From Teaching to Recruitment

From Teaching to Recruitment

author: Ben Greensmith


When approached to share something about my transition from teaching to recruiting (shout out to Denisa for the idea), I was intrigued as to how my experience could help others looking to move into recruitment, or more broadly change career paths entirely. It certainly wasn’t easy, but as anyone who has spent any time teaching children will know, it can prepare you for just about anything!

My story 

To cut a long story short, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I come from a family of lawyers but, as you may have already guessed I never took the Bar. I have a degree in History, a diploma in Law and I’m currently doing an MSc in Business. I taught English around Europe for 4 years and eventually found myself in Oxford with a pregnant Greek girlfriend (I am the father) looking for some stability. 

I’d had brushes with recruiters so I thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”. And in the process, why not move back to Manchester (which is where I’m from)!? 

I felt I had a lot of transferable skills: good communication, writing, time management and research skills. Could I sell ice to an Eskimo? Probably not. Could I sell a pen in a lift in one minute? Hmmm, possibly… But recruitment has evolved and there are a lot of key skills that you can bring from other roles that will really set you apart. 

The days of braces, yelling down the phone and slicked-back hair are more or less gone now, and the softer skills of empathy, relationship building and a drive to help people are becoming the order of the day. Resilience has, and always will have, a key role to play in having a successful recruitment career. 

It is worth mentioning that there is also a fundamental shift occurring, where the reputation of recruiters is slowly being healed after years of antiquated KPI butchery. The classic line is that “no-one likes recruiters”, but that is changing and you could help that change along.    

Can you make the career jump?

Recruitment is a rollercoaster. That is what I heard when I first started and I didn’t really believe it, but mentally and emotionally it absolutely is. Highs and lows can happen in a single minute and stepping out of the classroom and into an office environment of ‘witty banter’ was an interesting adjustment for me. But if you have the transferrable skills I mentioned earlier, a leap into this world is totally possible.

Some practical considerations would be:

  • First and foremost, have a think about your key motivations. Why do you want to work in a certain industry and what drives you as an individual? It could be money, the chance to lead a team, opportunities to learn, building relationships with others… you need to be clear on what your list is, so that you can find a job that will help you achieve your goals.
  • What recruitment industry do you want to go into? IT, Engineering, Healthcare, Education… there are as many options as there are industries, and your personal or career background may give you an advantage in one of them.
  • Can you work unconventional hours? Making a call at 7:30 in the morning or 8 at night might not be on your list of current life goals, but that’s often where you get your best results. When everyone is busy at work you need to fill your time with another productive activity (like writing a blog!).
  • Do you want to take a dip in fixed salary and top that up with commission? That’s almost always how a recruitment (or sales) job would pay you, and you need to be prepared for it to take a few months before that commission comes through. So a very practical consideration before making the move is: can you afford to do it? 
  • Big company or small company? More established or less established? Would you benefit more from a stricter and more target driven environment where you really “sink or swim”, or would you need a smaller company with a more flexible approach but perhaps not as much money to throw at you? It all has to factor into your decision making. 
  • Where do you want to go with it? If you’re in the right company, recruitment can open a lot of doors and offer progression in many different forms. So ask yourself where you want to end up, and what kind of organisation will help you get there.

How to make the change

Something I always recommend for every job hunter wanting to move is to make sure you research the industry, market, company and people. Apply to a select few, don’t spam, and follow up with a call. Speak to someone at the business, be prepared to sell yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Cliche time: People hire people. When candidates interview at Chroma, (we hope!) they come out thinking, “I want to work there”. That is down to culture, the way we work, the office atmosphere, the clear progression and the fact we are a decent bunch of people. If you don’t get that feeling after an interview, don’t bother.  

I personally hate it when people say:

“Is recruitment really for you?’’ 

“You don’t have a sales background’’ 

“Can you hack it?’’

If you want to work hard, work smart and help people, then in my mind that is enough for you to pursue a career in recruitment. That’s not to say it’s an easy choice, or an easy job, and I can guarantee that if this is something you want to pursue, you’ll have to work harder than you ever have to make yourself successful. 

But for me, it is time for balanced and experienced individuals to step into recruitment, to help shake it up, for the ‘unconventional’ recruiters (“What do you mean you don’t want loadsamoney?”) to take the lead. Even if you start at 30 you could have 25 years exp by 55 (quick maths)! Recruitment needs fewer ‘sleazy sales money-grabbers’  and more down-to-earth, life-experienced and well-rounded individuals. 

If you want any advice on how to move into Recruitment please do get in touch and ask for Ben