How to get from Alberta to Vancouver (with a layover in New Delhi)

“What do you do for a living?”

It’s a familiar question – maybe the most familiar question – we encounter when meeting someone new. My default answer is “I’m a headhunter.” Most people know what I mean, and I think it sounds cool; it has a determined, assertive ring to it. Most recently, the question of what I do for a living came up at the Canada/U.S. Border. Unlike family and friends, the border guard didn’t take to the term “headhunter” so affably. In an unintentional way, maybe he wasn’t so far-off: headhunter sounds slick, but what is it that I really do? Why do I do it? It’s a long story. Let’s start with how I got here, at Clarity Recruitment, in the first place.

My career began before it actually began. I was ‘going nowhere fast,’ as the saying goes. At 21 years old, I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, working as a debt collector in a call centre. It was exactly as rough as you’d imagine, but for someone with no post-secondary education and no desire to go work in the oil patch, it was one of the best-paying jobs around. On some nondescript and dreary winter morning I was hanging out with my friend/guardian angel David when he said, “You know what you would be good at?” and proceeded to describe a research analyst role with Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG). He knew of the American investment research firm because another friend of his was one of the big wigs with this organization at their New Delhi office. For a small-town Alberta boy who had never been anywhere or done anything of note, it sounded like the sort of fantastical opportunity so far removed from my own reality that all I could do was say “that sounds cool,” and forget about it. Fortunately for me, David isn’t the sort of person to brush off this kind of thing, so two days later I was on a video interview with a person at GLG. Seven days after that, I was on a plane for New Delhi.

In India, I found myself working alongside a cohort of locals and expats who were all incredibly bright and well educated – Ivy Leaguers and the like. How did I become the least qualified hire in the history of a $500 million, industry leading organization? I have a knack for gathering amazing people around me – it’s always been one of my greatest talents, to recognize brilliance in others and bring them into my circle. If, as some people assert, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around, I’ve got the winning formula.

Even so, I was surrounded by MBA students and enterprising grads. And I was Shane: one of 70 graduates of a small high school in southern Alberta. I did well; I had to. My role was to recruit relevant industry experts, either on behalf of current clients, or proactively for future needs. As a pet project, I started to recruit nobel laureates, going so far as to snare the inventor of the MRI machine. I was recruiting people, yet I didn’t suspect I’d ever become a recruiter.

I did lots of other cool things in India: rode some elephants, got a girlfriend (human, not elephant), saw the Dalai Lama at his home, came down with Typhoid fever, lost a girlfriend… the usual stuff. India’s most profound impact on me, though, was to set me on the path I still follow today. I left India after a year, heading first back to Edmonton to start university; then to Dubai for a student conference where, incidentally, I met my wife; and to the University of Toronto, where I received my honours degree.

My then-girlfriend and I relocated to Toronto (she’s from Vancouver), knowing nobody and with little money. Still in school, I took a role working with a company called Millennium Research Group (since purchased and now ‘Decision Resources Group’) as a data gatherer of sorts. The company’s focus was on providing information and insights on the medical technology sector to help companies with competitive positioning, opportunity assessment, market sizing, etc. With my GLG experience (I had worked on their healthcare and biomedical research team) it seemed like a good fit. I worked the night shift (approx. 2 a.m. to 9 a.m.) calling European hospitals to ask them stuff like, “How many colostomy bags did you use this month and what type were they?”

When I graduated university, I moved in to a full time analyst role with the company on their dental and aesthetics team, where I was now in a position to research and author the market reports (current state and forecasted) on such riveting topics as European Markets for Dental Implants or Global Markets for Bone Cement. Half the role comprised primary and secondary research, and the other half modeling and writing – heavy Excel work, basically. It was in this role that I figured out that I am not a quant, as that second half of the job was really hard for me – doable, but not enjoyable. One day, a recruiter called me because they found my LinkedIn profile and thought it was unique; they asked me what I actually did. I told them, and they said, “That first 50 percent is basically what recruitment is. Would you be interested in doing that 100 per cent of the time?”

The answer was a no-brainer, and the fit was better than I could have imagined. A lot of recruitment goes by gut feel, but it shouldn’t; at Clarity, it doesn’t. When we opened up the Vancouver office of Clarity, the years of data analysis suddenly came together. My knack for identifying greatness in others met with my hard-earned talent for market research and number crunching, turning me into the analyst/psychologist/coach/consultant/researcher hybrid that we call a ‘recruiter.’ This path of mine has created the perfect Shane to help bring science to recruiting.

So here I am, five years after I said ‘yes’ to that recruiter, and I’m telling border guards I’m a headhunter.

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavour to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.

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