Yes, I am a recruiter. Yes, I am a salesperson. Yes, I do love getting someone a job. But the pieces of my “job” that are the most fulfilling and inspirational are not the pieces that compensate me. In fact, my love for helping others has ironically impeded my success in putting people to work. I enjoy listening, inspiring, empowering, and healing people on their journey and that part is the non-profit piece of filling an open role for a client. Big agencies can’t spend the time I can on candidates and that’s one of the reasons why I never worked for one (I also work with my family, so my boat is docked and always has been). I also don’t have some of the contracts they possess. And in the spirit of the last few months and the state of our world, I will speak a truth – one I never had the courage to say – I don’t care. I don’t care that there are other staffing firms out there who do more placements than me. I don’t care that I don’t train my staff to speak to 50-100 clients or candidates per day.
I care about the healing. And I always have.
My “silver lining” or “lemonade from lemons” news is that my team and I will be strongly suited to help on this “other side” of the pandemic. And our vibe will continue to attract our tribe – clients who build business based on heart and soul. But, that share is not why I put pen to paper today. I wanted to write today to talk about our kids. All of them.
For the last several years, I have spent time in the classroom talking career with children. When my daughter was 2, I wrote a book about career because I couldn’t find one that could explain “why we work” in an age-appropriate manner. I could not find something to help explain why I was not at every drop off and pick up and why I liked being able to go to work. When I was little, I wanted to be an author (what did you want to be?), so I challenged myself to take a dose of my own medicine. I self-published two installments: The Dream Big Academy: Rosie Wants to be a Fireman and The Dream Big Academy: Rosie Wants to be a Dancer. I shopped them around and book-toured with them on my own dime and with my own foot on the gas pedal. Though my concept was strong and illustrations beautiful thanks to a fashion illustrator from my very own database, I could not find an agent or publisher who wanted to invest in my idea. But it didn’t matter. I loved every second of that chapter; sharing the concept with young minds, teaching about goals and dreams and resumes to littles as young as 3 and as old as 7th grade. (You are never too little to start dreaming big). The books were great tools in preK-2nd grade and the resume workshops and dream sessions I then did with middle school classrooms were incredibly profound for the students. We talked dreams, how they change and shift, and how success and its definition ebbs and flows with age and wisdom.
When I moved to the suburbs, I learned that the 3rd graders had a deep-rooted and beautiful tradition of “transition day” – where they reflected on their years at our beloved elementary school, learned about the “big bad” middle school, and rode their bikes as a unit up the street that connects the two with the whole town watching and cheering them on. I was so inspired by this that I, in partnership with our PTA, initiated yet another tradition for the graduating 3rd graders – a “time capsule” of their first milestone moment moving from elementary school to middle school. This pillar of my business is probably the one I was secretly most proud of and the one that filled my bucket the most. My secret is now out!
For the last few months, I have been in the weeds like everyone else. I tried to be positive; tried to run a business that had stopped completely; hosted podcasts and Facebook lives with my partner/sister to spark hope and healing; launched an inclusive community for professionals to network and empower one another; continued to parent two daughters and help them keep up with their school work via Zoom and virtual classrooms…plus all of the other incredibly large doses of “stuff” that we all have been carrying and feeling… while saying each and every day how thankful I was that we were healthy and my family was healthy.
I have been quietly thinking about this year’s 3rd grade and how their “transition day” and their tradition would be cancelled. I went out to the school and teachers and asked to try to do the lesson anyway. Because it was important. Because they should have their moment. We all have heard a lot of this stuff by now – the loss of “regular life” while we were flattening the curve. The teachers accommodated and in 36 hours, I was prepared to host our time capsule lesson via the Zoom platform and talk dreams, milestones, and career.
However, I was NOT prepared for the emotion I felt this morning. I have spoken to kids and grown-ups, in groups of all sizes, hundreds of times and though the conversations are always moving and inspirational, nothing has ever felt like this. This morning, I was on a Zoom with 120 8 and 9 year old kids and 6 teachers, all from their homes, where they have been virtually learning for months. When I asked my favorite question – “what do you want to be when you grow up?” – several un-muted themselves and said they wanted to be an actress, a singer, a professional athlete. And then there were the hopeful animal rescue workers and the interior designers. And perhaps the most powerful share, a therapist. Some shared about their sadness to leave behind a school that they have known for years and to which they didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. A few kids mentioned how nice it was to have their parents home as they normally would be in the city for long days prior to COVID.
And in that moment, I realized what this generation has seen. They have seen the world stop (ish). They have seen their parents figure out how to balance. They have seen work be done in new ways. They may be the last to remember a parent away from the house for long days and sometimes weeks a time. Their perception stopped me in my tracks. And I needed to share this with all of you.
In all of those years of listening (I have been in staffing for 16 years), people didn’t come to me when they were happy. We often said to our candidates, “network the most when you need it the least,” but 99 % of the time, when people called on recruiters at an agency, they called because they were simply miserable. They came to me when they were unhappy, undervalued, frustrated, stuck, missing balance, quality of life, the commute was killing them, etc etc etc. I sometimes would hang up the phone or leave a meeting and need moments to recover before my next call.
Recruiters such as myself have been “on the front-lines” for decades (I always described it like that and now I feel sensitive and don’t want to feel tone deaf as we now all equate the term with a different meaning), watching people struggle with parameters that are ugly and challenging. We hear about discrimination of all kinds, from race and religion to pregnancy, age and gender. We hear about a lack of empathy and kindness. We hear about glass ceilings. We hear misconceptions. We hear about financial strain. We try to navigate these choppy waters with doses of kind reality. And we have always tried to TAKE ACTION… by trying to find places/roles for people so that they can work…freely and with some degree of happiness. How many times have I said out loud that a job is just a job? And yet, I believe in the statement that a job is not “work” if you truly love it. So few of us are able to do what we love and or love what we do. After all of these months of time and perspective and forced change, I pray that the stories people share with me as they look for new work in a new world – will be different.
So. This is my PROFESSIONAL PRAYER: For the kids’ sake. For their future.
As a society we are all working now to #collectivelyrise. Whether it has been to flatten the curve or to learn about our racial transgressions, we have been experiencing a powerful moment in history. Work and mental wellness (certainly linked together from my seat!) are also top of our list of things to sort through. If you are reading this, please join me in saying, LET’S NOT GO BACK TO WORK. Not the way we left it. Instead, let’s go back to work THIS version of ourselves. All of us. Let’s go back to what made us happy. Those fortunate to work in big businesses who take employee relations seriously, let’s let some of your lessons and protocols and wins seep out into the rest of the world…share them so other business can take your lead. Those hustlers who are small business owners, set your boundaries for quality of life high. And those – like me – who work in those businesses that fall “in between”, let’s hold ourselves accountable. And lets do our best to hold our clients’ accountable. Let’s go back to life and work without Sunday night scaries. Let’s manage people better. Let’s understand. Let’s be graceful. Let’s speak up. Let’s communicate. Let’s be human. So that when this years’ 3rd grade looks back on their journey when they read their letter at 8th grade graduation, they don’t think, “well, that was a waste of time.”
As we slowly open back up, let’s make sure we work healthy. And not just with masks and plastic guards…YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I would love to use this note of emotion and truth and hope to ignite a conversation… comment below. I will start.
When I get back to “work” – I will no longer feel guilty about working from home and being present in my children’s lives. If my colleagues are not at the same stage of life as me, I will no longer feel badly if they don’t understand or can’t relate. I will trust that my performance and not my presence will be enough. And I will ALSO stop feeling guilty about not being able to do EVERYTHING that every other parent may or may not do because I am balancing my professional life delicately with my children’s needs and schedules. I know this will not be easy. But I didn’t spend three months at home to learn nothing about myself. And if I can do better with these two huge feelings, I will work better. I will dream bigger. I will heal more souls. And I will honestly practice what I preach: to #leadwithlight.
What is your professional prayer and call to action?