My Career In Talent Acquisition & Possible Midlife Crisis

My Career In Talent Acquisition & Possible Midlife Crisis
My Career In Talent Acquisition & Possible Midlife Crisis

I turned 40 last month and I think when anybody hits a milestone birthday it’s normal for them to do a bit of reflecting, which I guess is what this article kind of is.

One of the things I was reflecting quite a bit on was my career so far, what I’ve done, where I’ve done it, who I’ve done it with, what I’ve learned and what I’ve messed up.

So I thought why not put it all down in writing, if people read it and take anything from it then great. If not then, I was always going to write it anyway.


Like most people I fell into recruitment. After school I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I thought I’d just do the best degree that my grades would enable me to do, so I started my Law degree at The University of Liverpool.

The first year was super interesting, Criminal Law, Tort, Criminal Evidence and Family Law were my favourites.


Second year, less so. Equity & Trusts, Corporate Law and Land Law where the lecturer would literally read from his textbook at us for 3 hours every week.

It bored me to tears. So I decided that I’d skip lectures, cram for exams and spend the extra time at work to earn more cash, because lets face it all students are skint.

Needless to say, I failed my Second Year. I very narrowly failed my Equity & Trusts module. Which meant I had to re-sit that entire module as a second year. If my attendance was up to scratch then they’d have let me carry that module and resit it my third year. It was a very expensive and kinda stupid mistake on my part.

I didn’t really learn my lesson when I eventually made it into 3rd year. I still didn’t go to lectures, I’ll be honest I really wasn’t enjoying my degree after the first year and knew a legal career wasn’t for me but decided I’d started it so I may as well finish it.

I scraped through with a 2.2 and finished my degree.

Whilst I didn’t enjoy the subject matter of my degree, I did learn a lot. I learned how to consume huge amounts of information and identify the key facts, I learned how to create a compelling argument and how important the distinction between fact and opinion is.


So what now?

I’d spent 6 years working for a big supermarket whilst I was in Sixth Form and University, I applied for their graduate scheme. Even though I’d been put in a management role I still didn’t get on their graduate scheme.

A bit angry and somewhat bitter I started looking for a new job. I saw a job, in the job centre of all places, for a Trainee Recruitment Consultant.

Honestly I had no idea what the role really was, but I liked the look of the salary on offer and the fact that I didn’t need any previous experience.

I applied, went along to the interview, got the job and my first taste of recruitment.

We hired HGV drivers, mostly temps for companies in and around the North West. I enjoyed it, I learned a lot but only stuck around for a few months.

I guess there were two main reasons. Firstly having the night phone and taking calls from transport managers at 3am is not fun, nor is then standing in the kitchen in your PJs calling drivers at 3am to see if they want a 5am shift.

But the second reason, I’d saw an advert for a Tech Recruitment Consultant. I’ve always been a bit of a geek, loved tech and thought if I could combine tech with recruitment then it would be a great move for me.

About a month later I started as a Tech Recruitment Consultant. I loved it and I was bloody good at it too.

I loved speaking to candidates about what they did and the more I spoke to them the more I got really curious about the tech.

I started learning some basic HTML and CSS. Then upgraded to a bit of JQuery, PHP and JavaScript. I learned the basics of UX, then logo and web design. I started creating websites for local businesses in my spare time.

This is what I wanted to do with my career. I loved recruitment but I didn’t enjoy sales or business development. A career in tech would be great alternative.

So, I applied for a Junior Web Developer role with one of the big job boards.

I got it, I was so happy. But then something happened that stopped my career change dead in it’s tracks.

The new job I’d secured called me to tell me they needed to push my start date back as they were moving offices. I was totally fine with that, I’d earned enough commission to not have to work for a few months and I planned to take 3 months out whilst waiting for my new start date.

Four weeks in I was bored out of my mind. I’d got a call from a friend of mine who was building a recruitment system and asked me if I fancied coming in and helping design and test it whilst I was in between jobs.

Obviously I said yes.

I was only supposed to be there a few weeks, I stayed for a few years. I pottered around building the ATS, learning some SQL, supporting the ATS and even put my web design and development skills to work by launching a job board. It was here I also learned a lot about recruitment marketing.

It was at this point, that my friend and I decided that between his deep tech knowledge, my web knowledge and our combined recruitment knowledge that we wanted to start our own business.

We found an Angel Investor on LinkedIn who had a background in investing in recruitment based businesses.

It wasn’t any Dragon’s Den style pitch meeting, it was a bit more informal than that, it wasn’t in a big fancy corporate boardroom, but a country pub in Lymm.

JobsTheWord was born (now Horsefly Analytics). We spent the next 6 months locked away in a tiny office with our super cheap IKEA office furniture and an old gaming PC as our server.

It was here I fell back in love with recruitment. Even though at the time the big data tech we were using was revolutionary in the recruitment industry, it was speaking with the TA Leaders at some of the biggest companies in the world that got me really excited. Talking to them about their recruitment challenges, their Employer Branding and Recruitment Advertising campaigns that I loved the most.

I stayed there for 5 years, we raised over £1m in funding and scaled the business.

I walked away. People thought I was crazy.

But why did I walk away?  Honestly, I just wasn’t cut out to be an entrepreneur.

I’m not afraid of hard work, but the “always being on” just wasn’t for me, especially after my daughter was born.

I had no plans for what I was going to do next really. But then I got a call from a former client, Emma Neary who was Head of TA at Shop Direct / asking me if I wanted to come in and interview for a Tech TA Business Partner role.

It was only a 6 month FTC, but this was my chance to move inhouse. I was there for 3.5 years and loved every minute of it.

We took agency spend from 100% to 0% in tech, we improved every metric imaginable. We completely transformed hiring, we worked in partnership with hiring managers rather than for them, we really did build a culture of hiring.

I started going to Internal Recruitment events, I even ended up speaking at a few despite my massive fear of public speaking.

But then I started to get a little itch that I needed to scratch. What more could I really achieve there? I needed something new, a new challenge.

I then moved over to TalkTalk and helped them complete two mammoth tasks.

Firstly relocate 400 roles from London to Manchester AND build an Internal TA function from scratch. Both at the same time. I was never going to get this type of experience anywhere else, so obviously I jumped at the chance.

I was very quickly promoted to TA Manager/Head of TA. We launched a brand new employer brand campaign, and my awesome team smashed every single target the business had set them. We’d been set targets for years 1, 2 and 3 of the new function. We smashed the year 3 target in the first year.


About 18 months into my time at TalkTalk news spread about this virus from China that was making people really ill and we had Boris Johnson on the TV saying we all had to stay at home.

Shortly afterwards, I got the call that I was being made redundant. My world fell apart, nobody was hiring, let alone hiring recruiters. We were in the midst of a global pandemic, I had bills to pay and a family to provide for.

Looking at the job boards was depressing reading, however I got really lucky. I got speaking to Ben Gledhill , a TA leader who I’d known for a few years as a result of networking at events and on LinkedIn.

Ben put me in touch with, Katrina Hutchinson-O'Neill , the CEO of a company I’d never heard of, Join Talent .

Three years later I’m still here and I’ve never looked back.

In the past three years I’ve done a hell of a lot. I’ve worked as Interim Head of TA for multiple clients, I’ve ran consulting projects for some massive companies to help them solve some really complex hiring challenges, I’ve worked with some of the biggest and well known companies on the planet, I’ve worked with some of the best TA talent on the planet, been promoted 3 times, spoke on stage at RecFest and loads of other things I’m forgetting.

And do you know what the mad thing is?

I’m only halfway through my career and reading this back I can’t wait to see what the second half brings.

I’ve also realised that careers aren’t linear, you have ups, downs, unforeseen changes in direction and that being adaptable is pretty important.

As I said at the top of this article, the main point in writing this was just to get my reflections out in black and white, either that or I’m going through a midlife crisis!

Speaking of midlife crisis, I decided to join the cool kids over on TikTok where I ramble on about recruitment, talent acquisition and create memes that I’m pretty sure only I laugh at.

You can find me here –


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