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Stories About Big Decisions

I read an interesting compilation of stories about big decisions people make in business, and the drivers behind those decisions. Henry Ford, Warren Buffet, and JFK (among others.) Take a moment and read the article.

This got me thinking. Looking back on our lives, we all have those pivotal moments where a single decision changed the outcome of our existence. One of mine was in 1997. I was working for Whitman- Hart (a $500M tech consulting firm). I absolutely loved my job, was the top producing internal recruiter, and the highest compensated person nationally in the recruiting department. In 1996, I had placed 72 people, and over 85% of them were “unassisted.” That meant I directly sourced them – no ads, no employee referrals, no lists, no help. Our commission was doubled when candidates were direct sourced, so those people were my primary focus. For context, I had 17 people starting in January of 1997, and the next highest producer had 5. I was 23 years old, making an obscene amount of money as a W2’d employee, and I adored my hiring managers and candidates.

I worked four nights a week and weekends. My candidates were all passive and often wouldn’t talk to me during work hours. I scheduled calls Monday through Thursday at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm, and usually worked on a Saturday or Sunday morning. That’s when I developed the relationships with my candidates. Between doing 12 hours of evening interviews and weekend time, it didn’t make sense to be in the office normal hours. This wasn’t received well. Nobody appreciated that I seemed to have significantly more flexible hours than the rest of the department. Remember, 1996.

Right before Thanksgiving of that year, my ego got the better of me (again, 23 years old), and I demanded a promotion to “Senior Recruiter.” The person on staff who was the Senior Recruiter was promoted to be my manager, and I was promptly put on probation for not being in the office enough. My onsite hours were mandated 10am to 2pm Monday through Friday (which tells you how little I went into the office), and I made a BIG DECISION.

Nobody was going to dictate my schedule. They needed me more than I needed them. I was full of ego and vitriol. My fiancé, family and friends all thought I was crazy. I had the best job in the world. I was on a career path. Why would I give all of this up because I didn’t care for my new boss? Because I had to be in the office 20 hours a week??

I had known from the first moment I learned about our profession I’d eventually go out on my own. I didn’t think I’d be 23 years old and make the decision in response to someone else’s choices, but that’s exactly what happened. I went to work from 10am to 2pm, as instructed, and spent the remainder of my time getting ready to launch my search firm. I only made 3 hires during this period, but leadership was delighted with the change in my attendance, didn’t care about the decreased production, and I was taken off probation. When they congratulated me for the change in my behavior and told me how happy they were we could move past this, I resigned.

I did many things wrong during that period. I was abrasive. I was cocky. I was disrespectful of authority. I let someone else’s behavior dictate my actions. I certainly burned some bridges. But I also made a major decision and took massive action. Now, 25 years later, I can look back and see it as one of the greatest decisions of my life.

What have been your greatest professional decisions? Did you proactively make the decision, or was it driven based on a response to someone else’s choices? 

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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