Interview with Lauren Harris, head of X4 Life Sciences

Lauren has over 8 years’ experience at the X4 Group where she has led and helped develop a team of consultants under the X4 Life Sciences brand.

1. How did you get into recruitment? 

After I finished university, I stayed in Durham to work on a number of summer schools supporting A-level students in their applications to Durham University as well as outreach programmes to younger students to help them make informed higher education choices. After the summer schools were complete, I moved down to London and started at X4 Group.

2.What attracted you to the industry?

Until my final year at university, I still had no real idea what I wanted to do as a career. I had a good degree where I felt I was technically qualified to apply for multiple industries including HR and Finance but when I saw the earning potential in recruitment and compared to these markets, it was an easy decision to make. I was motivated to work hard and liked the fact this was rewarded faster than other roles.

3.How long did it take to get to where you are now?

I was part of the first X4 Group hires back in 2011, I was promoted in my 5th month and as the company grew, I grew into a senior position and then a principal team leader role. Within 4 ½ years, I became the Head of Life Sciences

4.What’s it like heading up X4 Life Sciences?

At present, I have 24 people reporting to me, I am incredibly fortunate working with the talented people I do. My team leaders are highly driven, intelligent individuals growing successful teams and we are supported massively by experienced directors who are always available to offer support and advice.

Management comes with its own set of challenges compared to a billing role but we all have the same goal so my role is about establishing how we all get there.

5.What have been your biggest challenges?

I can’t say that this job hasn’t challenge me, when I first moved to London, I moved into a 1 bed flat in a small town I had never been to. It took 5 weeks for my bed to be delivered so I was sleeping in an air bed on the floor with next to no other furniture and I was leaving at 6.50am and regularly got home at 9pm at night during the week. Then, I had a whole new job to learn in a target driven environment so it was tough. Giving up has never been an option though, I knew I would not have another opportunity like this so I made myself work.  I was obsessed with my market and knowing everything I could about it. My competitive side meant I wanted to be better than the competition and I worked hard each day to achieve it.

I have had so much fun along the way. As the company grew I ended up moving in with two other X4 recruiters and being based in London made a huge difference to my work/life balance. The pressure to succeed and be the best has never passed but the job gets easier. You learn what you need to do and there is no job like this one when it’s going well.

6.What do you enjoy most about your job?

When I was recruiter, I enjoyed being the best recruiter in the highly competitive market I worked in. I love how my future progression and success is based on me and my achievements, the directors set clear targets to aim for and it’s in your power to hit them.

7. How do you motivate your team?

I hope I motivate my team by leading by example, I believe you are the standard which you set people to work by. My expectations are based on expectations I had of myself. I always aim to be available to discuss any issue and if ever I am asked for support I will make time to give it.

8.What makes a great leader?

There are many factors which make a great leader. I have learnt that the title of manager does not make you a leader, they are not one and the same. You need to lead by example and also share with your team what you want to achieve so they know what we are striving towards.

9. What has been your biggest lesson? What advice would you give to yourself back as a trainee?

I would give myself the hot list of candidates over 4 years so I could fill my roles easier! In honesty though, I have learnt a lot about recruitment and about management, so the lessons are endless but I think the one most useful to anyone looking at a career in recruitment is coping with pressure.

You can’t take away the pressure in recruitment, there are targets to hit and you have to work fast to beat the competition, but its learning about managing that. For me it was about perspective, similar to the concept if you look on nerves positively then its excitement but negatively and its stress.

Creating time to ensure I looked after myself, whether that’s exercise or time away from looking at emails or social media has been fundamental to my success. I always ensure I have at least 30 minutes in the evening “offline “so I have more energy to at work the next day.

10.Female leadership around the world remains unbalanced, with women accounting for less than a quarter of management positions globally. What do you feel can be done in the recruitment industry to help combat the gender gap and move our workforce toward greater leadership balance?

In terms of women in the recruitment industry, we are lucky as sales is a level playing field, from the recruiters I know, gender does not play a role in who is successful. But as a group we can do more to support each other, we need to lead by example and be aware that we can be our own destruction if we aren’t supporting the change we want.

In the wider world, recruitment has the expertise to support change, we are women who have jumped into a male dominated environment and fought for our place, so we can be a voice to those who need it and we can also support those looking to return to work by advising them in whatever they need to progress.