There can be so much negative stigma and discourse around recruitment in this landscape. Some recruiters are “magpies”, or “sales-y”, or “money-hungry”, and tend to give the industry a bad name for itself.
With the ever-evolving skill shortage in Australia, the war for talent fiercely raging, and the projects across the Built Environment bigger than ever, it isn’t always easy to find the joy in being a recruiter.
That is, unless you’re a quick-witted, fast-talking, vibrant ray of Irish sunshine, of course.
Our very own Siobhan Barrett celebrated her 7 Year Aptus-versary over the weekend, and we asked her to share her advice, experiences, and memories in recruitment over the years. Siobhan started her journey with Aptus in 2014, and has worked her way up to a Principal Consultant, and a role model for the Aptus Team.
Her passion for her clients and candidates is tangible, and it’s no secret that Siobhan takes the utmost pride in matching the right people in the right roles. Moreover, she has invested so much time, energy, and love into highlighting women in STEM, and has forged long-lasting partnerships with influential females in the industry.
1. If you could summarise your career in recruitment in one quote, what would it be?
‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. It’s 100% true in my case.
2. Who has been your biggest motivator over the past seven years?
Without sounding arrogant, when you come half way around the world and have to build a career to remain here you need to be self-inspired and self-motivated. Early in my career I had a tenacity and determination to make it work. Having joined Aptus with no experience I had to learn from the experts around me and leverage support from my team.
I am always extremely grateful to Tom Murphy for taking a risk on an overly confident (fake it ’til you make it) and chatty chick who stalked my way into that interview. When it came to finding my way through recruitment and the engineering sector, nobody has been a bigger influence than Lee McAndrews, my boss, my biggest support and a dear friend. He will absolutely hate me saying all this, but he has made an immense impression on me as a recruiter and a person.
My family are a huge support and constantly share how proud they are which motivates me to achieve more. They keep my first business card on the fireplace beside all the family photos.
My candidates and my clients are a continuous motivation – to work harder, do better, make an impact on this industry, to share my knowledge, to add value and to continue finding awesome people amazing careers.
3. What is your favourite part about your job?
This has to be a two parter.
Firstly, my team. Recruitment can be an unforgiving job at times. You can do everything right, with the best intentions but things change, people’s lives change and sometimes uncontrollable outcomes affect our outcomes. When this happens you lean on your colleagues. Aptus is a group of people who are fiercely collaborative, supportive and hilarious. It makes going into work every day an absolute joy. We experience the highest highs and the lowest lows but a silly story, stupid joke or the guys mocking my stronger-than-ever Irish accent makes it all worth it.
Secondly, I sometimes get to change lives. Okay that may sound dramatic, but when you find the most deserving person a position which is their dream job, or their dream employer, or allows them financial freedom, that makes everything worth it. I genuinely love giving them that news – “I hope you’re sitting down because they would love to offer you the position!”. When you hear joy in someone’s voice it makes your day so much better.
4. Can you share an “ah-ha!” moment in your career?
There have been so many experiences which have made me see the impact I have made on people’s personal and professional lives, but one stands out.
The background is an Engineer who had been with the same employer for most of their career, underpaid, unheard and undervalued. They are a single income family with kids and probably saw stability being more important than chasing that big promotion or overdue salary increase. “Better the devil you know”, and all that. Circumstances began to change and after speaking with their mentors, they approached me to explore the market on their behalf. Knowing this was a scary new process I endeavoured to be patient, informative and empathetic. We discussed many groups. There was hesitation, probably a fear of the unknown, and a global pandemic in the mix. They took a gamble and went for a group that shared their morals, guaranteed support, and freedom to progress without barriers. The new position was perfect for them and offered a financial boost that was richly deserved. The company could not have been happier with the addition and have continued to support and reward them. The change I have seen in this Engineer has been a wonderful experience to witness. I personally know that when you are in a job where you do what you love, feel appreciated and have no limitations, it massively impacts your life. This is what I have seen with them, and the sky really is the limit.
5. Where do you see a career in recruitment taking you long-term?
The beauty about this job is that everyday is different. No two roles, recruits, or experiences will ever be the same. I am proud of my business within a business and I want to continue that growth. Anything more specific than that would require a dodgy crystal ball or magical premonitions. Insert “I don’t know” emoji.
I do, however, want to make a positive impact on the industry. As recruiters, we have more reach than we fully comprehend and have an audience ready and willing to engage. Sharing my knowledge is very important to me, not just with my team and future colleagues but also across the industry. Advising graduates or newcomers to Australia on how to find a way into the market, advising clients on the latest trends across the workforce, advising candidates on who has secured the next big project is all easily accessible information I can provide to positively impact our industry. I 100% believe this is what divides good and great consultants. I aim to be the latter.
6. If you could change one thing about the landscape, what would it be?
Female participation, in both recruitment and across the Built Environment as an industry.
I will constantly rave to people about what a rewarding career this can be, from a fluffy fulfilment perspective, and also one where you can make some decent coin. Despite this, I know so many females who entered and then exited the industry to chase something different. I am not sure how we can change that yet, but hopefully this insight from my seven years and the continual said-raving may help.
Encouraging more females to enter the engineering field I think is vital to a more holistic industry. Equity and access is the responsibility of every individual employer. But I think attraction needs to start in schools and in households. Let me give you some examples.
The word “engineering” was only first uttered in the Barrett household when my younger brother was trying to decide between that and architecture. It would have been real handy for me over the last seven years if he did pursue engineering, but he is now a roaringly successful architect whom I am embarrassingly proud of. I digress. I did not know what engineering was or what they did in school. When selecting optional subjects, like most females, I was guided towards music and home economics, even though I have the voice of a dying cat and regularly burn toast. My Dad was a chippy/jack-of-all-trades, so I studied woodwork. I loved Math so I studied Physics and Chemistry. Absolutely not the norm for a girl in a Catholic school in the early noughties. When it came time to select my university application my Guidance Counsellor never considered that my subjects might align with a career in engineering or the STEM field. Instead I obtained a questionable degree in Geography, Sociology and Politics which I regularly ask what it has to do with my current career.
My long-winded point here is that if engineering and STEM are discussed and encouraged in the family home it will plant seeds to pursue these vital studies in school, then uni, and eventually our industry.
7. How has a career in recruitment enabled you to grow as an individual?
In every single way possible.
I look back on the person I was eight years ago and wonder who she was. I was always quite chatty and loud, but also shy, a closet introvert. I still hate controversy to this day and sweat at the thought of entering a room full of strangers. But the beauty of my job has allowed me to become a strong communicator, someone who is proud of what they do and the career they have developed. This has given me so much self-confidence and drives me to do more. I have also learned the value of empathy, resilience and my own limitations. Knowing when to walk away is something that is not easy but will save you so much time (and stress!) in both your personal and professional life. Speaking to people everyday massively builds character and personality. I like to have a laugh and joke to brighten up someone’s day.
Life is short. We spend so much time at work that we should enjoy it. Recruitment allows me to do what I love whilst being 100% myself.
How bloody lucky am I?
You can get in touch with Siobhan about roles across Buildings, Land & Infrastructure here.