My Career Change to Recruitment

Gerard Ellis Career change to recruitment

In the past decade, I have gone through a massive career change to recruitment. In a past life, I was a professional rugby player, now I work in an office as a senior account manager at VIQU. Whilst recruitment is VERY different from being a professional sportsman, and not something I had ever really thought about, I have managed to create a recruitment career path for myself and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far.

In my two years at VIQU, I have worked across two departments, and have now established myself within the key accounts team, liaising and building relationships with some of our most important accounts.

Whether you’re a professional sportsman or established in another industry but looking to re-skill, starting down a new career path is never easy. It can be frustrating and unsettling.  However, there’s a lot to be gained from it, so if you’re considering a career change to recruitment, here’s how I did it.

Before you made a career change to recruitment, you were in rugby. What was being a professional sportsman like?

Back in 2012, I started off my rugby career when I signed my first professional contract at the age of 18. I was not long out of college, and it was the career I always wanted. For 8 years, I was playing for London Irish Rugby Club, before moving on to Dragons Rugby and finally finishing at Coventry Rugby. During this time, I played in both the Premiership and the European Cups. It was a fantastic time in my life. My team and I won the JP Morgan Sevens and Greene King Championship – it’s something I’m really proud of.

Tell us about the start of your career as a recruiter – how did it come about and what attracted you to recruitment?

After sustaining an injury, I had to retire from rugby in my late 20s and didn’t know what to do next. My friend recommended a career as a recruiter and put me in touch with VIQU’s Managing Director Matt Collingwood and I’ve been here ever since!

I was first interested in recruitment as it’s a career where you need to be personable and work with different people. I’m a talkative person so having a career whereby you build relationships with candidates and clients was very attractive to me.

VIQU, in particular, looked like a great company. I felt like Nicholas Hopkins had a good vision for the team and they were offering 1:1 training and support. I really appreciated the fact that they were willing to take a risk on someone like me who didn’t have any previous experience in a business, let alone in recruiting. Plus, it was the middle of the Covid pandemic. Most companies were battering down the hatches and trying to ride out the storm, but VIQU took a punt on me, and I will always really appreciate that.

Was your career change to recruitment a difficult adjustment?

The first year was a tough transition – I was going from training and competing in rugby matches, to working in an office 5 days a week for the first time.

Having to work 9-5 in an office environment was a big change and adjustment. I obviously had to wear different clothes but also work different hours, with different targets. Furthermore, I didn’t have any sales experience or knowledge. However, with my manager Nicholas’ support, I was able to learn quickly on the job, acquire new skills, and develop myself within my career.

How have you found your recruitment career path so far?

Initially, I worked as a 360 recruiter in the contract team alongside Nicholas. For those who don’t know, 360 recruiters split their time between trying to acquire new clients as well as working to source candidates and manage the interview process. Although Nicholas was a fantastic mentor for me, I found working in 360 quite frustrating.

Moving to and working in key accounts really attracted me as instead of working and splitting my time between different clients, I could focus on building a relationship with a singular client. This way instead of continuously working with different people, my time is dedicated to a few major accounts. I can really get to know these clients and their needs, and it allows for a much better working relationship.

It has also meant my job has become a lot more varied. Working in key accounts has given me the opportunity to visit companies on-site and talk to people face to face. I personally find that great as I really like getting away from the office environment and meeting different people.

Career progression in recruitment is based on how hard you work, your attitude, and the results you achieve. I’m only two years into my career, yet I’ve already been given some exciting responsibilities and opportunities. VIQU has allowed me to find the role that works for me, where my skills are being most utilised.

What have been your best highlights?

Professionally, my biggest highlight to date was making my first 360 placement within 3 months of becoming a recruiter. This was with a brand new client to VIQU and the contractor is still there 2 and a half years later.

Personally, a major highlight has also been the Christmas conferences VIQU hosts every year.  As a rugby player, I attended some glamorous events, met some really impressive people, and was lucky to travel the world. When I heard VIQU do a yearly conference, it was something I was really excited about and to date it’s certainly not disappointed. The first trip I went on to Dubai was insane – quad biking the dunes, bottomless brunches and jet skiing were a few of my favourite parts.

Any tips for someone wanting to get into recruitment?

  • Throw yourself into it

If you hold back or don’t listen to what your manager / experience colleagues are telling you, you will really struggle. If you just go for it and push yourself, you’ll more likely see better results.

  • Don’t be scared to ask questions

Especially if you have no previous sales or office experience, asking your manager loads of questions is a good way to learn and develop.

  • Listen to other people and be a sponge

Your manager has been in the same position you have, take in and listen to whatever tips and advice they give you.

I would strongly recommend a career change to recruitment for anyone who is competitive, highly motivated and a good speaker. It’s a really challenging career and can be a rollercoaster with some months going well and others being fustrating as hell.  However, the rewards and career progression in recruitment can make the whole experience worth it.

What are your next steps in your career as a recruiter?

I’m really looking forward to building on the foundations I’ve laid in the past two years. I want to be able to grow and connect with our key accounts more, get more work in, and progress further in my recruitment career path. At some point in the future, I would also love to build and manage my own team here at VIQU.


Are you curious about a career change to recruitment? If you want to hear more about our team’s experiences and knowledge of the career progression in recruitment, check out our blogs covering the topic here. You can read more about Gerard’s background by heading over to his profile.

Gerard in Dubai  Gerard at awards show

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