The meetings all went the same way. I would meet with a recruiter, who would then want me to take them through my CV (or resume for you US folk), from my first job all the way to the most current, detail by detail. And there was always confusion about job titles, as some of my position titles from the US actually mean something slightly different in the UK. They would offer advice on what I should list for some job title on my CV to correspond with my actual job requirements, which would inevitably lead to an awkward conversation at the next recruiter’s office, as they would still be confused and give completely different advice about the job titles. Over the course of a few meetings, my CV underwent a series of edits: Director of Operations, to Multi-Unit Manger, to Cluster Manger, back to Multi-Unit Manager.
The recruiters would then offer some calming advice, saying things like, “I just want you to be happy” and “We want to place you in a role that works for you.” I would then do my monologue about my career in restaurants, how I did not want to stay on the same path, but do something other than day-to-day management within a restaurant group, something that would provide more stability to my private life. Julie and I had been living together and working completely opposite schedules for ten years. I wanted to spend more time with her, to feel like a normal couple that actually saw each other more than one or two nights a week. Too often in NYC, I would arrive home at 2 or 3am to a sleeping home, and would awake in the morning, to find she had already left for work. We sometimes went days without an actual conversation in person with each other. I wanted our lives in London to be different. I wanted to take advantage of our time in London and not have regrets over the things we didn’t do there because I was at work.
After concluding my speech and getting off my pedestal, the recruiter would realize I was not an easy sell. Even though I had acknowledged my desires in my cover letter, no recruiter bothered to read that piece of paper, so this was the first time they knew my goals and desires. After a few seconds of thought, they would come up with some positions that they thought would fit me perfectly. “Well, I have a great GM position available at a hot, new restaurant. Good pay!” Ah, did they not just listen to what I had told them? Without fail, every recruiter would recommend me for a GM job or send me off to meet with a group that really just wanted a new GM. Obviously, the recruiters could not have cared less about “me being happy” or “finding the perfect fit.” I asked about HR roles, or a training role, which were swiftly denied. “Companies will only hire people with London experience in those positions.” Eventually, I realized that the recruiters just want to plug someone in a role and get paid as quickly as possible for the job placement. Recruiters were not my friends.
I initially played along, going to meetings and doing rounds of interviews, just for the prospect of developing a small network in my new city. I also tried to circumnavigate the recruiting process, but most of the restaurant groups large enough to have a head office solely used recruiters to fill positions. After about five months of taking meetings with recruiters and trying to make my dream position in a restaurant group possible, I decided to pull the plug. It was time for something different.