I was talking with a recruiter the other day and I could see he was getting agitated during our conversation. When I paused and asked him what was bothering him, he denied anything was wrong. After a bit more pressing from me, he let it out. I’m extremely thankful he had the courage to share his feelings which included a great deal of pent-up frustration. After several minutes of listening to him, I could see he was getting uncomfortable, as if he had said something he shouldn’t have. I reassured him that what he was feeling right now, I had felt, too, at one point during my recruiting career. I explained he and I were not alone. Our feelings were shared by many experienced recruiters at least once in their careers.
He shared with me that he felt so much pressure these days to get the next placement that he’d somehow lost the passion he once had for his job. He was tasked by his employer to take on many additional responsibilities, and yet was still expected to meet ever-increasing production goals each week. As he continued to speak, he shared with me that he had come to feel somewhat trapped in his career. The success he’d once revelled in had now begun to feel like a curse. He once couldn’t imagine doing anything else and he enjoyed having the kind of lifestyle he had built from recruiting. But now, all he could think about was doing something else. And there he sat with me, a trainer who had been tasked with “lighting a fire under his butt”. Those were the exact words his manager had used to describe what he needed from me.
As we continued to talk, I asked what he loved in the beginning, when he first started recruiting. He shared with me that it was the feeling that he was helping others. He was helping the healthcare professional find a job, while also helping the hospital find needed staff, and ultimately helping the patients and family members of those patients. He loved knowing he could have that kind of impact in the lives of so many other people he would likely never meet. When he had finished, he was starting to calm down a bit. I asked him if he had those same feelings today. He paused for a bit and said, “I really don’t have time to think about that anymore. I’m so busy doing my job, I really don’t have time to sit back and look at the big picture any longer.”
Over the course of the next couple of days, we met for a few hours. We spent some time talking about changes in the industry, and laughed a lot about how many things were still the same. I listened to his feelings about his role as a recruiter, about the energy and passion he put into each of his travelers to be sure they had the best experience he could provide. He shared with me that he had been able to pay off student loans because of recruiting, and even buy a home for his family. He was extremely proud of that fact as he was the first in his family to purchase a home. The more time we spent together, the more I came to respect him and his current struggle. It became clear that the passion he had for his job in the beginning remained. But, he just hadn’t connected with its source in quite a long time. That source was quite simply helping others. He gained an extreme amount of satisfaction from knowing his actions improved the lives of others.
As we worked through this, he came to the realization that the job hadn’t changed much for him. He enjoyed taking on the additional responsibilities he had been given by his employer. In fact, he welcomed them. He began to see how his actions now were helping many more people. Not only was he able to help the healthcare professionals, the hospitals, the patients, and their families, but he was helping his team. He was helping the company he had grown to love over the years.
It’s been a year since I first met this recruiter. We still talk from time to time. Recently, he shared with me how much of an impact my few short days of work with him had on his life. He confided in me that the week I was in the office was supposed to be his last week. He had already talked with his wife about his plans to change careers and to find something new. But our interactions led him to the belief that he didn’t need a change of jobs, but rather a change of attitude. It wasn’t about anything or anyone around him--it was about him. And, about rediscovering his passion--helping others.
Managers and leads out there: If you’re not connecting with the individuals on your teams, then you are failing at your job. While success, to some degree, does come from within the individual, it is your duty to help them overcome any challenges which are preventing them from reaching their full potential. It may take a few minutes or several hours but the investment is well-worth the time. So, the next time you’re told to “light a fire under someone’s butt”, remember that lighting a fire isn’t always “telling” someone what you want them to do. Sometimes it’s listening to their needs, which allows you to rekindle that passion and motivation that led them to success in the first place.