We should be embracing the varied collective knowledge that can transform companies from good to great. Our workplaces replicate our lives and it’s the blend of new and old that help us find meaning and understanding.
I never thought that as I neared the end of my career I would be working so hard at learning new skills. Disruptive technology – you either adapt or get left behind. Every day a new platform, process, application, or means of communication emerges. I sometimes measure my own career changes against those of generations before me.
Each of us will experiences the evolution of ourselves, our lives, our careers – if we are lucky. I think the pandemic is what got me to thinking so hard about where I was then and where I am today. I’ve had a great career and I’m not yet ready to retire! My network is quite large and I’ve worked with some of the best.
In these 40+ years I calculate that I have personally viewed, written, edited, tweaked, critiqued or reformatted well over 10,000 resumes. In fact I’ve told family that at my funeral I’d like them to ask for a show of hands if I had some personal impact on an attendee’s resume or on someone they know. I feel fairly confident I’ll capture most of the room! It really bums me out that I won’t be there to see it.
Thank you to colleagues, candidates, clients, my mentors, employers, those I’ve managed and those I have been privileged to have in my life long after our career connections ended. These days I’m working g from home and I keep an Albert Einstein quote on a sticky near my work station. I think it’s a good reminder for all of us. — “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Schuman, CSP is the Chief Marketing Officer for LLoyd Staffing. A recruitment and career specialist, Nancy will celebrate 40 years in the staffing industry this year, 25 of them with LLoyd. She is an advocate for career education and has advised thousands of candidates on their resumes and job searches while serving as the Careers columnist for a large weekly Long Island newspaper and writing 11 popular books for job seekers and business professionals. You can find her Author’s page and books on Amazon.