Career progression is a key thing graduates today are looking for from a potential employer. You want to know you’re there to make a difference, have the ability to enact change and do a great job by contributing to the wider company goals.
We recently spoke to Isabel Kiff, a Contracts Manager at Globe Locums, a healthcare recruitment company based in London. Isabel started as a graduate trainee, and just five years later has progressed to be a senior member of the team, helping shape the company as she goes.
I met with Isabel in London to talk about her progression, what she’s learned working for a recruitment company for so long, and why she says she wouldn’t want to move anywhere else.
Tell us about yourself, Isabel.
I’m from Gillingham, Medway towns born and bred! I went to university in Essex, far enough to be away from home, but not too far. But I swear I’m not the sort of…. Essex stereotype. Though I did wear a bit of fake tan at uni once, but I had to fit in with the crowd.
Don’t worry, we’ve all done worse things at uni! What did you study?
Psychology. It’s a bit of a weird one, I used to want to be a paramedic – I kind of still do – but at the time to be a paramedic you didn’t need a degree, so I thought I’d do the cliché of psychology you know, the degree that people do when they don’t really know what they want to do (laughs).
So I did that and then they changed it so that you did need a degree to become a paramedic! So that’s when I started looking for jobs and stumbled across Globe Locums; it was never my plan to go into recruitment.
So you ended up working for a recruitment company, how did that come about if it’s not something you ever planned to do?
You know, recruiters have a really bad rep and I thought all recruiters were horrendous people! And then one cropped up for healthcare, [I saw it] and was like ‘okay, this is a bit different.’
I knew I wanted to get a job straight away after uni so I thought, do you know what, let’s see what it’s about and meet the people, and if they do seem horrendous then I won’t do it, and if they’re not I’ll give it a go.
I had a telephone interview with James, one of our directors, and straight away – because I am a big Gillingham football fan, he was like ‘oh we’ve just placed a physio at Gillingham FC’ and I was like ‘omg that is so cool’, you know, almost star struck (laughs). And [James] was really nice, and he got me in for an interview.
What year are we talking here?
So I joined in 2013. I was the first graduate person they took on.
So you were almost the Guinea pig?
(Laughs) I know! It’s been quite interesting though because I’ve helped them develop it. Obviously the graduate scheme didn’t really exist as well as it does now, but I could say, ‘oh this works really well and this doesn’t work that well’, so there was a lot of input from me.
When Isabel first stated at Globe Locums with an interest in the medical field, her job title was Graduate Trainee Recruitment Consultant, and although her dream to become a paramedic never went away, she’s been surrounded by medical professionals since starting which has kept her interested in the company. I asked Isabel about what it’s like to work with the NHS in this way, and how that’s changed her perceptions of the industry:
I do think because Gavin [a director] is a clinician himself, he worked and trained as a physiologist in New Zealand and then came over and worked in London for years, and I think because of that mentality of him being a clinician and having worked in hospitals, that’s why we’ve never become one of those stereotypical places [that takes the NHS for a ride].
Because you have that experience on the ground
Yeah, so within [my old team] we’ve got a clinician, a radiotherapist, people who’ve done physio and biomedicines. We’ve got people who are proud of the NHS and want to help the NHS. Which is why I think I’ve managed to enjoy and stay on for as long as I have.
So going back to your progression – you started out as a graduate trainee recruitment consultant, how long did you do that for?
About 9 months until I was just a Recruitment Consultant. I did that for sort of two years before I became a Senior Recruitment Consultant. And I was senior for just short of 3 years and then I became Contracts Manager in September .
It was tiny when I first started, tiny, and now there’s like 97 of us. And that’s in what, the space of 6 years?
What was your training like in those first 9 months?
At the time James and Gavin [the directors] were doing the job of a recruitment consultant themselves, so I sat next to them and shadowed them and was taught by them. Whereas now it’s a bit different and more structured. A graduate will come in and do some training in compliance and then move on and sort of do training in all of the areas.
A bit more rotational
Yeah, so we’ve realised that you sort of have to grasp everything [before becoming a Recruitment Consultant].
So now you’re a Contracts Manager, what does that involve?
I manage a lot more on the procurement level. Before, when I was recruiting, I was speaking with line managers and candidates, whereas now I don’t have anything to do with the candidate side of things, which I do miss. Obviously I’m glad I’ve stepped up, and I do still speak to clinical line managers but sort of… more top level. So like procurement in the hospitals are responsible for which agencies they use, their budgeting and everything like that.
So it’s more strategic?
And what was it about you that allowed you to progress? What skills would someone need to have to follow that same journey?
Oh that’s a hard one because I’m quite bad at selling myself (laughs)!
I feel like it’s cliché, but communication and organisation are so integral. Because, especially compared to other recruitment roles, healthcare is so fast paced, someone will need a [staff member] right this second, to go to hospital right away.
You’ve got to be so personable. And because I genuinely care about getting the staff in, and I care about the staff, I care about the line managers, I know that sounds silly, but I would hate to feel like I’ve failed anyone. That always motivated me to make sure I did everything completely right.
Isabel cares a lot about the her job and healthcare in general, she’s passionate about the work she does, but won’t ever brag about it. I wanted to know about Globe Locums as a company, beyond the job, what are the rest of the people like to work with, and do they hang out together outside of work? I asked Isabel to describe Globe’s culture:
Yeah, it’s really fun, really friendly, we do lots of different things, obviously like going for drink after work on a Friday or something, James and Gav sometimes come and put money behind the bar.
We have fizzy Fridays which is a nice perk, and obviously for the sales team they’ll do other incentives, so the people who have grown the most will go out for the day once a quarter for example. But it’s not all focused on sales, so someone from compliance will get an incentive, accounts will get incentivised.
And even if you’re a graduate trainee, if you have the most call time you can go on a trip, so it really is open to everyone.
And what about the day to day feel in the office, how is it? Do you dread coming into work on a Monday for example?
No! Don’t get me wrong, with any job it can be up and down… There are days when you’re like, ‘ugh, i haven’t had the best day’, but because you work in a team, you do really bounce off everyone. It is a really nice dynamic, everyone does seem to really want to help everyone out. It’s not like everyone is just to themselves doing their own deals, everyone works together.
Do you have people at work who you would consider your friends?
Oh yeah, so that was the one thing about [being promoted] I was really sad about, I was recruiting on the radiography team and I really didn't want to move away from [my team]. I was really excited to change job roles, really excited for everything that came with it, and the one thing that was just… making me unsure, was leaving my team.
So yeah, everyone has their friendships within the company, but it’s not cliquey. There are some really strong friendships in Globe.
To wrap up, I ask Isabel how she has changed in this role, and what advice she would give to anyone new starting out like she did:
Like I said, I never really wanted to be in recruitment, I’m not a salesy type of person, and I’m proof that you don’t need to be a salesy person to do well in recruitment. I am pleased, because I’ve been at Globe a fair while now, going into my sixth year, so it is nice to progress to the level that I’m at. I think that’s the thing with recruitment, people just sort of think you’ll be a recruiter for the whole time.
I’m like so much more confident in myself now, and that has come from the sales aspect of the job. When I first started I didn’t want to upset anyone, I didn’t want to annoy anyone, I always felt like I was hindering [people] by calling them. And then you realise what you’re there to do… I just became so much more confident.
That’s good, because I think a lot of new starters do naturally lack that level of confidence sometimes.
Yeah but it comes as you grow. You know when you first start, working in competition with other agencies, because of that you work harder, and then you get confidence in yourself from that because, when you sort of triumph over them, if you manage to get the buy-in from the candidate it does make you feel good about yourself because you think, they obviously prefer me, and you feel like, ‘oh I am doing my job right, I am good at what I do’.
So would you recommend Globe Locums?
Yesss! And don’t be put off by the fact it’s a recruitment company. Most of the sales people have come from graduate roles now. Overwhelmingly the majority of [graduates] stay on.
What would you say to a fresh graduate who’s just about to start?
Don’t be nervous and speak up. At Globe, they are still fairly new, so they’re always still learning. Obviously you can’t just go in on your first day and say, ‘I think this is all crap!’, but, if you think something’s not working, and you put it across in a smart way, then it is really receptive, and I think that’s how we’ve grown so successfully, because people have come in and shaped the way it is.