Episode #28 – Stacy Pursell’s Story

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about how Stacy came to be a recruiter. This is a podcast that I’ve been looking forward to, and Stacy, I’m certainly glad that you can be here to tell us your story.

Stacy: Hello, I’m glad to be here today and I’m looking forward to telling my story. Thanks very much.

Sharita: Stacy, you’ve been a recruiter for more than 20 years. However, a person can not earn a degree in recruiting at a college or university, is that correct?

Stacy: That’s right. There is no such thing as earning a college degree to become a recruiter or a search consultant that I know of. But I did attend Oklahoma State University, and I majored in Broadcast Journalism while I was there. One of the reasons I majored in that is because I’ve always been curious and asked a lot of questions. I wanted to be a newspaper or television reporter. I did both in college. I was a reporter for the school newspaper and I anchored and produced the newcast for OSU. I enjoy talking with people and I enjoy communications, so journalism is a profession that piqued my interest at an early age.

Sharita: When did you first find out that recruiting was a profession or a career option?

Stacy: The first time I learned about executive search and recruiting was when I was at Oklahoma State University and working for the school newspaper. The editor of our paper sent me to cover a story because OSU was getting a new president. The college hired a search firm to find that president. I thought, “Well, this is intriguing. Why can’t we find our own president for the school? Why does the school need to hire a company to do it?”

The editor sent me to interview the dean who was in charge of the search committee and ask him some questions about the search process. What I learned that day fascinated me and planted a seed in my mind about the search profession.

Sharita: But you didn’t start working as a recruiter until after you graduated, is that correct?

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. And the decision I made to enter the profession was a big one. It was one of the turning points in my career and in my life.

Early in my career I was working in a communications division of a Fortune 500 working late hours and weekends. As a result, I began to consider looking for a new position. One of the positions I applied for was in the recruiting profession. My sister in law had previously been a search consultant and my husband worked for a Big 6 Public Accounting firm at the time and he was constantly getting calls from search consultants or what he would call them “headhunters”. The industry fascinated me and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to use my communications skills and training. I also had another good job opportunity at the time but decided I wanted to work in executive search and recruiting.

So I received a job offer from both the large international search firm and another organization related to communications and advertising.

Sharita: We’ve talked before about how candidates can receive multiple job offers. And you found yourself in the same situation at one time.

Stacy: I did! And as we’ve discussed, it’s a good position to be in. That’s because you have more than one option. In my case, though, I wasn’t exactly viewing it as a good thing. The fact of the matter was that I was torn.

Sharita: Why were you torn?

Stacy: I didn’t know much about executive search. All that I knew about it was what I found out writing an article for my school newspaper. I certainly had no actual experience in search and recruiting.

The other offer, on the other hand, was a more comfortable option. I had a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and I had plenty of experience in the field. The other position was more closely related to work I had done in the past. However, I had no doubt that I could do the work necessary for the position. I am a hard worker and I knew I would enjoy it..

Sharita: What were some of the other things that you were considering when making this decision?

Stacy: From a financial standpoint, there was risk involved with the decision. The base salary for the search position was much lower than the other position I was offered. The prospect of that certainly made me feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, I also knew that there was an opportunity there, to both make a bigger impact on a larger scale than the other position I was offered.

Sharita: So ultimately, how did you make your decision?

Stacy: I did what I tell my candidates to do. I wrote everything down on paper; all the pros and cons. I consulted with people in my life who I trust and I went with my gut. I knew it was the right decision and it was. I’m 20 years into the executive search and recruiting profession and I’ve never looked back or regretted my decision.

Sharita: That was certainly a decision that impacted your life.

Stacy: It absolutely was. Up to that point, I had amassed quite a few goals for my life, both personally and professionally:

I wanted to do something that would positively impact people’s lives.

I wanted to have my own business eventually and my career path in search and recruiting allowed me to do that.

I didn’t know it at the time, but with the decision I made to accept the position with the search firm, all of those things had been set in motion.

Sharita: I imagine that was one of many big decisions that you’ve faced during your career, is that right?

Stacy: That’s right. That was one of the big decisions of my career, but it certainly wasn’t my last. In fact, there were two more that helped to shape my professional life and brought me to where I am today.

Sharita: What was the next big decision?

Stacy: When I was hired as a recruiter, I was asked to work in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry. I worked specifically with food and beverage companies placing sales and marketing executives. While working in this niche, I was getting job orders from cosmetic companies, food and beverage companies, pet food companies, etc. I was even working on assignments outside of consumer packaged goods including with, fiber optic companies, television companies, and medical facilities and hospitals. I even placed a CPA with a public accounting firm once.

I was okay with this arrangement. I decided that I didn’t need to specialize in a particular niche, that I could fill every job that came along. The running joke in my office was that I worked the “potpouri desk.” Stacy will fill any position and I worked hard at it.

My manager kept telling me that I needed to specialize in one niche area. One week, I would place a nurse in a human hospital and the next week I would place a producer for a television. Then I would place a food scientist, a marketing director, and a sales representative. I was spread so thin that I finally came to the conclusion that working across so many industries was not sustainable. It was extremely difficult to juggle and manage candidates and clients across many different industries. My manager was right: I needed to specialize in a niche area. I just didn’t know which one.

Sharita: So what finally pushed you in the right direction?

I was attending a regional meeting, and while I was there, I was introduced to a search consultant that in his former life was a VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods company. While at the regional meeting, the recruiter handed me a resume of somebody working in the pet foindustry. So I marketed the candidate to various companies, and I was able to land a client who was a Fortune 50 company who hired me to fill a Head of Sales position for their companie’s Pet Specialty Business.

For some reason, I was especially drawn to that area. I began getting other job orders and making more placements with other pet food companies. One of those pet food companies hired me to fill an executive leadership role for them that required the person to be a veterinarian. I then landed a contract with an Animal Health Pharmaceutical company to place Professonal Services Veterinarians, Sales reps, Research and Development Professionals and Regulatory Professonals. Then I landed a national contract with a corporation that was putting veterinary clinics in pet stores throughout the southeast US and I landed another client who was putting veterinary clinics in pet stores on the West Coast. Those two companies merged and became one of the largest employers of veterinarians in the world. As I made more and more placements in the Animal Health, Veterinary and Pet Industry, I became convinced that I should specialize in the Animal Science. However, there was a big problem with that decision.

Sharita: What was that?

Stacy: The problem was that my employer did not want me to specialize in this area. In fact, one of the regional trainers strongly discouraged me from doing so. She thought that I should work in the cosmetics industry instead, since I had received a few job orders in that space early in my career.

However, I did not want to specialize in cosmetics. Instead, after I continued to build my desk in the Animal Health, Veterinary and Pet Products Industries.. I knew it was something I could become passionate about. And as it turned out, that’s exactly what happened! I am very passionate about what I do in the Animal Science, Animal Health, Veterinary and Pet Products industries.

Sharita: There was yet another big decision that you had to make later in your career, is that correct?

Stacy: That’s right. As I stated earlier, I wanted to have my own business so I decided to venture out on my own. I wanted to be able to provide my clients and candidates better service and having a goal to have my own business, I started The VET Recruiter which is a boutique search firm that specializes in the Animal Health, Veterinary and Pet Products Industries.

Sharita: Stacy, what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned that you can share with everybody today?

Stacy: First of all, don’t let fear rule your decisions. If you let fear rule your decisions, then you won’t take risks. And if you don’t take risks, then you can’t reap the rewards that come with those risks. Like the risk I took with my first recruiting position. And also the risks I took with working in the Animal Health and Veterinary industry and starting my own boutique search and recruiting firm.

Second, be willing to outwork the competition. I have a favorite quote by actor Will Smith. He said, “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period.” That’s the kind of attitude you must have it you want to be successful. I know there are probably some people who think that I work TOO hard, but there’s no doubt that my work ethic has played a big role in my success.

Third, you can’t be content with the status quo. The status quo is NOT your friend. The unfortunate thing is that many people are okay with it. In fact, they gravitate toward it, and their allegiance to it affects their decisions. It’s almost impossible to grow if you’re content with the status quo. And if you also let fear dictate your decision-making process, that makes it even more difficult to reach your goals and achieve them.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for sharing your story today. This was a great podcast!

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next one!