This week on the Strivin & Thrivin podcast we chat to Amy Cotterill, Global Talent Acquisition Lead at Xref.
Amy talks about something we’ve all experienced. Trying to be a ‘yes’ person, taking on too much and struggling with an unmanageable workload. There are some of us who have painfully tried to struggle through unmanageable to-do lists, got things wrong, missed things out and even experienced burnout.
“I’m a natural people pleaser… I used this to just say, yeah, okay… and then I’d look at what I have to do and I’d be so overwhelmed.”
During our time with Amy we learn how she now manages her workflow, how mentors have helped her prioritise her workload, stakeholder management and refine her expectations. In doing so, she shares her advice on managing a mentor relationship.
“Be prepared, , know what you want to get out of the session…They can’t give you the Holy grail”.
Having a fairly linear career path, Amy started out in recruitment, building a strong network of contacts and an impressive skill set as her roles gradually evolved and expanded. But growth didn’t happen without putting herself out there and pushing the boundaries of what she was comfortable with – something she has encouraged herself to do ever since moving from the UK to Australia eight years ago.
If you’re looking to hear more about self-management and managing not only your own expectations but that of leaders around you, we recommend giving Amy’s Strivin & Thrivin podcast a listen!
Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson. And today I’m lucky enough to have Hope Dawson as my wonderful co-host. Today we’re thrilled to be joined by Amy Cotterill Global Talent Acquisition Leader at Xref.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career and your career background to date?
Amy: Yeah. So, I’m the Talent Acquisition Leader at Xref. So, my journey to where I am now, I started in recruitment in 2013 in Sydney. And that was an agency. So, I was in agency recruitment for just about four years and that was in the insurance industry. So, I started as an Associate Consultant, not having any recruitment or really insurance experience before. So just learning the ropes.
From that, did a full 360 degree Recruitment role. And then, whilst my time there, I moved into a Senior Consultant role, which was more of a focus on still billing but also mentoring junior members of the team, which then led to a team lead role, which I did for about a year and a team of four in total.
Then had a little break and travelled around South America. Came back. Knew I wanted to somehow stay within the HR recruitment industry because it felt like I built a network and I knew it and I enjoyed the industry. But I wanted to focus more on relationship management focus of a role. So, I moved to Xref, which is this HR tech organisation. And I moved into an Account Management role there.
So, managing existing clients and their relationships and growing their usage. Did that for a year. And after really strengthening connections with TA managers, TA leads, HR directors. I’d always had this niggle since leaving agency, that I wanted to try Talent Acquisition, internal recruitment there as well. So, that just grew more and more within that year doing account management.
And then, I was lucky enough that a role within Xref was created around the time that I started to really wanting to explore that, to start a Talent Acquisition function within Xref, which we hadn’t had before. So, for the past two years, I’ve been building that up by myself from scratch. So, we didn’t have an ATS or anything in there previously. So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two years. And I recruit across North America, Europe and the Australia-New Zealand region.
Laura: Oh, so I guess as the single person as the whole department, what does your average working day look like?
Amy: Yeah, so average day, depending on now obviously, working from home office where it tends to be whatever task or whatever I need to do first thing in the morning, which I know I’m probably going to procrastinate with. And for me that tends to be that candidate outreach and searching on say LinkedIn or wherever there.
So, I know from past experience for many years, that that is a thing that if I leave later on until the end of the day, I will just put off and put off. And think, “Oh, I need to do this, and I need to do that”. So, I’ll just leave that. And then, I select, so that I know if I’ve got that to do or anything else similar, I’ll do that at the beginning of the day. Get that done.
Once that’s done then my day just flows nice and freely there. So, tend to try and get the majority of when we’re recruiting those roles, recruiting activities done in the morning. And if it’s a bit quieter, my role there as well as looking at what strategy we might be trying to implement, whether that’s building career pages, what we’ve done recently, or looking at onboarding, or more of the capability function there.
To try and get done the one thing that I know I’m going to put off, or maybe enjoy the least about the role. Get that done first thing in the morning so it’s done. And then, the day tends to flow from there.
Laura: I like that. I feel like I need to do that more often. And then, I guess in terms of setting yourself realistic expectations, how do you go about that?
Amy: Yeah, it’s definitely been trial and error, I think throughout the years with that. So, I’m a natural people pleaser. And it’s taken me a while to be able to realistically, give expectations to other people that say my manager or the stakeholders. If they ask for something or, “We need to do this, we need to do that”. I used to just say, “Yeah, okay. Yeah, okay. Yeah, we’ll get that done. Yeah. We’ll get that done”. And then I’d look at what I have to do, and I’d be so overwhelmed.
And my old manager when I was in agency, that happened quite a lot. If I’d get so many roles on and so forth, I’d go to him and be like, “Oh my God. I’m so like I’ve got this. And I don’t know what to do. And blah, blah, blah. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve just got so much on. I’ve got so much on”. And he’d just like, “Take a step back. Breathe. And what’s priority? What’s important here. Get those done first. Have that… Physically write that if you need to”.
So, I tend to do that now, which massively, massively helps me day-to-day. So, if I have something, like a new task, or a new actionable, or something that I need to do for someone else, and it’s still a work in progress. I don’t do it every time, but I try to be mindful of saying, “Okay”, don’t just say, “Yep, cool. Let’s get that done”. It’s, “Okay. Let me just check where I’m going to be able to fit that in”.
Obviously, if it’s a priority it will go higher up the scale there. But just to be able to then go, “Okay, yeah, this is where realistically we can fit this in. And I’ll try and get this done by X, Y, Z”. Rather than, “Yep. We’ll do everything”. And then I’m at panic stations of, “I’m not managing this. How am I going to get everything done?”. I’m pleasing everyone really, except myself, which then obviously, is a waterfall effect onto what I’m doing.
Hope: Sounds like you had some really good advice from that manager obviously, when you were going into the room and having those moments where you really needed him to guide you through the next steps. Is there any other good advice that you’ve received over the last couple of years that you can talk us through?
Amy: Yeah. I think one piece of advice that stuck with me that I use day-to-day is just around the time allocated to emails. Again, I’m that type of person, think having iPhones and all that kind of smart phones doesn’t help with it now in terms of having it, seeing notifications coming through all the time.
If I see a notification through, I instantly think, “Oh, that’s come through. I need to action. Oh, I need to have a look at that”. So, I try and throughout the day I set certain times where I’ll check my emails. And I do, throughout the day because I need to check them obviously, several times throughout the day, but I’ll have time set aside to check through emails.
And in that time, I’ll respond to whatever those emails need to be. So yeah, another old manager had said to me, “When you get an email through, don’t necessarily star it unless it’s something that you need to think about. If you can reply to it then, reply to it then. Otherwise, you’re going to spend twice the amount of time on that email”. And obviously, it all builds up with the amount of emails that you get coming through.
By reading it, putting it to one side and then opening it again, reading it again. To then action it, reply to it then, if it just needs to be a quick response, just once you’ve read it. And you’re in that time allocated for your emails, just do it there. So, if I’m doing something that needs my full attention, I turn my notifications off on my phone and on my laptop so I’m not getting distracted, because as soon as I see that little ding flash up, I’m like, “Oh, email. Might need my attention”.
And the majority of the time, it’s not something that I need to respond to right then and there in that moment. So that has been something that, again, day-to-day I try and stick to. Which just helps again, be able to stick to what I’m doing, but also not waste too much time on going back and forth, looking at emails. Going out of them, going into them, going out of them.
Laura: I remember you saying that last week, and I just started trying to implement this this week cause I think it’s such a good tip.
Hope: I just tend to save mine in folders to think that they’re just going to
Laura: Magic themselves.
Hope: Yeah. Wow. That’s six months old that email. I mean, I’ve definitely answered it, but why is it still there? It’s a bit chaotic.
Amy: When you find those folders as well. And you’re like, “What is that folder? What is in there?”.
Hope: Exactly. Yeah. I definitely need to take that tip on, 100%.
Laura: I guess, going back to the fact that it’s just you in a department, how do you stay on top of what’s happening in the industry, what you should be doing, what’s best practice?
Amy: Yeah. So, two things that have really helped me, you said being the sole person in the company in Talent Acquisition. One is just being on top of and making sure that you’ve got a network of people around you in similar positions. So, I’m fortunate enough to be a part of a Slack group for Talent Acquisition Tech Professionals around Australia. And that has been so beneficial.
And I had that pretty much from day one, I was introduced to that group. And a lot of people are similar. They might be the only person in that group there. So, there’s different channels in terms of asking for HR tech advise. Has anyone used this before? Does anyone know how to quote from them? What’s this look like? Has anyone found this beneficial? Have people gone around before building salary bandings?
Just anything that you might have a question on. Especially when I hadn’t done Talent Acquisition before, so everything was brand new to me apart from the recruiting perspective. But the whole strategy and building everything up, safely being able to feel that you can ask those questions. And there’s people in there with so much experience. So being able to get…
And everyone wants to help each other on there as well, which I’ve found, which is great. So, that’s been invaluable in terms of just being in a network and making the effort to be a part of a network of people who can help you.
Also, as well, I rely on newsletters. Some occasional podcasts, but more so newsletters. I have subscribed to Hung Lee’s ‘Brainfood’. And that’s the one that I find I get the most out of every week. I think the content that he creates every week, and he collects from all over the globe around Talent Acquisition has been really beneficial for me in terms of, might not be something that I’m working on at the moment. It might just be a thought process or spark some things for me to think about something that I am doing in a different way.
Or just to see what’s going on out there and what the hot topics and what trends are. There’s always something in there that I find really useful and really interesting that I can implement and get something out of there. And I feel like I’m on top of what’s going on.
Hope: Amazing. Just linking back to a few things. It’s really important, I feel that all of us to have that network, mentorship, someone that we can lean on, if we need to get any advice. It sounds like you get that with your Slack group, which is fantastic. Going back to when you were a mentor, can you give us any advice on that? Any advice to people that want to look to get a mentor and what they need to bring to the table to get the benefit out of it?
Amy: Yeah. I think mine was in an informal setting for when I was being a mentor to more junior members of the team there. And I think if you’re seeking out a mentor, if you’ve got one and you go for your first session, I think it’s really valuable for yourself to be able to know what you want out of it for yourself.
Rather than turning up and thinking, “Oh, this person’s going to be able to help me and give me wise advice”. And they can only do that if they know in terms of what you’re looking for and what you’re after. So, I think definitely, make sure and just do a bit of work yourself prior to think, “Okay, what am I wanting out of this? Why am I seeking out a mentor? Why am I seeking out someone who can help me? In what way can they help me? Is it general career advice? Is it I’m getting stuck in this? Is it public speaking? Is it being able to, on leadership, that I’ve been able to progress to the next step of my career?”. And whatever that might look like.
So, I think it’s really valuable when you are looking, to know what you’re wanting to get out of it. And not just seeing it as a one-way dialogue and street. I think it’s always, in my experience, it’s a two-way dialogue with them. That the mentor equally receives just as much benefit from the mentee there as well.
So, I think be prepared, know what you want to get out of the session, but also, go into it open as well. It might not be what you think in terms of help me. Just give me your wisdom, give me your advice. It’s much more of that conversation or dialogue to help you and to help them get to where you both want to be.
Laura: I think that’s really great. And I think it ties into something Neil said, something similar around just accepting other people’s opinions on it. So going in and not expecting them to just give you an answer. It’s just their opinion on it, and that’s great. And you need to take what you can from it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the answer. They can’t give you the holy grail to something.
Amy: Yeah. No, I 100% agree with that. And I think people can easily get… We want to not do the hard work ourselves sometimes. I’m completely guilty of that myself, and think, “Oh, this person’s going to be able to tell me”. And I will take their opinion and what they have to say is obviously from their experience and their journey, which isn’t always your journey there as well.
So, I think going and knowing, we’re going to get some great advice, but as you said, it’s not the holy grail. It’s not the answer. There is no one answer. There’s different perspectives. And it’s about getting and building yourself up with, not necessarily as many, but different perspectives. So, you can go in having a wider vision of what you’re after and what you’re looking for.
Then maybe just that one or just yourself, where you might be feeling like you don’t have as much experience, be able to get that. So, I think it’s just keeping that in mind. 100%.
Laura: Yeah, definitely. And I’m sure we’ve all been in single person departments before. When it’s just you, sometimes it’s really easy just to be like, “Okay, I just need the answer to this because I just need to do this. And then I can move on to the next task and the next task”.
Laura: So, I think you’re right. Just taking it all on board and going from there. Okay. I have two more questions. Hope’s got a great one that she’s going to ask you that you’re going to love. And then I’ve got a nice, easy one to finish with.
Hope: So, you’ve obviously gone through all your experience with us, which is great. Is there anything that’s not on your LinkedIn profile or your resume that you can share with us today that has contributed to your career to date? Any life experiences that you can give us?
Amy: Yeah. That’s a good one. So, obviously, you can tell from my accent, I’m from the UK. So, I’ve moved to the other side of the world, and I did that eight years ago now. And I think for me, the one thing I would say is, for me, putting myself in a position where I take a leap of faith or I move out of my comfort zone, into an area or space where I feel like, “Oh, I don’t know what I’m doing here. There’s a bit of fear, but I’m just going to go with it”.
So, for example, traveling, moving to the other side of the world. Putting my hand up in work to say, “Yeah, I’ll take that on. I’ve got no idea how to do it”. For example, today, I’ve never done a podcast before, but there are some wise words from LJ there as well, but going, “Yeah. Do you know what? Why not? Just, we’ll do it. Of course, I’ve got something to say”.
So, I think that kind of experience that I’ve had earlier on from traveling, got me to have the guts to move to the other side of the world, which is something that I wanted to do and try. And it wasn’t to necessarily, again, I didn’t have the answer. I wasn’t moving here permanently. It was, “I’ll see how I go”, and now it’s been eight years.
And I think that’s definitely been a ripple effect throughout my career to be able to say, “Yep, I want to put my hand up for that”, or, “Yeah, let’s give that a go”. And I think from those situations with those scenarios, that’s where I’ve had the most invaluable lessons, teachings, where I’ve got something out of it that stuck with me. Rather than just, what I would have probably done before is just do something that I think is expected and then just wait for recognition. Go, go, go.
And in that way, it’s going, no, okay, let’s do this. Got no idea what this is going to turn out like, but let’s do it. Let’s get out of my comfort zone.” But I think that would be my number one life lesson that I try and bring across into my work day and decisions and career decisions there as well. And everyone that I’ve done, I’ve never, ever regretted it. So yeah, definitely that.
Hope: That’s great. Yeah. I love that too.
Laura: Okay. And then last one. Who else from like a HR or TA background would you like us to interview?
Amy: I would really love to hear more from Dean Carter, who I think is the VP HR director at Patagonia in the states. So, I heard him speak beginning of 2020 actually, at a conference in Sydney. And by the end of his talk and his presentation, every person in the room just sat on the edge of their seats leaning forward. So, engaged.
I think I had a few people after be like, “Oh, let’s just see if there’s any Talent Acquisition roles available in Patagonia”. He just captivated the whole audience, talking around how Patagonia had built their community for that people. How they hire. What they look for in candidates. And it’s all about making sure that the candidates and the people that they hire, regardless of their skill and knowledge, it’s… are they behind the same vision that we are? If, yes, okay, then you get to the next stage.
So, just how they’ve shaped it, which is not what you would think of as the norm. How they’ve promoted their people, culture, community, yeah, had everyone on the edge of their seats. I’d love to hear more from him.
Laura: That sounds like an incredible talk. It’s amazing as well how much Patagonia gets brought up. I had someone the other day recommending that they got a couple of books and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Amy: Yeah. They’re amazing. So, the thinking of them initially, as a clothing brand, but that whole message and everything, actually what they stand for and their main vision as a company, is not around that. It’s around environment and taking a stand and sustainable clothing and sustainability, which is really fascinating if you start reading about them. Or I just keep reading about them as a company because I just think they’re fascinating.
Laura: Okay. We’re going to leave you there. Thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
Amy: Thank you. And nice to speak to you guys this morning, and I’m sure I’ll speak to you guys soon.