Sutra #5: The Candidate is King

Our fifth sutra comes from Melanie Johnson, a Recruitment Specialist in Sunrock Recruitment.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mel is an International head-hunter in the renewable energy industry based in London, UK. As a dual British – South African citizen where one in five people in the world lives without electricity, her mission is to be a part of a movement of positive environmental change. Her typical clients are renewable energy impact investors. Being a 100% female-minority owned business, she is an ambassador for women in energy. She believes that trusted partnerships are the only way forward as globalization and automation become the fourth revolution. She enjoys travelling with her 8-year old daughter, and whenever there is music, you are sure to find her on the dance floor.

Some recent accomplishments ( NPA Board –and the exposure that gave to you).

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. It took me a few years to decide what I really wanted to do. Before starting Sunrock, I tried looking for opportunities to get a business off the ground. Some were disasters but learnt lessons on what not to do in business. Since I started Sunrock in 2015, it has come with its own challenges, but I won’t give it up for the world. We are a growing team of three, and we wear our work t-shirt proudly. When deciding our values, I always wanted to be a champion of helping people less fortunate. We work with companies that make an impact and share our values. Sunrock has a purpose, and I am proud to be leading the team to achieve great things.

The last couple of months has been almost unprecedented. Am sure everybody here would love to know the ground situation in your country, and what has kept you busy in the period?

The UK was the second country hardest hit of COVID-19, now third after the US and Brazil. It was and still is a scary time for the country and indeed the world. Before we peaked, the average daily death toll was between 800-900 people. There have been over 42,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the UK. It was a pretty anxious time, but it forced everybody to examine their lives. From a personal perspective, it made me think of how we take family and the comfort of life for granted. I am an outdoor person and love to try new food and travel, so when we went into lockdown, I felt as slightly claustrophobic after a few weeks. On the work front, from having conversations with clients of their hiring pipelines, including roles we started working on and candidate interviews, everything came to a complete halt. We did get an offer in April, which was some consolation. I had several work travel engagements which had to be cancelled. Fortunately, as a business, we had enough funds to keep us trading for the next few months. I felt there was no point us resuming day to day activities when the death toll in the UK was climbing. Initially, I did catch up with my clients and candidates that I know personally to touch base. It was clear that my priorities needed to shift from work mode into a strategy of how to keep safe and the measures I needed to put in place for my family to stay safe and healthy. As of 1st June, we are all back at work, following government guidelines, working from home until it is safe for us to return to the office.

Given that you are a global player now, how do you see the world-changing, and specifically – so as regards, work, workplace, workforce? What kind of trends do you see, and thoughts on how are you preparing for the same.

There will be specific industries that automation will replace humans through Technology. For example, XERO is accountancy software. It has the capability of matching bank transaction feeds, so it eliminates the process of having someone experienced, like an Accountant reconciling the accounts manually. Autonomous Vehicles, 3D printers, Artificial Intelligence (chatbox). Online shopping, Amazon – affect retail stores. Drones – replace delivery drivers. Manufacturing jobs will slowly be taken over by robots. Jobs that will still need human interaction – healthcare workers, education and some professional services. You can sell your house online, no need to engage with an estate agent. You can apply for a loan online, no need to go into a bank. Insurance underwriters- can be done electronically now.

What advice for job-seekers would you like to share for professionals, who are looking to build their careers?

Do your homework when you are choosing a career. As we have different audiences at different stages of their careers/lives, I will break it down by generations: If you are at school deciding on subject choice, don’t take the easy way out. Push yourself to higher limits now. The easy way out means you are going to be like millions of other children after tertiary education competing for similar jobs because your grades were either average and in some cases below average. You have to choose subjects that will keep you challenged and motivated to do well. It’s creating building blocks, so as you progress into your studies, you have a foundation that you keep building on. In most cases, good grades allow you to navigate into careers where there are global shortages. In some countries, there is always that argument that is people with university degrees are unemployed. If employers had to choose between an average school pass versus a higher education background, we could guess who will be their preferred choice. Apprenticeships versus University? I prefer the apprenticeship route, as children less fortunate can work and earn, which gives them an advantage when they enter the workforce. They receive a qualification, earn while they work and have practical work experience on their resumes. If you are super intelligent, parents can afford university, or you can get a bursary than university might be most suited for you. I guess it depends on what you want to achieve towards the end of your studies. You wouldn’t want to go to university when you want to be a plumber. If you know what your career calling is earlier in your life, it will allow you to plan accordingly. Your career choice is going to determine how comfortable or uncomfortable your lifestyle will be unless you are lucky enough to change careers. If you are employed and are thinking of moving on in your career, “what opportunity would be of interest that reflects where you are right now?” We all go through different stages in our lives. Depending on what stage you are in your career, it should guide you through your decision-making process. You might be considering contracting instead of a permanent position. There are pros and cons to the decision process. Retire or not to retire? Leave work to be a stay at home parent? Part-time v full-time?

Am sure we have some HR Managers and Business leaders too –who may want to know the future of work is likely to be about. What’s your advice to them?

Studies show that Generation Z will have more than one career in their lifetime. They don’t handle stress well, and most of them want to set up their own business. They won’t be receiving watches for long service 🙂 As we move into flexible working hours, working from home and a changing workforce, technology will change the way we look into careers.

You have been a thought-leader and writing for many global publications from the past few years. So I can’t resist checking if you have any tips/tricks/skills to learn during this time.

We have a library of blogs on our website ranging from CV tips, interview tips, mental health in the workplace just to name a few. Over the coming months, my team and I will be doing a series of videos relating to the job market, so if you are interested, follow us on @SunrockConsult. We are also putting together a Sunrock rap, so stayed tuned for that. 🙂

Any other good examples/best practices you would like to share?

The candidate is king. Build trusted relationships through networks like NPA.