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Why being back in HR recruitment is giving my family better balance!

 28th Feb 2022

In the words of Shakespeare “…’tis true. The wheel is come full circle. I am here” – perhaps slightly self-indulgent to quote the Bard when looking for something that accurately sums up your life right now but allow me the luxury just this once.

I find myself in a place (in every sense of the word) I never imagined I’d return to and for the reasons I’m about to share with you, my life truly has come full circle. I want to share this journey as I know what I have to say will resonate with so many of you: the spinning of countless plates; the sometimes-failed attempts at balancing the often-conflicting aspects of your life; the guilt we flagellate ourselves with when we put work first.

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And here we are at the tail-end of a time that has forced each and every one of us to do things differently, not always for the better but nevertheless, different and what I’m hearing from so many people, is that it has brought about unplanned reflection about what we consider to be important; whether it’s a career change, a choice about whether to go back into the office full-time, giving greater effort to spend more time with family, focus on our mental health,  a commitment to never do a family quiz on Zoom EVER again, it is without doubt that the pandemic has had a far-reaching and long-standing impact on our lives.

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Let us not forget though, that life before Covid did exist and things happened and will continue to happen, events that we either can or cannot control that instigate that life evaluation I’ve mentioned. And when I think back on the last 10 years of my life and career, I think it could best be described as rolling with the punches! During that time, I’ve experienced my fair share of pretty big life events, many of which have individually and collectively influenced my career choices and taken me in directions I often did not expect.

So, from a diagnosis of Epilepsy at 30 years old, which resulted in the surrender of my driving license a week after accepting my first self-employed contract 30 miles away, across a river, with no trainline and a 10-month-old at home (those spinning plates? Yep, they were in pieces on the floor!) to getting married, setting up my own business, the birth of my son and then divorce, you’re starting to get the picture.

On my own with two small children, I made the difficult decision to wind down my business and take up a role that would allow me to be at home more and fit in better with the children. Some of you will know me as a recruiter either from my previous agency days or from my time in internal Talent Acquisition. Not many will know of my time in Education, ultimately becoming a Curriculum Leader for Careers and Personal Development in a rural Lincolnshire secondary school. A real departure from anything I’d ever done before and a role that was rewarding in a very different way.

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Life in schools during the pandemic was tough; student and staff absences made for a difficult learning environment as well as the health and well-being impact on all of those around me, myself included. But as we were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, I lost someone very close to me, I inevitably got Covid and felt pretty bloody crappy and then I found myself in Sheffield Children’s Hospital with my now 10-year-old daughter; turns out that it’s possible for the ball of your Femur to fall off the bone, resulting in the need for major hip surgery. As you can probably imagine, we were a little shocked. Cue the Mum-guilt: I should have been there more; I should have done more; how had I missed it? Turns out I’d done what every other parent in this situation does, but it didn’t stop me giving myself a really hard time.

In a search for a positive from the situation and to pay homage to the resilience my daughter has demonstrated in abundance, I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. The time spent in hospital with her, in between worrying about blood flow and bone degeneration, was precious; I was able to stop and spend quality one-on-one time with her and that time gave me the head space to think about where I wanted our life as a family to head. At this point, my mental health had taken a bit of a battering and something needed to change.

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I have a fantastic, supportive partner – the pandemic forced us to move in together, sell and buy houses and I’m delighted (and pleasantly surprised), that it has certainly worked out for the better; add to that, two wonderful stepdaughters meaning four children under 12 years old in the house most days – suffice to say, family life is busy, chaotic and a whole heap of fun. But never more has it influenced my career choices and forced me to reflect on what’s important.

Don’t be fooled that the extensive ‘holidays’ teachers get make up for the serious workload and hours spent concentrating on the successes and failures of other people’s children, when you feel you’re not fully present for your own. And it became very clear in that time of worry and guilt, that career-wise, there was still an itch left to scratch and my days in recruitment were not over. I realised that I craved the buzz and the pace of a commercially focused role but where was I to find something that would satisfy both my professional needs and wants AND offer the flexibility to be around for my family? Was I selfish for even trying?

A recruiter at heart, I did what I have done for countless other people over the course of my career and got stuck into researching the market. And there it was: those wonderful phrases Work from Home and Fully Remote. Suddenly, it seemed I could finally balance the desire to be back in the world of recruitment that I know and love, whilst still being there for the people I love. “But hang on Emma, let’s not get too carried away. We know that there are plenty of firms out there, many of whom are very good, others not so much, so whilst we’re on this life-affirming journey of making sure the role works for you in other ways, what about the values you hold dear and the way you want operate?” Said the sensible voice in my head!

I felt quite grown up at this point and I made my job search very specific and focused, which meant I didn’t apply for anything! And then a name came up, a real blast from the past, in a conversation with my sister-in-law. She told me Dave Young was recruiting for her Marketing team and doing a damn fine job. High praise indeed, let me say! Dave had recruited for me on some particularly tough campaigns during my days at Youngs Seafood, so I also knew personally how he liked to operate; of course, I Googled him and what I saw resonated so well. He wasn’t pedaling the usual message of doing things differently (I’m of the mind that if you have to tell people you do things differently, you probably don’t); he spoke instead of honesty, integrity and authority.

Through the immutable power of LinkedIn, we reconnected and several conversations and Teams meetings later, I have joined the great team at Parker Young as Business Manager to set up the HR division. Dave had always intended to extend the business in this way, yet with the success of the Sales and Marketing areas, the right time hadn’t come along. Dave saw the opportunity to utilise my HR recruitment background and my experience in internal Talent roles to complement and support his own HR recruitment knowledge in building a division that is run by very experienced recruiters who are relationship-focused and aim to treat people as they themselves would wish to be treated. It was a real meeting of minds.

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I’m thankful to say that Dave sees the enormous value in a fully remote set-up which means I can be immersed in the Yorkshire market I know so well, whilst utilising Dave’s and the Parker Young network across the UK to build relationships further afield, all from my home office in Grimsby. If the pandemic has done anything good, it has made the world smaller and better connected than ever. I truly feel that I have the best work-life balance now than at any other point in my career; I no longer need to compromise on one thing or the other. I have a great career that no longer involves a commute that does nothing other than eat up precious time and inevitably, cause stress for everyone involved in the frenetic rugby scrum of bundling children, with shoes laces and lunchboxes flying, into the car whilst someone inside the house is still trying to find their PE top and I can’t find the car keys that are in my hand!

If someone had told me two years ago, that I would be writing this blog today, I would not have believed them. Yet here I am sharing the warts and all rollercoaster of the journey I’ve taken to get to this point. Dave, Mel and I are aligned in our vision for Parker Young Recruitment; our collective years in our respective fields bring a level of maturity and humanity that is sometimes rare in this industry. We believe in the power of human connectivity – utilising our position as experts in our professional areas and our not-insignificant time on this world as actual human beings! In short, being decent people who, as people with our own challenges and life-stuff going on, we get it. As I’ve hopefully demonstrated, I know how important career choices are and how deep their impact can be on your life and those around you if you get it wrong. We know we can help people get it right.

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As a fresh-face graduate at 21-year-old, I was determined to take the recruitment industry by storm. With the benefit of age and experience, I know now that it’s far better to do it in the sunshine. They say life begins at 40 – well with everything that happened since I did hit the big 4-0, I’m writing off the last 6 months and amending that to 40 and a half, now I finally feel like I have all my personal and professional ducks in a row (even if the odd one is a bit unruly from time to time).

P.S. it is still chaos in the morning; it’s just that now I don’t have to find the car keys! 

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