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Is Headhunter a Bad Word?

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by Andrea Abernethy, Career Transition Coach

One day this week I groggily stopped at the local coffee shop to purchase my necessary, early morning caffeine fix. While standing in line I ran into an old high school friend. We exchanged pleasantries and started catching up on where we are both working.

He proceeded to tell me about a new position that he had landed and has been happily working in for the last two years. I explained that I have been working as a Career Transition Coach for Barton Career Advisors and that I too enjoy my work very much for various reasons, which will be alluded to in this article. After learning about my vocation of choice my “old” friend (I’m using that term loosely) asked “so is headhunter is a bad word for you?”

I wanted to say “yes, headhunter is a really bad word for me because that’s not what I do!” — but I maintained my professionalism and explained a few things to this guy. So, allow me to share what I said about the roles of the following professionals: headhunter, recruiter, and career coach. Many are not aware of the differences between the three. Over time, these roles have evolved but their understanding by the general public have not kept up.  As a result, many people may have expectations that we as professionals in these fields may not meet.

A headhunter is a person who seeks employment for another person. Headhunters are hired by employers looking for a specific person to fill a position.  It’s mostly a slang term, in other words, you’ll probably never see a business card with the title “headhunter.”

A recruiter can work for the job seeker and/or an employer.  The recruiter’s role is to interview, evaluate, and assess you to decide if he/she should present you to an employer for an interview. Recruiters are paid by the company looking to hire. You should not expect to pay the recruiter.

The difference between a headhunter and a recruiter is in general, a headhunter is looking for a particular person, usually for a “high up” position.  A recruiter works with a wider array of prospects and can be looking for people at many levels.

The Career Coach, which is what I do, helps individuals to provide direction in their career exploration, helping to develop top notch resumés, marketing client documents to employers, helping clients improve networking skills, and providing support in many other aspects of the job search. In a nut shell, the Career Coach helps the job seeker present themselves as effectively as possible to potential employers.

In coaching clients to network effectively, career coaches like me can connect a client to a company looking to hire.  Quite naturally, we’re in touch with lots of companies so it could be that we’ll connect clients with job openings.

In years past, outplacement coaches were often thought to be actual job finders. But today, the best person to find your next job is you – and as career coaches, our goal is to build up and equip you, the job seeker, to be the very best you can be, especially in this highly competitive job market.

Relationships Key to Business, Including Outplacement

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by Rich Kolodgie, Managing Partner

“People like to do business with people they like.” So said Dale Carnegie, or at least one of his certified instructors/business coaches. This week I’d like to take a little off that statement so I can emphasize the part that says “people like to do business with people.”

Relationships are key to any business if it is to be profitable, positive, and effective. And this is definitely the case with the outplacement world. For employers with a goal of providing quality service to their departing staff members, relationships will surely mean the difference between people transitioning smoothly and those who may feel they are left hanging.

When an employer has a business relationship with its outplacement partner, both parties have the opportunity to really understand the nuances or fine points of the workers or larger workforce involved. The employer can convey the strengths and potential needs of their staff to the outplacement officers so that when the actual services are provided, they can be tailored to specific and unique needs.

‘One size fits all’ shouldn’t be a strategy. One set of staff members may be highly educated, another heavy on long tenures. Cultures of course vary as well as expectations and certainly outplacement budgets. These are all aspects that can be worked into a customized outplacement plan when the two parties have pursued a relationship of mutual understanding.

Let’s say your company is a large financial organization with hundreds of employees. Your outplacement needs could be very different from a manufacturing company with a handful of production facilities, for example. If both these sets of transitioning employees got the same outplacement service, I suspect you might hear these reactions:

  • “I’m just a number…”
  • “Some of the advice is good but I keep feeling I”m in the wrong place…”
  • “They had no idea what we need…”

In fact, some of the employers we work with at Barton Career Advisors will engage us before they are certain a staff reduction is definite. They take early steps to investigate and then get to know our philosophy and perspectives so that when the time comes, they feel confident in their investment. Not only that, but the relationship employers build with us enables them to refer their employees knowing the level of service both the employer and the out-going staff members will receive.

On-going relationships are also important for big companies that aren’t necessary expecting a large scale staff reduction but acknowledge that inevitably, challenges and resulting staff changes will develop. Even periodic changes of just a few people a year can be tough so why not be pro-active about developing a relationship so that when these difficult times occur, you have a service ready to go.

Furthermore, working relationships allow the outplacement staff to learn the client corporation’s culture, expectations and/or ways of working. That’s tremendously helpful when a client comes whose personality or working style just wasn’t a fit. Among other advantages, having this background enables the career transition team to move quickly to a future orientation rather than dwelling on the details of why a staff member didn’t work out.

And speaking of the actual transitioning client, a personal relationship can mean the difference between a prolonged and frustrating job search and an experience where the person not only lands a good job, but experiences some personal growth as well. That’s when the actual one-to-one coaching is so valuable. Allow me to draw two brief pictures (with words) that past blogs have touched on already.

PICTURE 1
A job searcher spends the morning online, examining job boards and corporate websites, posting resumes, and e-mailing contacts. The afternoon is spent out meeting people at networking events, informational interviews, and maybe even cold calls.

PICTURE 2
This job seeker does all of the above but in addition, he/she meets once a week with a career transition coach. We believe even the most confident person needs that human relationship to get feedback, encouragement, other ideas or even just a good listener.

Which one of these do you think will more effectively:

  • Stay disciplined tackling the job search challenge
  • Try new approaches
  • Maintain their confidence
  • Overcome the inevitable rejections
  • Land a new job and still be sane?

Technology is taking us places we never expected. Yet relationships are really what strengthens peoples’ ability to provide outstanding service and succeed for themselves, their companies, and their colleagues. Microwave ovens cook meals on their own and someday we might have cars that drive themselves but people and relationships can never be replaced in the equation that produces great business results.

So remember, success doesn’t result from a set of compatible computers as much as it flourishes from the positive relationships of people… especially if they like each other.