What happens when you graduate with a comms degree, have visions of being an investigative journalist – but aren’t sure what’s next?
You go backpacking across Europe…and start working in recruitment.
That was Natalie Firth’s experience, anyway. Since finding herself in a northern English recruitment agency more than 15 years ago, she’s held various talent acquisition roles, batted her way into Cricket Australia and run her own recruitment agency. These days, she’s Global Head of Talent at Aussie tech company, Envato.
(We LOVE the investigative journalist idea, btw).
As part of our Moving from Talent Acquisition to People & Culture podcast series, we sat down with Natalie to get the juice on her journey from TA to P&C, what her career advice is and how you can prime yourself for a P&C role, too.
The unplanned career journey
For someone who’s ‘never really planned things’, Natalie’s had a stellar lineup of roles. And all of them have proved to be invaluable training for her latest gig at Envoto.
‘I started leading their talent function and team here, really rebuilding it and very quickly broadened out – I think because I’d had my own business and done lots of other things in the past,’ she tells us. ‘I now look after employee experience as well, so I call it all the fun parts of the people function.
‘[It’s] how we attract, how we onboard, the experience people have here, diversity, our CSR initiatives, wellness – all the cool things!’
If you’ve got you career plan mapped out that’s fantastic but if you’re not quite there, that’s ok, too! There are many paths to P&C and every experience – no matter what role, industry or organisation – is worthwhile.
Lessons learned from running your own business
Natalie’s experience running her own recruiting agency has certainly helped prepare her for managing the people and commercial sides of business.
‘I think it’s really important to wear both hats,’ she says. ‘I love people, I really care about them and I want the best for them – but also, we’re still a business. And, at the end of the day, we need to be a sustainable, successful business to do all those things.
‘Grappling both, I think, has been something I’ve been able to do quite well.’
VERY well, it would seem (but we love Natalie’s modesty 😊).
It helps (a lot) to like people
It’s all rainbows, sunshine and people-lovers over in P&C, right? 🌈☀️
Well, you’d THINK.
Confusingly, that’s not always the case, according to Natalie.
‘Throughout my career, [I’ve met so many people] in P&C roles who don’t seem to like people,’ she reveals. ‘I [always wonder] why do you work in this field if you don’t have people at the forefront of your mind?’
Got TA experience and natural interest in other people? P&C beckons 👇🏼
‘I think with recruitment…you need to be curious, you need to ask questions, to listen, to demonstrate empathy to really understand someone’s career,’ she continues. ‘And those skills come in really handy [for P&C roles]…in terms of coming in with an open mind…genuinely caring about people and wanting them to get the best outcomes.’
Oh, and that genuine affinity with people? It’s going to help you have those uncomfortable conversations, too.
‘As hard as those conversations are, bringing that empathy lens where it’s a ‘It’s ok if you’ve reached this point in your career – let’s talk about it. How can I support you?’. That really stemmed from my TA days.’
In summary: you don’t have to be a people person to make it in P&C. But, you’re going to do SO much better if you are.
Looking through a commercial lens
Like we said, it helps if you can balance business acumen with a (legit) love of people.
Natalie had this to say: ‘The commercial aspect of TA – really needing to get in and understand a business, how they make money, what they do, what type of skills, talent and people they need to be successful – it brings a commercial lens to a [P&C] role.
‘Some people [in HR roles] lean heavily into the people side or…into the commercial side…but I think it’s really important to be able to do both.’
It’s all about striking the right chords between enterprise and empathy 🎶
Being strategic with your time
Spare time isn’t really…a thing in P&C (or in adulting, one could argue).
Whatever the case, it’s not a bad thing, Natalie reckons, because it makes you choose the bits that matter most.
‘You need to be pragmatic; you can’t go after everything,’ she says firmly. ‘You’ve got to pick the things that are going to have the most impact. I would try and do 100 things [but] actually picking 3 – and doing them well – is more powerful.’
Taking the leap from TA to P&C
Natalie’s #1 piece of career advice? Don’t be afraid to make the leap.
‘Don’t underestimate the pathway from talent acquisition into a people role,’ she encourages us. ‘I’ve found that everyone who’s come through that path can build great relationships and ask great questions. [They’re] often smart, [they’re] curious and can very quickly pick it up.
‘Yes, there’s some skill gap…but that’s quite easy to fill. It’s probably more just back yourself [because] that experience is as valid as someone who’s come from a more traditional HR background.’
Put your hand up for P&C projects, volunteer for initiatives that’ll help your cause and believe in you.
It starts with you
Are you a people person ready to make your move from TA into P&C?
Start listening to our Moving from Talent Acquisition to People & Culture podcast series, take a deep breath and jump on in!