After graduating with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at Anglia Ruskin University, Casey Campbell trained as a PE teacher before making the move into Recruitment in 2015.
18 months into his new role at Shoreditch-based agency Maxxima, I meet with him to talk about how his perceptions of the industry have changed.
“The cliché is ‘Essex wide boy’: floppy hair, blue suit, red tie, brown shoes. You only have to hang around Liverpool Street and you'll find them all.”
Coming from a background in teaching, Casey was reluctant to admit that earning money was something he valued highly:
“With teaching, I found that the better I got at my job, the more I was being asked to do. I was taking on more responsibility, it was taking up more time, but I wasn't necessarily being paid more.”
Being driven by the prospect of earning money is something that can be frowned upon, but Casey’s experience as a teacher highlighted two key points: “I was willing to work, and work hard, and maybe I was more money motivated than I was willing to admit.”
“I think it's sometimes a bit of a taboo subject - some people will never, never confess to being money-motivated - but I don't mind what I'm doing, as long as I'm being paid accordingly to how hard I’m working.”
After looking at industries where this would be the case, Recruitment emerged as an appealing option: “You get out what you put in, and that in itself is quite appealing to me.”
Casey had some trepidations, however, about entering this new field as a graduate: “I don't think the industry has a great reputation, especially as there's not necessarily any qualifications required –a lot of it is just the willingness to speak to people, to ask questions, to find things out and be a bit nosy.”
“They're all things you can pick up as soft skills, and I think it has a bad reputation in that, because you don't need a degree to be a recruiter.”
Finding the best place to use the skills he developed at university was important to Casey, and in the end that is what influenced his decision to apply to Maxxima.
“Maxxima do really only hire graduates… they’re not necessarily looking for people with a sales background, as that’s not always conducive to being a good consultant. They give everyone the skills and opportunities they need to hopefully develop into someone who’s going to be useful to the company in future.”
As well as informal guidance, the training from Maxxima’s Talent Development Consultant helped Casey get his new career off to a strong start. “I was sat next to my manager,” he said, “and on the other side I had one of my senior consultants, so I was very well guided on what I should and shouldn't be doing.”
The most important thing to start doing, as a new face in the industry, was to make contacts and build up a personal network, as Casey explained:
“It's the team and company that are known, and no one knows you are there. Work doesn't come to you, so you have to be proactive, cold-calling to a certain extent, to get your name out there.”
This doesn’t last forever, as he found within months of getting started:
“You feel like you're not necessarily moving, but either side of me, both my manager and the senior consultant were saying: ‘this is stuff that will pay off, just keep doing it,’ and they encouraged me and kept my chin up.”
“One year in, I now do less cold-calling: people know you're here, work is coming to you and the processes that you’re expected to carry out to make yourself money come more naturally.”
“All the time, my manager and consultant were saying: ‘this will pay off.’ Then suddenly you'd come in on a Monday to emails asking for help and feel like you're making a difference and making progress.”
Whilst earning money is what provoked Casey’s initial career change, I ask about the other aspects of his role that he really enjoys.
He tells me, “there is an element of job satisfaction when clients phone us up and say: ‘the person you found for us is absolutely perfect.’”
This also goes for the people he’s helped to land a role: “when candidates phone up to say they’ve got the job, it’s nice that they say: ‘I was dealing with x amount of agencies and I really appreciate the way you worked.’”
There’s no denying that Recruitment is competitive; Casey has already experienced what it’s like to encounter other agencies when dealing with a client. He tells me that “when we talk about consultants having ‘bad luck’ and their deals falling through, quite often it’s the case that there’s a recruiter at another agency that’s beaten them to it.”
For the right person, however, this becomes part of the challenge: “knowing there is someone out there trying to ruin what you’re doing, and that you’ve beaten them to a particular deal… that’s quite an enjoyable aspect, so I think a competitive nature is required.”
It’s been a steep learning curve from the school field to Shoreditch, but for Casey it was definitely the right option.
I end by asking him why he’s still keen to stick around at Maxxima two years on:
“My motivation is making money, and the more I do these things the better I get at them, and the more success I’m having as a result. There's no complaints from my end about doing the same thing over and over again, I’m just trying to do it well.”