Speaker Insight Series - Paul Smyth

Managing Director of Top Tier Recruitment

Paul joins our panel covering how to recruit and retain talent - a real hot topic at the moment. You can read Paul's thoughts in the eighth post of our 2019 Speaker Insight Series. We’ve borrowed the format from Tim Ferriss’s book ‘Tribe of Mentors’. You can read about the book here and buy it directly here.

Throughout the book, Tim poses 11 questions to his interviewees with the request to respond to 3 to 5 questions.. or more, if the spirit moves them. See Paul's answers below:

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

It's hard to go past the classic, 'First, Break All The Rules - What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently,' by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman. The book was based on analysis and in-person interviews with more than 80,000 managers around the world and it was a game changer. Of the various concepts discussed in the book, the one that leaped out at me was the need to focus on people's strengths rather than constantly trying to fix their weaknesses. It's a much more intuitive and effective way to get the best out of people.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

Ever since we were interviewed on the excellent business podcast, 'Money Never Sleeps', I've been diving into the world of podcasts. So much so that we're even launching our own podcast soon on careers in the FinTech and Financial Services industry! There are so many fascinating people and ideas out there and podcasts are a great way to learn more about them. I used to listen on the standard ear buds that come with your mobile phone but a recent investment of a pair of noise-cancelling headphones has really boosted my enjoyment of podcasts. There's nothing fancy or extravagant about the headphones but it does allow me to fully absorb the new information and ideas that I'm hearing.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

Ever seen that comical meme that says: 'Life's too short to drink bad wine'? Well, my message would be similar except it would say: 'Life's too short to do work that you don't love.' I'm lucky in that I just love my job. I get to help people develop their careers and I get to help employers take their team up to the next level with outstanding people. If you're not enjoying what you do all do at work, either change it, or develop an action plan that eventually takes you where you want to be.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Nothing beats starting our recruitment business in the FinTech and Financial Services industry - it's such a fast-moving and fun place to be. It was a scary move to make back when I was in an enjoyable corporate role where I managed literally thousands of roles across EMEA but I've loved every minute. I think it is getting the chance to work with a range of clients from founders where every hire is important to global firms expanding operations in Dublin where I can use my corporate experience and perspective.

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

The harder your work, the luckier you get!

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Simple, it’s okay to make mistakes. People mess up all the time. If you are a start student, top of your class, excel in everything you have done to date, you will still make mistakes. What is really important is that you learn from your mistakes. A close second is to work with people who challenge you to be better. This means finding an environment where you can learn and grow and where you will be given guidance but also working alongside people who think differently to you and have different strengths. Ignore people telling you that you need to progress quickly. Focus on learning and mastering something before moving on and up. It may take a little longer in a buoyant jobs market like this but it will stand to you long term.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I see bad advice / recommendations all the time. Working in recruitment for so long and having worked with thousands of people looking for a new career or a change, particularly during the recession, you start to understand how influenced people are by others in their career decisions. Often, although becoming less important, making a career decision based purely on money, is up there as the most damaging pieces of advice that I see. Deciding to leave a company because you have, or you perceive that you have, been passed over for promotion rather than looking for constructive feedback is never a good idea. I always took a long term view when trying to advise people, even when I started out recruiting graduates. I figured that if I tried to help people find the right job for them, in the medium to long term, it would benefit both sides. I never saw the point in pushing someone into something that I knew wouldn’t work. The result has been that people I met who were quite junior at the start of their career, still trust me today regardless of whether I found them the ‘right’ job or not. This is the same approach I would recommend people take when making career decisions. Think long term (or at least medium term!).

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips

I used to find saying no really hard actually. I used to say yes to everything and find that I would be really busy but not actually achieving anything so end up working later and doing weekends regularly just to make sure my day to day was achieved. You quickly realise that getting your day to day tasks done does not give you any opportunity to focus on the big picture. Realising I needed time to think strategically and act on my medium to long term goals personally and professionally almost empowered me to say no. This was really hammered home when I set up Top Tier Recruitment. We work in an immensely competitive market where the day to day can really suck you in and be all consuming. Being really disciplined in how I manage my time and setting time aside for working on more strategic objectives made me realise I could not be all things to all people and has given me the time to think and as a direct consequence, has led to us working on a really exciting new recruitment product that we are close to launching later this year. I definitely would not have had the time to do this if I did not learn how to say no!

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Recruitment is a particularly difficult industry to plan in. We need to be able to react to our clients’ needs quickly which means your ‘To Do’ list can quickly change with shifting priorities. Working in this type of environment for so long, you learn to deal with moving goalposts and build in buffers to dampen the impact but when I do lose focus or get distracted I simply step away from the desk for 10 mins and grab a coffee or go for a walk. Stepping away gives me the time to reprioritise, sort my goals into tasks and find synergies between what can seem like competing priorities. This helps me to multitask better but also to see what needs to be done. Once I understand my priorities better, it is all about breaking it into small chunks and start working through them. I often find ticking one or two small items off the list helps get things back in order and seem less daunting and gives you a sense of progress which sparks more productivity!

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