Finding myself in Executive Search

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Two years ago I had absolutely no idea that recruitment or executive search existed – If you told me you were a good recruiter, I would have thought that meant you were good at persuading friends to join you on a night out at the Student’s Union.

It was also two years ago that in the final year of my degree it dawned upon me that in just a few months I would be in the real world, working 9am to 5pm (instead of 9pm to 5am)—that is if I could even find a job. I logged onto my laptop and googled ‘graduate jobs’ and got probably 3 trillion results; it was at this moment that I decided I would put off this task for as long as possible and instead go travelling after I graduated.

Another year later, post-travelling South America for three months, I came to the sad conclusion that I was no longer at university and thus had no purpose in life.

For approximately one week, this was delightful. The next week I was back at my google search, this time I stumbled across recruitment. I really liked the sound of being paid for how hard I worked and I liked that the work was based on building relationships with clients and candidates.

I decided to throw myself in at the deep-end, organising a week filled with interviews at a variety of companies. Some were OK; recruiting into interesting sectors and in nice offices — and some were awful; in cramped basements with interviewers that were clearly lying through their teeth about their “culture”. I hence decided to narrow my search to life sciences (suiting my degree in Natural Sciences) and executive search. I had learned executive search centred around building client and candidate relationships and it also sounded interesting to deal with senior people in businesses.

Euromedica Executive Search (the life sciences arm of Walter James Group) was the first interview where I left the office really wanting to work there. Everyone I met was friendly and I was made to feel welcome from the moment I walked through the door. Their specialism was in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry predominantly within research & development and commercial roles, areas in which I had some prior knowledge. Thankfully I received an offer to work as a researcher and the rest is history!

I left my home in Cornwall for London three weeks later. I was nervous but ready for my first day, I had read numerous articles online, most containing lines such as “push through the awful first two months and then it will start to get better” and “things start to happen after six months”. Because of this, after the first day, week, and month of being in the role, I was left thinking ,“When is it really going to get bad?”.

Six months in, I still love my job. The exposure is unlike anything I expected.

I have conducted phone interviews with CEOs of biotech companies, met with venture capital managing partners and the CFO of a mid-cap pharma company, and continually discuss business strategy with some of the biggest names in the industry. It has of course been a lot of hard work but it has been completely worth it.

I never believed my opinion would be valued to the degree it is either. When a client expresses concerns over a candidate, I can push back to ensure all the positives are considered. I can also offer industry insights to candidates and advise on their job search and interviews.

One thing that has surprised me is that people are surprisingly just people - no matter how senior they are, they still have a friendly side. They still have family, friends, and colleagues; they still catch the tube to work and use Boris bikes. Yes, senior people in businesses are busy and it can be hard to find a time to speak but they are often friendlier and more willing to help than you could ever imagine.

As in any industry, at times we underestimate the importance of our work but executive search is incredibly influential. From a client perspective, we are placing people into their company that could make or break the business. To a candidate, we are placing them into what is one of the most influential parts of their life, a new job to them could be on the same level as buying a house or getting married. When you take a step back and realise this, it makes it even more enjoyable.

For those about to start their career there’s one thing I would say: find both a profession and sector that interest you, but most importantly a company you like. Make sure you invest your valuable first years at work somewhere best placed to build your career.


Written by George Watson, Research Associate at Euromedica Executive Search (part of Walter James Group)

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