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Entrepreneur By Day, Recruiter By Night: Q&A with Tammy Dain

Tammy Dain built her career as a recruiter for Axiom Law, rising to the role of Director, West Coast Lawyer Talent and Recruitment, matching dynamic, credentialed legal talent with work across industries and practice areas. With the arrival of her daughter Lily, and an innovative idea around building a new kind of recruiting

business, Tammy reconstructed her work and home life to better accommodate her desire to build a business and be present for her growing family.

She talked with The Swing Shift about how she negotiated this transition, as well as what recruiters look for in candidates that are switching back into work.

You worked very successfully as a recruiter for Axiom Law, and are now starting Rabble. What compelled you to make this shift?

It was a tough decision that was made easy once my daughter, Lily, was born. For the last couple of years I’d thought about launching my own business, but could never bring myself to take the leap of faith. I had a successful career that I’d worked very hard to build at Axiom – a team that I’d hired and grown, and was proud of the work that we did. The turning point for me was the moment I thought about building a career, versus a legacy. Every minute I wasn’t with my daughter, I wanted to be building something for not only myself, but my family. I also wanted to have complete control over my schedule, and my future – with no limits. Launching my own recruitment company became the clear and best path to make that future a reality. While I’m building my company, I’m also very fortunate to have the opportunity to consult for Axiom. I’m literally enjoying the best of both worlds right now, staying on with a company and team that is best-in-class, doing work that I love, while building my dream company, Rabble.

Can you talk us through how you negotiated this arrangement with your current employer? It seems like lots of new parents would love to do this.

I’m very fortunate that when I shared with my manager, our Global Head of Talent Acquisition that I wanted to launch my own firm, she was very supportive. After 6 years at Axiom, she knew how hard I’d worked for the company, how invested I was in their success, and that this was a very personal, and difficult decision. Because I was one of the most tenured leaders in Talent Acquisition globally, I had valuable tribal knowledge and she actually asked me to stay on as a Consultant. I was thrilled that this was an option, and then proposed a timeline, work schedule and projects that I thought would be beneficial for Axiom in my new role. For someone interested in proposing an arrangement like this and particularly if the discussion might not come about in a natural way, my advice to them would be to think about what your current company needs. In particular, think about what type of flexible help would be useful to your manager, and how would your current company benefit from the new working arrangement overall. One of the mistakes folks can make in negotiating a new working arrangement like this is focusing too much on your wants and needs. Instead, focus on the areas where your needs intersect with the company’s needs and goals. Then create a proposal that leverages these areas and your ideal working arrangement. Lastly, be prepared to not necessarily get 100% of what you’re looking for, as that will probably be the case for your current employer too. Being flexible and open minded will be invaluable while crafting your new role.

From a recruiting POV, what’s your top 3 things you advise people who are looking to come back after breaks? Is it different for folks who are looking to switch or pivot industries or roles?

#1 Don’t dwell on the fact that you took time off (no matter how long the break is!). Even if you’ve taken more than a decade off to raise your kids, you only need to offer a sentence or two, high-level explanation, and then immediately jump into how ready you are to get back into the working world. If the Recruiter or Hiring Manager is interested in hearing more, let them ask you for more information if they’re curious. Dwelling too much on your time off can make candidates sound a bit unsure of themselves, so you want to avoid spending too much time on the subject and instead focus on your next step.

#2 Do focus on sharing anything that you did during your time off to stay current in your field. If you attended any conferences, read industry articles and blogs, took continuing education courses, networked with friends and former colleagues, or consulted on the side, be sure to highlight in detail the effort you went to in order to stay current in your area of expertise. One of the greatest areas of concern for a Recruiter or Hiring Manager is whether or not a candidate who has taken time off from work can get back up to speed quickly on industry trends (and trying to determine how long they might take to do so). Focusing on any of the things you have done to stay up-to-date in your field will ease the concerns that your interviewer might have. As a candidate, you want to convey the hustle and passion you have for what you do, and highlighting that you prioritized making time for your professional life (when you could) will be very compelling. For many though, you may not have had the time or resources to devote to these activities. That’s okay! My advice always is – start now. Once you have made the decision to return to work, start executing against activities that will help get you up to speed on a parallel track with your job hunt. It will give you more confidence in interviews to have something to discuss with Hiring Managers and convince them that you are excited and ready to get back to work.

#3 Focus on the company and how you are uniquely suited to add value. One of the biggest mistakes that candidates make in the interview process is that they spend too much time talking about themselves. I know this sounds counterintuitive because you should spend time talking about yourself and your accomplishments (this is after all the one time you can brag a little!). The difference here is that you should be sharing your skills and experience with a particular angle. That angle is how you’re the perfect for this company. And to convey that, you have to know the company and team you’re interviewing for really well. So do your research! Today there are lots of opportunities to learn about companies – LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Social Media, and of course press releases and the company website. Reach out to anyone you might know at the company for informational interviews as well. Become as knowledgeable as you possibly can about the company you’re interviewing for and I guarantee you will stand out from the other candidates.

For candidates that are interested in switching roles or industries, there are two different pieces of advice that I have to offer in addition to point #3 above.

#1 Focus on transferable skills. Whether you’re switching industries or roles, in your interviews, be sure to highlight transferable skills or experience you have to the area you want to join. The more you can display that you are prepared to launch your career in your new desired area, the better. This piece of advice is the most straightforward and obvious, but it’s important to highlight because it is very top of mind for Recruiters and Hiring Managers that are vetting you during your interview.

#2 Convey how you’re already upskilling in your desired role or industry. Similarly to someone who is getting back into the working world, make sure you start reading as much as possible about the industry you want to join or attend a relevant conference, etc. The Recruiter and Hiring Managers you interview with need to be convinced that you’re both knowledgeable about the field you want to join as well as passionate about the area, and having a handful of activities that you can point to will be invaluable to convey this. Another way to do this is to offer consulting services (usually for free or below market rate) in your desired role or industry. Of course, it’s hard to find the time to do this if you’re working full time and have a family, but I encourage you to try to carve out an hour or two a week (or even a month!). By doing so, you will have a compelling story to tell in your interviewers.

And finally, I have to underscore #3 above, stay focused on the company and how you’re uniquely suited to add value. Do as much research as you can about the company and the team you want to join. Recruiters and Hiring managers want to find team members that are going to be passionate about their company’s product or service, so your best bet to land the job is to demonstrate your eagerness to join their company in your desired field.

Rabble’s focus is on outsourcing the recruiting function for organizations. Since this seems like a flexible work arrangement, what attributes are you looking for with recruiting candidates?

Recruiting by design can be cyclical in nature and we enable companies to quickly scale their Talent Acquisition team when they need to by leveraging an experienced, remote recruiting workforce. Rabble projects are the perfect opportunity for candidates looking for remote opportunities that will inherently provide more flexibility. We offer the flexibility that I needed and wanted as a new mom, so I couldn’t be more excited to grow the team! As with most remote working arrangements, our recruiters need to be self-motivated individuals and operate successfully with a fair amount of autonomy. We also value candidates that demonstrate their adaptability, since our recruiters will work with a variety of companies, varying in size and industry over the course of their career with us. Lastly, we’re building a new and different recruiting solution in the market, so I’m particularly excited to find folks that are just as passionate about the opportunity we have in the market as the founding team. Would love anyone who’s interested in this unique opportunity (or knows someone who might be) to feel free to reach out to me directly to learn more.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve encountered as a working parent vs as a working individual?

So many things! The most notable though is that you suddenly have a completely new (and better!) approach to managing your time. When I may have taken several hours to prepare a presentation deck before becoming a parent, now I might take half the time and deliver a product that is just as effective. The other most notable difference in my day to day has been a blending of work and home life. Before my daughter, I felt like I had more distinct times when I was working and not, and longer periods that I could unplug. Now, sometimes she has appointments that eat into a typical workday so I find myself carving out new periods of time to work like while she’s napping on the weekends or right after she goes to sleep. The best part has been bonding and getting so much support from other working parents over this ‘new normal.’ I also drink way more coffee now to somehow make it all happen!

Join us for our free monthly hangout , and to hear Tammy live for our January 2020 session on 1/16/20. You'll have the chance to ask questions about returning to work, making a career shift or about her own personal journey! Link to RSVP + questions here.


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