“I think every day is a learning day”
This week on Strivin & Thrivin we get to know Lauren Sharp, Director at Sharp People and Co-Host of the TaPod Podcast, for which her early career as a Cabin Manager at Ansett prepared her well for.
Sharp People was founded by Lauren and is a recruitment company focusing on the information, technology and communication industries in Australia. Sharp People focuses on talent acquisition, stressing the importance of a positive rapport with each recruit, something Lauren believes is typically lost via recruitment agencies.
Lauren shares her career experiences from starting out at Ansett as an Air Hostess where she channelled her love for travel and exploration, before moving into a recruitment agency and eventually setting in-house as a recruiter for technology companies, where her passion lies.
We get a feel for what that has been like for Lauren’s progression as she had to learn the world of computer software and recruitment at the same time, but found herself flourishing in the industry and eventually set up Sharp People as a side hustle. Like many others, Lauren was hit by the Coronavirus impact and soon found herself making a real go of it with Sharp People, to much success.
Like everyone else, Lauren is adjusting to a “new normal” post COVID, and the time to recalibrate has allowed her to focus on doing more of what she loves. So she bought a puppy, cranked up her own business efforts and set up TaPod with her Co-Host Craig Watson, a passion project for the two of them. On TaPod, they chat all things Talent Acquisition with TA leaders, Industry suppliers and agency representatives.
This Strivin & Thrivin podcast is a great episode about self-belief, investing in yourself and owning your career goals. Believe it or not, Lauren still finds the time to go to the gym, walk the dog, have a social life while working six days a week and most importantly, she loves it.
Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson. And today I’m lucky enough to have Andrea Kirby as my wonderful co-host. Today we’re thrilled to be joined by Lauren Sharp.
To get us started, Lauren, can you tell us a little bit about your career background and your current role?
Lauren: Okay. My current role, well, that’s a bit of a funny one, actually, because as you all know, no one ever plans really to get into recruitment. And after a lovely career with Ansett many years ago, I lost my job and I didn’t know what to do and I was lost and a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you get into recruitment? You’d be really good at that”. I said, “What is recruitment? I don’t understand. What is this industry? I don’t know”.
And he explained it to me, so I went for a few interviews at a company and got a job and took a lot of steps back as a resourcer to start in recruitment many, many moons ago. And then I worked agency for five years and then went into an internal role. And I’ve been internal pretty much ever since, until I lost my job in COVID in June. And now I have my little-
Andrea: Yes, along with everyone else.
Lauren: Oh, exactly. My little side hustle of a bit of agency recruitment on the side has now become my main hustle. So, I like to think that bit differently in the fact that I look at recruitment from an agency perspective.
Andrea: Now, what you didn’t tell us was what you-
Lauren: Oh, sorry, not for an agency perspective, from a TA perspective. I correct myself on that. So yeah, looking from a Talent Acquisition perspective, which does give it a bit of a different feel and making sure that you’re getting to know those line managers and all those things, who actually work for the company.
Andrea: Exactly. But the most important thing is you didn’t tell us what you did at Ansett. I think we can all tell.
Lauren: I was the hostess with the mostest. I can still do my-
Andrea: The hostess with the mostest.
Lauren: Yes. My lovely Ansett voice was before we had all the recordings that you hit played on. So, you had to memorise all the scripts. And you actually had-
Andrea: Can you still remember the script?
Lauren: Oh, I used to be able to recite when I was at parties, yes. I usually get about to two lines in and then forget nowadays. It’s a, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard your Ansett flight 451 through to Sydney. My name is Lauren. And I’ll be your cabin manager today”.
Andrea: That was pretty good, yeah.
Laura: It was good.
Andrea: We’ve just had a great chat with Craig Watson, your partner on TApod, and we were talking about agency versus in-house and you are now in-house, moved to agency, and you said you’re doing it with a Talent Acquisition lens. What do you think the difference is and what you’re bringing to your role now?
Lauren: I think the difference is that I know that if you engage with the candidate, they get feedback. Whether it be good, bad, or different, and I know in agency world, I’m hearing a lot of people say, “Oh my gosh, you actually get back to us. You actually tell us what’s happening, even if nothing’s happening”. So, the communication, which I think has been lost, I make sure that when I’m engaging with our fellow Talent Acquisition people, I’m talking to them at great lengths about what their pain points are, what their problems are, what we need to solve, how am I going to be able to help you?
I will not go outside the bounds of going to a Line Manager or jumping over their heads. They are there for a purpose. They’ve got a job to do, and it can be a really tough job being an internal Talent Acquisition person and having an agency or someone externally go around the process just adds more pain.
So, I had a candidate, who is now a client, call me the other day and I said, “Well, put me in touch with your Talent Acquisition. I don’t want to double up on anything that they’re doing and make sure that we’ve got everything in place so I’m helping them and not hindering”.
Lauren: And he said, “Oh, okay, I’ll put you in touch with him”. So, we made sure that I wasn’t doubling up on what he was doing and it’s working really, really well.
Lauren: So, it’s definitely a different outlook. And working with TA is the way forward, because they’re always going to be there. There’s no point in trying to buck the system in that sense and be coming into help the system is more of a beneficial for both parties.
Andrea: The Talent Acquisition community applauds you.
Lauren: Well, I’ve been in TA more than I was ever in agency, so for me to take that hat off, I can’t ever see that happening. I really can’t because I just think there’s so much value in making sure that you’re giving candidates feedback. And I always look at this, that candidates are my future clients.
Andrea: Exactly. So, it used to be every girl’s dream to be an air hostess back in the day. I’m sure I had a moment of thinking.
Lauren: It’s bloody hard work.
Andrea: I’m not sure I’d choose it these days. It seems to not be quite as glamorous as it was back when you were doing it. Was that what you wanted to do as a child? Or did you have other plans for your life?
Lauren: I actually found something I wrote when I was in year eight, I know about a few years ago cleaning out my cupboard on my mother’s demand at home. And I wanted to be an artist, but there was a fatal flaw in me wanting to be an artist is that I am shit at art.
I have zero talent to be an artist, but I had this glorious, romanticised vision of being an artist. So, the other thing that I’ve always loved is travel. So being a flight attendant was on the list at some stage during my younger years. But yeah, I enjoyed it back then. It was great fun, but it’s hard work, but never as glamorous as it looks getting up at four in the morning, putting makeup on and smiling at everybody and going, “Hi, welcome aboard. Hi, welcome aboard”. And trying to remember all the people with Star Alliance names. It’s a bit of a challenge.
Andrea: Oh, my goodness. You actually used to have to remember our names? That’s exciting. I didn’t realise that.
Lauren: Yeah. We’d get a list before you all boarded. The passenger list on who had what, who had special needs, who had whatever, who were what level on Star Alliance. And we had to know your names as you were walking up the galley and, and “Hi, how are you going, Mr. So-and-so? Good to see you again”.
Andrea: Oh, wow. Oh, my respect has grown considerably. So, being an air hostess, what are you called now? Steward? Was that a conscious decision or was that something you’ve fallen into recruitment, but did you fall into that as well?
Lauren: I definitely made the decision to be a flight attendant for sure. I wanted to do that. And I really, really enjoyed doing that too. And I actually used to train cabin crew as well and do those things. We had to all of a sudden do our Responsible Service of Alcohol, which was a bit of a bit of a giggle. There’s no such thing in the air back in those days. I remember one day when we were going through, we did some training materials, we found it on VHS cassette. Those who don’t know what that is, it’s before we had DVDs and streaming, and we found it and it was the rules on the hostess of not smoking in the galley during meal service.
Andrea: Wow. Yes.
Lauren: Yeah, it was a pretty old one from the 80s, before my time. And it was, yeah. What you could do when you were a smoker, when you were working on a plane.
Andrea: I remember my first flight to England in 1986, people were smoking.
Lauren: I remember my first flight as a child, and they had smoking sections as well. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, isn’t it?
Andrea: Oh, and just how awful it would have been. Yes, I remember it being awful. So, then you went on and you did what many in our industry have done and you fell into recruitment. How did you pick up and learn what you had to do?
Lauren: It was hard because when I was at school, we didn’t have computers. We only got them in year nine and it wasn’t something that everybody did back then, and being a flight attendant, I had no idea how to use a computer because the only software that we needed to do was around scheduling and around what we needed to do there. So, when it came to me going out into the big wide world, I couldn’t even put an attachment on an email. I had to learn all of that and how to do that. So, the people who hired me were extremely patient while I was doing my career change and because I was so determined, I just flourished in agency world pretty quickly and became a bit of an expert in my field, which at that time was SAP. So, technology recruitment’s always been my passion.
Andrea: And now something where the candidate market is very short, I believe.
Lauren: Oh my gosh, that’s an understatement. Monday week ago, I lost two deals before 9:00 AM and just wanted to go back to bed. All on counter offers, so and one sideswipe from a big bank. But you’ve just got to make sure that you’re advising your clients. I got an article in Shortlist a couple of weeks ago about the counter offer, which I happened to send out to quite a few of my TA friends and my clients as well to show them what’s happening out there. Just show them that you’ve got to be prepared to move and move quickly in the market at the moment because if you’re not, you’re going to lose. There’s none of this sit back and go, “Oh, that guy that you sent across two weeks ago, I might interview him now”, “Yeah, no he’s placed, he’s gone”, “Oh, that short list you sent”, “No, they’re all gone”.
So, it’s a matter of if you see someone you like, you get them. Right there and then. There’s no twiddling your thumbs. It’s a market that’s so hot. But I think that will change when the immigration opens up again and we can start getting some skilled workers back into our workforce from overseas. That will make things a little easier.
Andrea: So, there would have been a lot of learning going on and probably like me, you made some fantastic blunders as you went along. You can share the major blunder if you’d like. But I guess what I’m interested in is, is what you took away from that? And what did you learn and how did you keep going?
Lauren: I think every day is a learning day. You learn something every single day you wake up. And if you don’t, you’re not looking hard enough at what you’ve done that day, because you actually have done something that you didn’t know before and I find that you’re going to learn something from your mistake. There’s no such thing as a dumb question and there’s so many things that you can take away from what you do. Every day, Craig teaches me something. He’s so creative with what he does with our video and everything else.
But I’m not that person. I’m a spreadsheet person coming from someone who couldn’t put an attachment on an email to all I do is live on my computer. So, its one of those things. Resilience is a huge one that’s come away from me because I know that it’s taught me that to bounce back. Bounce back and keep trying, because you don’t change your career in your early thirties and not have some sort of resilience.
Andrea: Yep, and then of course, through every downturn, it seems, lose your job as well. Recruitment’s always the first thing to be hit.
Lauren: Absolutely. I’ve gone through two redundancies now. So, I think some of that’s short-sightedness as well from C-suite and management in companies by getting rid of your TA function or leaning it down too far. I know it’s hard without a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen in the industry going forward, but I’m watching some people and some companies out there at the moment struggle so much because they leaned down that they don’t have the people and they now can’t afford to hire the people. It’s amazing. Everyone’s talking about Real Estate and everything else going up 30%, and I can tell you contracts and salaries have bounced up that much at the moment.
Andrea: Yeah. You can see it. I’m just going to change tack slightly here, because I guess we’ve had a lot of news lately about women in the workforce and all the things that we’ve experienced. I’ve been fairly open about my journey through the world of sexual harassment and gender equity in the workforce. You would be very similar, certainly working as air hostess or a flight attendant. I guess, for you as a woman in the workforce, and now someone who’s working for themselves, what have you learned as a woman in the world of work?
Lauren: One of those funny things too, I come across as extremely confident, but I do have a habit of pulling back into my shell sometimes and being a bit of a wallflower. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen occasionally. And I think back in the day when I was working, I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself as much as I do now. And I know now a lot of people have said, “Oh, you’re frightening. You are such a force to be reckoned with. You’re opinionated, you’re out there”.
But I don’t think that’s frightening. That’s just strong and voicing my opinions and making sure that I’m heard because-
Andrea: And pretty much the way men work.
Lauren: Exactly. And it’s pretty much, as you said, the way men work, but it’s also for decades and centuries, women have not been heard. We’ve only had the right to vote for just over a hundred years. We have moved through two world wars, which have fast-forwarded the women’s movement. And thousands of years we’ve got to catch up that quickly of us being put behind everything else, that if we don’t stand up and we’re not heard, it’s not going to happen quick enough.
And I think after chatting with Catherine Fox a few weeks ago about women in the workplace and the disparity between wages and things like that, we need to be heard. And I think that the feminist movement is nowhere near over. I think a lot more men need to become feminists and listen to what we’re saying. Join us. And being a feminist does not mean that you don’t offer me my chair or open a door. There’s a difference between good manners and feminism and I think some men need to learn that and so do some women.
Andrea: And so, what advice would you give to a young woman entering the workforce today?
Lauren: I know it’s hard to know who you are as a young woman, because you will grow and you will change over time, but accept your mistakes. You are going to make mistakes and learn from them and don’t let that put you down. Make sure that you’ve got a good circle of influence and a good group of people around you that are going to support you and build you up. That is the foundation I think of getting anywhere in life. If you put people around you that aren’t going to do that, you’ll start to self-doubt yourself and what you do. So, I think that that is a huge, huge thing. You don’t have time for toxic people in your life. So that circle of influence is going to be where you need to start.
Andrea: And I would like to thank you for being one of my circle of influences.
Lauren: Oh, any time.
Andrea: We have a good little girl group going on in TA and I count on you a lot for your support, as I hope I support you as well.
Lauren: Very much.
Andrea: So, you do a lot, you do TApod with Craig Watson.
Lauren: I do.
Andrea: And you have your agency, which that sort of recruitment is long hours and lots going on, particularly at the moment. And you’ve got the ITAs, The Internal Talent Awards coming up. Now we’ve heard from Craig that you’re the detail person with the spreadsheet.
Lauren: I am.
Andrea: You’ve admitted it yourself. Which I think probably means that you’re the main organizer of the event, potentially.
Lauren: Not necessarily.
Andrea: The detail. The events are all about the detail. So how do you balance your time? How do you fit it all in? Because they’re three very different things.
Lauren: Don’t forget, I’ve got Harvey and I’ve also got my running.
Andrea: Yes, you are the mother of the very beautiful and fluffy Harvey, who’s somewhere at your feet at the moment.
Lauren: Yes, the dog’s under the table. Well, I’ve had to really rearrange my day and I’m still trying to find my new normal post-COVID and I’ve just moved into the office with Craig. So, we’re now sharing an office, which is making life a lot easier now that we’re in the same room three days a week. So that’s taken a huge load off instead of running between the offices that we were in separately.
But it’s just about time management, really. I’ve got to be organised. If I’m not organised, my stress out levels get a bit too much, because we work really well together as Craig’s quite creative and once he gets his teeth into something, he’s like a dog with a bone and he just doesn’t stop. And I’m sort of the organiser, “Right, we need this done by this day. We need this done by this day. Craig, I need you to look at this, this and this”. And sort of make sure that things flow in that respect, chasing up all of the other little details is what I do, and he’ll do the editing and make sure something looks pretty. And yeah, that’s his fun part.
Andrea: Sounds like he’s got the fun part. So, we were talking and he said that when he was asked to do this podcast, he said, “Yes”. Whereas you rang Laura with sort of 10 questions that needed answering before you said yes. Do you consider yourself a risk adverse person or do you just need to know what’s going on?
Lauren: I think I just need to know what’s going on. As Craig always says, he’s happy for just things to happen on a wing and a prayer where I know I need to know where it’s going to slot, how long it’s going to happen, what’s going to do there? No, I need to have everything ticked off, so it runs smoothly. A couple of days ago, I was standing in the Plaza ballroom where we’re holding the ITAs this year, taking photographs of where I want things to be and what to do. And all Craig’s talking to the AV guy about, “Oh, what about this light? That light? Can we do this? Can we do that?” And I went, “Rightio, what about my timing? I want this happening on this and this”, Blah, blah, blah. And they’re like, “Okie-dokie, you’re the detail person”.
Andrea: Oh, that’s good to know because you know the last thing I’ve ever thought of you being as a risk adverse person. Anyone that sort of decides to start up an agency, start up a podcast at the same time. Oh, and then while we’re in it, in the pandemic, let’s host a virtual internal talent award as well.
Lauren: And get a puppy.
Andrea: And get a puppy. The puppy was the best bit. So, I think of you as an incredibly successful woman.
Lauren: Thank you.
Andrea: What do you think the key to your success is?
Lauren: Yeah, I don’t think I’m successful yet. So, I’m still on the way there. I think the thing is, I stopped worrying what other people thought. That held me back a lot, especially, “Oh, what would everyone else think?”. But who is everyone else, really?
Andrea: Who are they?
Lauren: Yeah. Who is everyone else? What do I worry about everyone else? I don’t know who those everyone else are. Like the big ones are probably my parents, but they’ve got no idea what I do. I can explain that until the cows come home and mum doesn’t know. Stop worrying what other people think and just get out there and do it. Because I got to say I just had a milestone birthday, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
Laura: That’s amazing
Lauren: I’m really happy with what I’m doing. I’m working my butt off six days a week, until all hours of the day and night. We were up at five to hit the gym this morning to do an hour’s worth of training and walk Harvey before we got into the office at 8:30. So it’s going to be a long day, but that’s part and parcel of it.
Andrea: And interestingly, I’m looking at you seeing success, but you’re saying you don’t think you’re a success yet. So, what does success look like for you?
Lauren: I don’t think I’m too far from it perhaps, but I’m not exactly sure of that myself because I keep moving the bar. I keep pushing myself. So, it’s tangible. It’s not a material thing, I know that. I think I’m pretty close to it because I’m pretty happy. It’s definitely an internal feeling, is success for me. It’s not owning a house or driving a Porsche or any of those things. Mind you owning a Chanel handbag would be nice. You’ve got to have a goal.
Andrea: Yep, exactly. So tell us-
Lauren: It’s definitely going to be a feeling.
Andrea: Good. So, tell us a little bit about the ITAs and why you’re looking forward to it so much?
Lauren: Oh my God, I can’t wait. It’s going to be, when I look at it, we’ve got a few in-person events coming up, but it’s probably going to be the biggest one for a year, in person. It’s not going to be fully digital because we’ve been all locked up. We’re still on limited numbers. We’re not going to be as limited but in that time in September as what we are now. Most of us would have vaccinations probably done by then. What I’m really looking forward to, I was going through menu options yesterday. The signature cocktail is going to be incredible, apparently because I don’t drink. But it’s all right, my girl gang, which Andrea is part of, will be doing a taste testing on that one.
Andrea: I’m serving that purpose for you.
Laura: Always here for cocktail tasting.
Lauren: Oh, quality control, Laura. Quality control, I tell you. So, I think I’ve come up with a winner on that one. I’m looking forward to getting dressed up. It’s been so long to get dressed up and I love seeing so many men in their tuxedos and dinner suits and they all look so handsome and women in the beautiful frocks and their hair done and just to chill out and celebrate our industry and everyone’s worked so damn hard over the last 18 months, two years, building things up, having to tear things down, scale down, scale back up. All of the other extra additional things that we’ve been thrust upon the TA world. I just think to celebrate what we’ve got coming up, we’ve got some fantastic surprises on the night for people coming along as well. The entertainment, oh yeah. High energy entertainment. It’s going to be good.
Andrea: Where do people get their tickets, Lauren?
Laura: That was going to be my next question. What’s the date and how do we go?
Lauren: Well, the save the day is the 2nd of September this year in the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne. And next year it’ll actually be in Sydney. So, we’ll be announcing a bit of a surprise on that one too on the night. But tickets go on sale on the 3rd of May on the ITAs website. You’ll be able to click through to that and they won’t be on any earlier, so don’t go clicking now. So, 3rd of May on the ITAs website, and that’ll give you all the key dates coming up and sign up to our newsletter. That will start hitting your inboxes next week as well.
Andrea: Well, all right. We’ll put the link in.
Lauren: So, we’ve got everything ready to ready to rumble.
Laura: That’s excellent. So, you’re going to alternate years between Melbourne and Sydney? Is that the idea?
Lauren: Yes, absolutely.
Laura: Nice. So, everyone gets involved.
Lauren: Absolutely, that’s exactly right. So, we can have it in the two cities and it makes it easy for people to travel. That one group doesn’t have to continually travel for it. And it’s spreading the love, really, spreading the love.
Laura: I love that.
Andrea: So, one of the final questions you talked about running, walking Harvey, going to the gym. How do you make sure that you do truly unplug and switch off from everything?
Lauren: Exercise is my switch off. Some people meditate. Some people have their hobbies. I find when I go and running, I just get into this trance and my head just clears. I come up with great ideas. I solve problems. I go off on tangents and spend imaginary lotto wins. I do all sorts of things.
Laura: I wish I had that experience with running.
I hear so many people talk about running how you do, and it sounds amazing. You’re like, “Oh, if only.” I just spend the entire time running, thinking about how I’m going to die if I don’t breathe quickly.
Lauren: Well, mind you, it took me a couple of years to love it. I didn’t fall in love with it straight away, but I made myself do it. I just forced myself. And now it’s when I get to about the two or three K mark, I just forget about it. Everything just sort of slots in and then I can just go. Normally my fitness level is pretty good where I can just push out 10 or 20K, but at the moment, it’s nowhere near that. COVID’s really knocked my fitness level, but it’ll come back.
Laura: 10 or 20K’s incredible.
Lauren: There are fitter people out there than I, I can tell you. I know that this morning I came in, “Craig. Running last night. Came up with some good ideas. What do you think about this, this, this?”, and he goes, “Oh, that’s great”. I said, “Yep. Let’s do it”. So, it works.
Laura: Yeah, I love that.
Lauren: It works. If only I could run all the time. That’d be good.
Andrea: So, what would be the best bit about everything that you do now?
Lauren: I’d say pretty much everything. I don’t have time to do something that’s not a “best bit”. I really don’t. So, I love doing the podcast and the ITAs. Craig and I often say if we won the lottery, that would be our passion project forever. We just go to events constantly and talk to people in our industry and just run with that all the time. But unfortunately, we both have to run businesses as well, which we both enjoy. And that puts food on the table and pays for Harvey’s expensive doggy day grooming. But yeah, I just wish we could do that all the time. Just talking to people about TA and about the podcast and about the ITAs, that would be the best thing.
Andrea: I always just want to run the event and host the event. I just wish I could win Tatts Lotto to pay everyone else to do all the other stuff that I have to do as well. Yes, so-
Lauren: Just doing events and traveling the world, talking to everybody and bringing all the information back to our listeners, that would be the best thing in the world to do.
Andrea: That would be the best thing in the world. So, if we win Tatts Lotto, I’ll share some with you or vice versa and we can set it up exactly like that.
Lauren: Yeah, that’d be awesome.
Andrea: All right. Deal. You heard it here folks. The deal has been struck.
Laura: All right, thank you so much for today. I really appreciate it.
Lauren: Thank you for having me. I hope everyone enjoys listening to my crazy flight attendant years and we’re going to have to try and remember that because I think at a few events, people might ask me to start reciting it.
Laura: I think they probably will.
Andrea: Start training again.
Lauren: Excellent, thank you, ladies.
Andrea: Thank you and I’ll see you soon.