As a headhunter who had to make tough decisions about my career, I wish I knew some of the things I know now about making career decisions in recruitment.
Now, since I work with a variety of headhunting companies to see what they offer candidates, I have a unique advantage to see clearly which employers are the best to work for to further your career as a headhunter.
In order to share some of that insight, here are some ideas of what to look for when evaluating your next employer:
#1. Management. This is the same reason why you’re probably thinking about a career change in the first place. It’s always management issues that lead to retention problems. Perhaps you don’t respect your boss’s billing capability, business acumen, irresponsible financial behavior, personality, management style, or loose moral code.
Whatever the case is: you’re now sick and tired of them making money off of you!
Thus, when you look at a new firm, try to gauge your manager’s personality, philosophy towards business, and behavior by asking as many open questions as you can. Ask about their career journey, their life decisions, their current personal situation, their investment habits, their billing expertise, what they do for fun (hobbies). Don’t be afraid to get personal.
(Obviously, I’m assuming you’re going to ask these questions naturally and in due course in a socially acceptable way with manners and etiquette)
Sure, not everyone may be 100% up to your standards, but they have to at least be worthy of your respect, otherwise you’ll resent them. If you’re a top-biller, you won’t feel satisfied until you meet someone who deserves to lead you, thus, don’t compromise by settling for a mediocre manager who woos you with money and equity. They will not go away and their incompetence will drive you nuts!
#2. Equity, size of company, your role in accordance with the structure. When you make a switch from a comfortable position, the opportunity has to be significantly higher than your last role in order to make sense. Think about what you need from a financial standpoint to be happy. Many companies offer equity in forms of shares or profit-sharing.
Understand and negotiate for the model that you know will motivate you financially the most. Compare that to your time horizon. If you’re only planning to work 4-5 more years, waiting for a firm to go public may take longer than that time frame. If you’re looking to work in a different country, consider the firms that have plans to expand globally. If you want to lead from a higher level, make sure you’re reporting to someone higher on the totem pole when you move.
Whatever it is you’re looking for, make sure you’re in control and dictating these terms from early on in the process so it’s not a shock at the closing table. Despite how fearless we are when representing our candidates, we may be weaker when it comes to ourselves. Don’t cave into fear. Instead, dictate your working conditions as early as you can when you have the power of more time and options on your side.
#3. Your wealth situation. When you’ve been a successful headhunter for a few years, you should have $100k in net assets, at the very minimum. Why? Because if you’re making over $200k per year, you should be able to sock away at least $30k a year! If you don’t, you’re squandering your hard work and hard-earned money.
I’ve seen too many headhunters who make 6-figures their whole lives live with utter abandon, spending like the world is going to end tomorrow. Instead of using our job to achieve financial freedom, they enslave themselves in the rat-race with the rest of candidates and clients! That’s nuts!
If you’re a top-biller and you don’t have the financial capacity* to start your own firm, you’re living below your potential period.
The solution: Hold yourself to a higher standard! Even if you don’t want to work for yourself, ALWAYS at least give yourself the option of working for yourself if all job opportunities fail to interest you. That means, have enough financial stability and assets to support yourself no matter what career situation you’re in. If you don’t, then you haven’t reached true life success.
*I’m not advocating that all headhunters need to start their own firms. Many candidates would rather work within an existing team for camaraderie, joy of being part of a bigger organization, perks, lifestyle, family needs, etc. I’m simply stating that all headhunters should be wealthy and cut down on irresponsible financial habits that will hurt you in the long run (as should everyone).
The best advice for senior headhunters is to be control of your finances, career desires, and ambitions. Make sure whoever hires you next will be able to support your learning, emotional and personal growth, and financial aspirations.