Best laid plans… personal reflections on the latest step in my career


20 May 2020

Best laid plans… personal reflections on the latest step in my career

Neel Patel joined our Executive Interim team in late 2019. Having been a member of the Penna family for some months, he’s taken a step back to look at his time in recruitment so far. What he found was a story of people, progress and challenging himself, his candidates and his clients to step outside their comfort zone.

For those of you in the industry reading this, I’d like to take a quick poll. Hands up if you’ve ever started a sentence with “I never intended to stay in recruitment this long but…”.  I’m willing to bet a sizeable amount there are more hands up than down.

I’m amongst those with both hands (and at least one foot) up. When I took my first role at Jobs Go Public almost 15 years ago, I didn’t plan on staying in the industry long. It was just another step in my career.

But, here I am. Nearly a decade and a half later and after 14 (!!) years at JGP, I’m now a few months into my new role as Senior Consultant with my team at Penna and, yes, still recruiting.

The beginning of a new era is always going to be a point of reflection. So, I wanted to take some time to share a bit of my journey with you all.

How I started out

I remember my early years at JGP vividly. A job working in ‘new media’ (now just ‘media’) that I’d expected to last a couple of years continued to surprise me. My quick move from a desk-based role to one where I was constantly out-of-the-office connecting and networking had pushed me out of my comfort zone. It ignited a passion for building relationships and working closely with clients that continues to be my favourite thing about work. The road from Account Executive to Head of Client Partnerships wasn’t without bumps (and the occasional massive pothole) but I’ll always look back on that time fondly. 

It’s always daunting to leave somewhere after so long but there’s no doubt that it was the right time for something new, and even less doubt I was making the right move.

Joining Penna

Having worked with Penna for many years, I’ve always had a huge amount of admiration for them. That familiarity made my big career change an easier decision to make and I’m happy to say the only surprises have been positive ones. You always wonder what’s ‘behind the curtain’ with the companies you deal with, but Penna live up to the hype.

I’m constantly impressed with the knowledge, expertise and professionalism of the people around me. I came to Penna to work with some of the best in the business and it’s safe to say they haven’t disappointed. On top of that, the #WeAreFamily vibe rings true throughout the offices and there are smiling faces wherever you turn. That family ethos has been incredibly helpful since we’ve all forcibly moved to remote working. You know someone’s always at the end of the phone, if you need them.

Moving companies after so long is one thing, the shift in my role has been the biggest shock to my system. I’d always been intrigued by 360 recruiting but I never thought I’d end up doing it myself. However, this opportunity felt like the right move.

Joining Penna Executive Interim has allowed me to take the favourite parts of my previous positions – the relationships and problem solving – bring them into a new field and learn new skills. It also gave me the opportunity to bring the understanding of the inner-workings of the public sector into a new arena. I don’t mind admitting there’s been some challenges. I’m not sure I’d entirely prepared myself for quite how fast-paced it can be (although being a father of a three-year-old has provided some basic training when it comes to being on my toes).

Learning the interim industry

I’ve found so much joy in my new role. Working with clients to help them enable genuine change in their organisations. Owning the entire process, understanding a client’s needs and finding the exact person they’re looking for. And the new experiences of building relationships with candidates, understanding what they can offer and what they’re looking for.

Whilst there’s been a lot of learning – I’ve been really pleased to have my hopes confirmed that I had something different to bring to the role. I definitely feel like I’ve been helped by being someone who has just been through the recruitment process myself. I can put myself in candidates’ shoes and find myself wanting to spend proper time with them, making sure they have all the information they need. I also want the best for them and so have no issue in telling someone that a certain role isn’t the right fit for their ambitions.  

Like many people, my knowledge of the public sector was fairly basic before I took my last role at JGP. But having spent many years working closely with public sector clients, seeing the inner workings of local government and what exactly public services needed to operate, making sure that they have the best possible people in place has become a big passion of mine. I very much consider myself to be a partner to the organisations I work with, I want to get as good an understanding of how they work and what they’re looking for as possible. Most of all, I want to find the best suited person for the job – because I really, really want them to succeed. They’re the ones doing the vital work (and if one good thing comes out of the current situation it’ll be that more people are seeing that). I’m just glad to be able to be a part of it and help in my own way.

It’s been a whirlwind few months and I’m thankful to be in the perfect place to develop these new skills and put my existing experience to good use.

All change, with COVID-19

Just as I thought I was finding my feet, a brand-new challenge pulls the collective rug from under all of us. We’re all waiting to find out what the post- COVID19 world will look like, how it will impact this industry and how we can evolve to succeed in it. In the interim, I’m doing my best to adapt again and keep learning from the fantastic people around me (albeit virtually!). I also fully intend to use this time to continue developing my new relationships and, hopefully, begin some new ones.

The journey has been a wild one so far. I’m very excited to see where this new stretch takes me.

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