The Career Path less travelled: Routes into Recruitment

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There is no such thing as the ‘right’ way into a career. We all take different paths, and this bears especial weight when we consider the different barriers which people face when entering professions. So, for IWD 2022 we spoke to some of ARM and Optamor’s leading ladies, finding out about their career paths—how did they get to where they are? Is there any such thing as an archetypal route into the recruiting business?


Cold Turkey?

Nora Gewert-Allen, International Recruitment Consultant

My route into recruitment was not exactly cookie-cutter. Three and a half years ago, an internal recruiter approached me through LinkedIn. Prior to this, I had no experience of recruitment, or railways and infrastructure—it seemed like a bit of a jump! But what I did have was my language-based skillset; my native German was exactly what they were looking for, and a willingness to learn. As my manager at the time said, ‘The rest we can teach you.’

And the rest is history.


Of Mice & Men...

Claire Proudlove, Group Director of Client Programme Services

As part of my undergraduate qualification in Business Studies my third year was, as we called it then, an industrial placement. I had a placement lined up in HR, everything was in order. Then, just before I was set to start my plans fell through. Best laid plans etc, etc…

Fortunately, a friend of my Mum worked for Oracle at the time. They bailed me out, arranging a 12-month placement in Oracle, resourcing the team that managed all contractors into Oracle UK. During my placement they offered me an unconditional role post completion of my degree, so post-graduation I joined them full time and went to work in the recruitment team.

I have been fortunate enough in a career that spans over 2 decades to have worked with some fantastic people, both female and male. I am inspired more by attitude and ability than anything else, and the best advice I can give anyone starting out is to learn from as many people as you can; everyone has something to offer.


You don't HAVE to be cruel, just be kind.

Stephanie Birch-Foster, Group Marketing and Communications Manager

Following the completion of my degree in Public Relations & Communications, I went on to an internship at the The Body Shop UK, and from there onwards it's just been continual movement in a direction I'm happy with. I've always been motivated to go 'up' in my career—I've wanted financial security and a home to call my own. This has led to me not hanging around when employers haven't valued my work enough to reward and progress me, and I'd definitely advocate this mindset for anyone and everyone.

Where I’m at in my career now, managing my own team & determining my own career progression, I find myself surrounded by strong female leaders like Heather Cracknell, Issey Mogliani (Group Director of Legal and Compliance) , Claire Proudlove , and Zoe Howgill. each one of them incredibly intelligent, with vast amounts of experience AND all warm, friendly and kind. They've broken that 'fierce' mould, and shown me you can be female, friendly and a badass boss too. I think more exposure to female leaders can act to inspire the younger generation to see what thriving in work can look like. #BreakTheBias.


Who wears the trousers?

Heather Cracknell, Chief People Officer

I’ve been in the ‘world of work’ for 37 years now, nine of those with the Serocor group. I started working in 1984, in a very male-dominated environment—women were not permitted to wear trousers! Thankfully times and policies have changed, and dress code policies are more inclusive.

I began work in an Admin role, but from the outset had responsibilities extending to people management. I had a young family but wanted to achieve more, and was fortunate to have a good male line manager at the time who recognised my skills and potential. He suggested my aptitude for a career in HR, so off I went to University and have never looked back since. 

In my earlier career I experienced “banter” (a.k.a. abuse) in the workplace, thankfully this is no longer acceptable and policies and legislation are in place to alleviate at least some this, and women no longer need to suffer in silence. With all this in mind, my advice to any women in the workplace would be to remain authentic, be yourself and don’t acquiesce to fit in. I would also recommend getting a coach, they do really help you to see what you’re capable of.


Ms. Worldwide

Zoe Howgill, Director of Client Relationships

I have been working full time since I was 16—I reckon it’s about time I retired. My career has always been within the HR sphere, specifically looking into the employee lifecycle and creating HR shared services for organisations and customers. This has taken me all over the world (I have some great travel stories!)

The shift into the recruitment sphere came through my last employer—they wanted to incorporate the recruiter aspect into the HR shared service delivery. And here I am 15 years later! I’ve worked with some of the best leaders in Talent, and the multi-faceted nature of my career progression has allowed me to learn all about EVP, brand and attraction, along with insights into candidate and hiring manager experience.

Things have changed so much since I started out! My first job was in a male-dominated organisation—I have some shocking stories about what used to happen in the office! —and even if it’s still not perfect, I love reflecting on just how far we have come as an industry.


Leading the Charge

Tara Davies, Head of Partnership – Training

After coming out of the Army, I paid to do a manager's course and my D32 & D33 were part of the training. I then put this into practice, training prisoners in Catering skills.

After I had my first child I wanted to change to a more flexible role, and I applied for a role in Basingstoke college. This was my first real taste of this type of training and delivery and I just fell in love with training people, helping them to be the best they could be in their job role.

A lot has changed since I started out; the thinking is definitely less black & white-- the statements which used to circulate concerning a woman’s supposed inability to do certain jobs have mostly faded out of use, thank God. There is still definitely some stigma but not to the same extent.