Your first job as a recruiter is a chance to cut your teeth, gain a strong foundation, and build the skills you’ll need for a successful career. Sooner or later, you will be ready to move on — but where to?

No ambitious young recruiter entering the industry today is going to stay in one role for the next 25 years, especially if they see little chance of promotion at their current firm. In the recruiting industry, your second job often dictates the speed at which you progress in your career.

Given that your second role will be your springboard for future success, it pays to choose wisely before jumping ship. With a year or two of experience under your belt, you should now have a good idea of what you want (and don’t want) from your next job. Use this information wisely.

Move Fast to Avoid Complacency

Some young recruiters simply cannot wait to leave behind a company where poor leadership and culture have blighted their early experiences, while others want to try their hand at another style of recruiting. These latter recruiters may have been happy to start off filling high-volume roles, but now they want to try placing highly skilled candidates in niche positions.

Even if there is nothing inherently wrong with your first job, you should understand the dangers of becoming too comfortable and stagnating. If you aspire to rise through the ranks, you need to be constantly challenged to learn new skills and gain new experience.

One problem for many new recruiters is that too many consultancies are stuck in ruts, only offering the kind of solution-based services that were popular a decade ago. Rather than merely placing candidates with the right skills to meet specific challenges, the next generation of recruiters believes in using industry expertise and insight to position their candidates as experts capable of evolving with the company and bringing fresh perspectives. Unless you have the chance to put the latest recruitment methods into practice, you will soon find yourself superseded by this up-and-coming cohort of career-hungry consultants.

How to Make the Right Choice

Moving to another consultancy in the early stages of your career can feel like a leap of faith, especially if you are already earning good money. This is why your job search must start with identifying your future goals, distilling them into a wish list, and then finding a consultancy that can support your journey.

Naturally, the promise of a pay raise and better bonuses will always be a priority in a sales-led profession like ours, but junior recruiters should also consider how potential employers’ values match their own. If work/life balance, job satisfaction, and personal well-being are important to you, it’s a good idea to find a firm that feels the same way.

One way to judge whether a business is the right one for you is to look at its senior management team’s attitude toward training, development, and fostering a winning culture.

The industry is changing, and the most forward-thinking companies are now well aware of the impact stress has on their team members. I personally once had to tell one of my most dedicated young consultants — who was bringing in huge amounts of business — to take a week’s holiday. Otherwise, he would have burned out. Don’t be afraid to ask prospective employers how they will support you as both a person and a professional. Is there a mentorship program in place? A budget for training? How do team members collaborate and support one another?

Wherever possible, look at how directors interact with their teams. If you see them out in the main office chatting with colleagues and speaking to clients, chances are the consultancy values hands-on leadership and continuous learning.

A good employer won’t shy away when you try to hold them accountable to the promises they made when you received your job offer. Ours is an industry where being subservient won’t get you very far, so challenge your managers to deliver. Bear in mind they need to earn your trust as much as you need to earn theirs.

Finally, it is worth noting that all is not lost if you do make the wrong move early on in your career. I once joined a company only to realize I’d made a mistake — so I left after a week. On that occasion, I had been sold a false dream, but I also acknowledge I could have asked more questions during the interview. Never be afraid to ask about company culture, progression opportunities, and the other things that matter to you. Get all the information you need to make the right decision.

Andrew Stocks is an executive director at ESA Group.

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