What I've Learnt: Liz Hopkins, Board Director at Better Placed

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by Charlie Spargo
Liz Hopkins

Liz Hopkins is Board Director at Better Placed. From their London office, she focuses on placing only the best candidates in middle to senior marketing roles across the region.

She came from a professional marketing background before entering recruitment as part of the team at Michael Page Marketing. She moved to Better Placed, bringing her passion for transparency, hands-on work and great service. In this week's What I've Learnt, she shared the lessons from a successful career within and in contact with a wide range of industries.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Having a hug and a kiss with my daughter before I leave the house. It doesn’t fail to put a smile on my face and remind me of what’s really important in life.

What's been your luckiest break?

I honestly wouldn’t say that I have been lucky enough to have a lucky break - I’ve had to work hard for everything that has come to me. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people that tends to be in the right place at the right time!

What's your best failure?

One of the biggest personal or career learning journeys I had to go on when I was younger was to get a lot better at realising the impact of my mood and energy levels on those around me, and also realising that maybe the world didn’t revolve around me!

Many moons ago when I was a consultant in my previous business, my team manager was moved to a different role in the organisation and I had hoped I would be given the chance to replace him. However, the decision was made to give someone else the job - mainly on the basis that I needed to work on being a lot more consistent and positive and bringing my game face to the office instead of reacting to every high and low that inevitably comes along the way in recruitment.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me as it made me really self-reflect and work hard on these points and it has made me a much better manager for it. When I tell people now that this was a huge weakness in the past they tend to be shocked, which is the best testament to showing how well I have overcome it.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

In recruitment, having consultants working for you who are motivated to do a good job and trust and buy into you personally can often be the defining line between success or failure of your team. Holding onto good talent and really getting the best out of them when they are constantly being headhunted by the competition, and working in a job with such huge highs and crushing lows, can be a challenge in itself.

I always do my best to invest lots of time in my team and really get to know them, how they work, what matters to them, how best to communicate with them, and what’s going on in their outside life - because if you treat everyone the same and assume everyone thinks, behaves and learns the way you do, then you are doing them a disservice in helping them be the best that they can be. Supporting people emotionally is just as important as helping them to be technically successful at what they do. I definitely devote a lot of time to supporting these needs and reap the rewards back when the team know that I will always do as much for them as I hope they will do for me.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

I think it’s as good as it possibly can be. I have always enjoyed working and progressing my career, and it was important to me to still keep this after having my daughter, but at the same time make concessions that would allow me to be a Mummy who got to spend time with her child every day - not only getting home after bedtime, which would have been the case if I was still working my pre-child hours!

I’m really lucky to work for a business that respects parents' needs for flexibility so that they can work from home, or have different hours to allow the chance to be on the school run, at sports day, and so on, when they need to be.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

If I’m honest, I purely read for escapism rather than anything work-, self help-related, or heavy and serious, which it would be helpful for this question if I did! If you enjoy thriller novels though, then ‘I am Pilgrim’ is a must-read!

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Be more careful in making career decisions as it’s very easy to be pigeonholed into something that isn’t 100% you.

I graduated with a Marketing degree from university with the sole focus of getting a grad role in a blue chip organisation - regardless of whether it was a role and business I was passionate about. The role I took was in a category I had no interest in and the job was market research-biased - which if you know me, you would know that’s not very ‘me’ at all! When I came to look for my next job and wanted to get into brand marketing, I was discounted from so many opportunities for not having had that experience already.

Another thing linked to this would also be to not rush into starting your career. If I was graduating now, then I would definitely take a gap year and go travelling and take time to think about what I really wanted to do.  

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

I think the people you work for early on in your career can have a huge impact on your success and the enjoyment of your job. I was really lucky that in my first job in recruitment, I not only had a fantastic and inspiring manager and director that I worked for, but they were both women and it made me really start to see what and who I could aspire to be.

There are a lot of recruiters who - rightly - get a bad name for being salesy and transactional. My first manager was super consultative with her clients and candidates, honest, always positive and happy, and unsurprisingly, very successful. She taught me so many basic things I still do today, and teach others who work for me to do as well. They have firmly been the foundation of my success.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

This is one of those times that I realise that I’m obviously a lot more boring than I think I am! I don’t have any huge surprise revelations or secret talents I’m afraid. I feel it should be a 2019 New Years resolution to create one for the next time I’m asked!

What does success look like to you?

Being the best you can be, and doing something you enjoy. My parents were always very clear in one message to me growing up, and that was that you can only ever try the best you can and as long as you can look in the mirror and say you have done that, then you should be proud, and no-one can ask any more of you than that. If you’re enthusiastic, you work hard and try hard, ask questions, aren’t afraid to fail (and get quickly back on the horse when you do!), then you’re on the right road to maximising your potential.  

If you'd like to suggest a senior creative figure to tell us what they've learnt in their career, please get in touch with Charlie Spargo.