There's a saying often attributed as an African proverb that goes something like "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". This is something more true of your career than you know. Making successful choices on the job front will depend on what you know just as much as who you know.
Consider, for a moment, that somebody might know both of roles suiting your unique skillset and businesses hiring in those roles. Suddenly working with a recruiter makes sense - especially if you're after more from your career. Here are four reasons to give it a little more thought...
1. Good Recruiters are Marketplace Experts
There are few that know more about the ever-evolving state of the modern workplace than those tasked with filling the positions that were in greatest demand last week, are in greatest demand today, and will be in greatest demand next week! If you want to know the hottest skill sets and trends in the job market, ask somebody in recruitment.
We mean that quite literally. But we understand that if you don't have any recruiters in your professional network (and you’re not looking for work) you might feel awkward reaching out to one for advice.
As easy as it is to say... you shouldn’t. Aquent recruiting leader Ro Pilla recently said, “We’re always looking to network, and we’re especially interested in networking with great talent. We don’t build relationships just thinking about that one job that’s in front of us today. A savvy recruiter will always welcome a good connection, period. So if you’re part of that talent pool and just want to establish a relationship with a recruiter, it’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to them directly via LinkedIn.”
It’s not just acceptable - most recruiters will welcome it. “Any good recruiter would meet that request enthusiastically,” Pilla shares. “That’s why we became recruiters—we love to make connections, we love to share, and we love to help people. Trust me on this one: If a senior UX designer reached out to any recruiter on LinkedIn and said ‘I’m not looking for a job right now but I’d love to talk with you about the industry in general’ that would make their day.”
2. Even if You Don’t Change Your Job, Your Job Will Change You
If you’ve been in your current position for more than a year, pause for a moment and try to remember what your first day was like. It’s surprising how much has changed since then, right? New people, new processes - it may seem as if your role is completely different now. It is.
That gives you all the more reason to stay connected to those who spend their days on the brink of constant change. A recruiter will be happy to help you stay informed with the latest in professional development, even if you think you'll stay put. “Just be completely transparent about it,” Pilla advises. “Tell them, ‘I’d like to get your thoughts and opinions on skill sets I can add that you think are especially marketable right now.’ ”
If you like the company you work for enough to stick around a while, don’t you owe it to them (and yourself) to stay at the top of your game? The same skills and capabilities that make you more marketable also make your current employer more competitive.
3. You Undervalue Yourself
Now we’ve really got your attention. Even if you love your job and your company, you must have wondered whether or not you’re being paid fairly for your efforts.
That makes you no different than anybody who has ever been paid before. A recruiter can tell you what companies are paying for performance through bonuses or even equity. They can also tell you if your particular skillset is hot and if there are any other inducements like signing bonuses.
You also need to brace yourself for the possibility that you might be getting more than you’re worth. That should be all the more reason to catch up on your professional development. If things get tough, you don’t want to make yourself expendable. Which brings us to the best reason of all that you should continue to network with recruiters throughout your career…
4. You Might Not Be There Forever
It happens. A lot. In a world of mergers and acquisitions and hostile takeovers, you can't get too comfortable. And even if your company stays put, your colleagues and managers might not. You might not get on with their replacements. Sometimes all it takes is one person.
We're not trying to bring you down. Just being honest. Lifetime employment is - for the most part - a thing of the past; median employee tenure currently runs around four years. From a purely statistical standpoint, you will probably find yourself among the “involuntarily unemployed” at some point. If that happens, it will be a blessing if you already have a relationship with a recruiter who can get on the job hunt immediately.
So What Now?
It's possible you're concerned about what your bosses will think, or whether you think it'll be like some high-pressure sales call. Don't worry!
Successful recruiters use discretion. They have good judgment. They recognise the importance of confidentiality. They’re professionals - and you should treat them accordingly. Show the same courtesy and professional respect you would in any other networking situation.
Limit the initial meeting to a 15 - 30 minute call. That should be more than enough time for the recruiter to review your CV or portfolio and point out any gaps in your skills or development. Like any other successful relationship, it ought to be a two-way street. Be open to sharing referrals and a rundown on what’s happening at your company. We’re not suggesting that you give away trade secrets or proprietary information—just that you share the view from your unique corner of the industry.
Also, a simple follow-through along the lines of “Thanks, it was great to talk to you” can go a long way. As Vitamin T recruiter, Melanie Scheer, told us, “Whenever I get one of those ‘I don’t know if you remember me, but…’ messages, I’ll go back and look at the email chain. And if this is their first contact since I responded to them three years earlier, that kinda leaves a bad taste, versus somebody who has maintained a relationship during that time.”
Scheer summed up like this: “If we can influence how somebody builds their skill set today so that two, three, four years from now and we can place that person with a client, that is obviously time well spent. We’re looking at the long game.”
You should do the same!
Here’s an easy 5-step Game Plan to get you started:
1) Find a recruiter - we know a few! Alternatively ask a friend, try Linkedin, or Google.
2) Create a list of questions, like: What can I do to expand my skill set in the right direction? Where are the hottest job markets? What soft skills should I be working on?
3) Update your portfolio/resume at least once a month. Showing up-to-date work displays your developing talent and that you're on top of things.
4) Stay alert for networking events featuring the sorts of people you would like to connect with. That’s a great way to connect organically.
5) Remember: Recruiters are people too! A good relationship with a recruiter, like any other good relationship, is rooted in mutual respect.