Finding the right balance – Lucy reflects on nearly 30 years in the recruitment industry

Posted on: January 26th, 2016


I always wanted to be a farmer, just like my Dad. But things don’t always turn out the way you planned, do they? Today, sitting in my Bristol office, it’s hard to imagine a more different career path. I swapped a career with animals for one with people, setting up my recruitment business in 1988.

When I arrived in Bristol, I didn’t know anyone in the city. Luckily, what I lacked in friends I made up for in passion and motivation. I knew I was in the right place – a vibrant, creative city surrounded by countryside that would, eventually, give me the work-life balance that I craved.

I rented an office on Small Street. It was tiny, but just the right size for a desk, a chair, my trusty electric typewriter and me. I was aged 25 and had the beginnings of my own business! I couldn’t believe my luck.

My next stroke of luck came when a family friend wrote a bespoke DOS-based computer programme to help me organise my clients, candidates and contacts. This was advanced technology and I think I was one of the first – if not the first – recruitment agency in Bristol to have a computer system at the time.

I was a quick learner and soon realised my chosen career was all about getting the right fit. I spent lots of time and effort getting to know my clients and candidates. Back then, recruitment was all about whether someone had the right skills rather than whether they fitted in with the company culture or whether the position would help advance their career. I always preferred to focus on the people, not the role.

Changes in the industry

Suffice to say, I’ve seen lots of changes in the sector over the past 28 years – the biggest being the development of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my electric typewriter but it couldn’t help me engage with clients via social media, access a more diverse range of candidates, or work in the efficient, streamlined way modern technology can.

Hundreds of meetings can now be condensed into a few emails, and where a credit card sized job advert used to cost £1,000 in the local press, it’s now all about finding potential candidates on job boards and social networks. LinkedIn alone has changed the way we search for both active and passive candidates in today’s recruitment market with almost 400 million users and 2 new members signing up every second.

And the technology just keeps on coming. According to a report from Deloitte, recruitment is one sector that will benefit from integrated apps in the coming year as well as video technology, cloud migration and even WhatsApp conversations.

I also turn to my teenage and early 20’s children to see what technology they’re using and how this could be adapted for recruitment in the future. However, for me face-to-face communication will always be central to the business. We still like to interview face to face – and insist on it for new candidates. I placed my first ever candidate with Lloyds Bank and they were still there nine years later because I understood the candidate’s goals and the client’s needs. It’s all about finding the perfect fit.

Finding the right fit for you

Even with so many years of recruitment experience under my belt, I’m excited about the future. We are seeing a much bigger focus on prioritising what’s important to the individual in today’s recruitment industry – especially when recruiting millennials. Generation Y and millennials currently make up around one third of the workforce and in a decade, that figure will be around three-quarters.

This is a workforce who places more emphasis on work-life balance than salary, who looks at a company’s corporate social responsibility and culture before job titles, and who is becoming increasingly ‘consumerised’. And let’s not forget that this generation has never been offline. Managers need to be more in touch with what’s important to their workforce, listen to their employees, and nurture them so they can progress. If not, retention rates will plummet.

For me, I’ve come full circle. I started the business to find a better balance between my family (I’m a single mother with three children) and work commitments. I feel I achieved that goal – and I’m determined to help others do the same.

We are currently searching for a new recruiter to work at Lucy Bristow. As you’ll have guessed, I place a lot of emphasis on potential. I’m more interested in someone having the right amount of passion, who will fit in with our company culture rather than someone who has every single skill in the job description.

Skills can be taught, passion cannot. If this resonates with you and you think you could thrive in an inclusive, consultative sales environment, I’d love to talk to you today.

Image: Family Golf – Evening View of Golf Ground by Grand Velas Riviera Maya available under a CC BY 2.0 license


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