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Game, set and match Keeley!

Game, set and match Keeley!


01 Jan, 2018

Josh Keeley, 26, is something of a recruitment industry superstar. Having joined recruitment company Huntress Search Ltd in June 2016 as a consultant, the ex-Royal Marine has already been promoted four times and now manages an entire department. Undoubtedly one of the company’s biggest hitters, he tells us how he aced his resettlement!

In uniform

Having enlisted at the start of 2010, Josh spent six years as a Royal Marine in 40 Commando RM, specialising in Heavy Weapons (Mortars). ‘I had a fantastic experience during my time in the Corps and I would highly recommend people to join. The life skills, friends you make and experiences are like no other and will stay with you for the rest of your life.’

Education-wise, as well as the wide range of driver licences, First Aid at Work and Mortars HW3 and Driver D2 qualifications he got under his belt while serving, already with an eye to his future he made sure he registered for ELC. ‘The education officers within the Royal Marines and especially at 40 Commando RM were very helpful,’ he says. ‘They would book in time slots during our resettlement to sit down and talk us through our options, give us advice on particular courses and help with the transition to civvy street.’

Qualified success

Josh has racked up an impressive array of telecoms qualifications using his ELC funding (listed in the accompanying box). And, although his working life has since taken a completely different direction, his enthusiasm for ELC has not and he has his sights set on a business management course in the near future. He says, ‘I would advise all Service leavers to make the most of ELC, especially during their 12-month notice period. You will never have more spare time on your hands than in resettlement.’

Josh used his ELC towards …

  • Level 3 BTEC Advanced Award in Managing PONs and Air Blown Fibre Systems
  • Level 3 BTEC Advanced Award in Access Networks
  • C&G 6157-01 Unit 002 Signing, Lighting and Guarding
  • C&G 3667-02 Unit 101 Basic Principles of Communications Cabling
  • C&G 3667-02 Unit 102 Fibre Optic Cabling in an Internal Environment
  • C&G 3667-02 Unit 103 Fibre Optic Cabling in an External Environment
  • C&G 3667-02 Unit 104 Copper Cabling in an Internal Environment

Moving on

Despite enjoying his time in uniform, Josh decided it was time to leave and began his resettlement in 2015, attending his CTW at RAF Northolt. ‘The workshop was extremely useful,’ he says. ‘It allowed me to engage with all ranks from across the three Services, and listen to their experiences and the way they were looking at approaching the civilian job market.

‘I also signed up to the Institute of Telecoms Professionals, which allowed me to attend networking courses. These were very helpful and I would recommend all Service leavers to attend as many networking events, relevant to your potential industry, as possible. I have recently attended JP Morgan’s and Barclays’ military engagement programmes.’

Starting out in telecoms

Initially, his interest lay in IT and telecoms: ‘I signed up for the CTTS Fibre Optic and Network Engineering course in Lincoln. I had ex-colleagues who had previously been on the course and it came highly recommended. I had no prior experience within the telecoms/fibre-optic industry, but the course was very well run. The make-up was 90% Service leavers, which really helps when you are all going through the same transition. Also it was a mixed-ranked course, which again helped a lot, as the junior guys leaving could draw from the life experiences of more senior personnel. It’s also worth noting that all the instructors were ex-military, meaning they were empathetic towards our situations.

‘The course was a mixture of academic (BTEC) and vocational, as this helps you find a job you’re more likely to enjoy and remain in. There were weekly tests to pass certain modules, and sharing the same accommodation allowed us to come together and draw on our collective strengths and weaknesses when revising. There was a fair amount of practical hands-on workshop training as well, with fantastic facilities. However, the course certainly isn’t easy, and it requires dedication and revision to pass the exams.

‘We also got exposure to employers and CTTS has an in-house recruiter who really helps with potential job openings. You are put in touch with employers who have a military intake programme, such as Huntress Search Ltd.’ Indeed, on leaving the Services, Josh first found work as an IT network engineer.

‘I acted as a field engineer around London,’ he says. ‘However, there was a lot of travelling required and I would often find myself in Torquay, Liverpool and all over the place. The transition was too difficult – going from being around 30 of your closest friends daily to being on your own in a van for hours on end was too big a contrast. I left after four months.’

Finding his niche in recruitment

Unhappy in his field engineer role, Josh got talking to a family friend who was an employee at London-based recruitment consultancy, Huntress Search Ltd. ‘She explained that the company was looking to employ Associate Consultants within the IT team and I decided to go for it! Having a technical background has really helped when speaking to both candidates and clients, and I soon found myself at Senior Consultant level of Huntress’s career pathway.

‘I have been working for Huntress since February 2016 and have been promoted four times. In September 2017, I was appointed recruitment manager of Blackthorn Trace – a new brand that operates under the Huntress group of companies – specialising in cyber security and cloud computing. I currently manage a team of three consultants. Having started working at Huntress as an entry-level recruiter, I managed to work my way up pretty quickly to a Principal Consultant role, following which I was given the opportunity to lead Blackthorn Trace.

‘Being a recruiter at Huntress gives you a really varied working environment. One day you can be out of the office all day on client meetings, the next you can be at one of London’s top law firms hosting an employment law seminar. We are well rewarded for hard work, showing integrity and being successful. I have won a few of the quarterly business incentives, including a trip to Amsterdam and a few days out in London. I love the fact that, when I joined Huntress, senior management made it very clear that we have a meritocratic culture: your career path is determined by you and no one else at the company. That’s why I believe ex-military personnel make for such great recruiters. You are rewarded for your hard work and successes.

‘It doesn’t come easy though. Don’t be surprised to find yourself working at 9 o’clock on a Sunday night to arrange interviews for the Monday morning. But the look on candidates’ faces when you tell them they have a new job they dreamed of makes it all worthwhile.’

The day job

‘My role is very much like a Section Commander in the military. I have a team of four consultants who I am responsible for on a daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly basis (including performance and appraisals). I am also a billing manager, which means that I still work a 360-degree recruitment job (the full recruitment process from sourcing to placement), servicing both candidates and clients.

‘Recruitment is a very demanding job. We work long hours, and must be well organised and have strong core values. Huntress rewards its people and that is something I have brought over to my team too. We go on days and evenings out, enjoy trips abroad (Amsterdam, Paris, etc.) and have a fantastic time trying out all sorts of new experiences, like climbing the O2 or going to Nobu for dinner!

‘For anyone looking to get into recruitment, I would advise that you make sure you find the right team. It’s a very competitive industry, but if you are good at sales and have a genuine persona you won’t be short of offers from agencies. That’s why finding the right team fit is so important – you will spend a lot of time with those guys, lots of ups and downs. You also need the right company, with an environment that supports your career goals. Too often you find recruiters’ CVs with no stability – quite ironic when we are meant to be career experts!’

Josh on his job …
‘My team and I always plan our days the evening before, according to the balance of our business. Your desk is treated as your own business and you prioritise things however you feel necessary. For example, when I have a high volume of jobs to fill I will adjust my day to ensure I have enough time to resource and speak to/meet suitable candidates.’

‘I would be lying if I didn’t say recruitment is hard work.’

‘I am motivated by personal and professional goals – we all need a reason to get out of bed early and leave the office later than others. My personal goal at present is to save enough money to move from my flat to a house and relocate closer to London.’

‘Knowing there are other consultants in other agencies potentially working on the same vacancies, I need to work harder and smarter to beat the competition. If you have an innate need to win, you will succeed in recruitment.’

‘Recruitment isn’t like most other jobs. You need to be flexible and adaptable to understand there are many factors out of your control. For example, you might have a job offer for a candidate who has three other offers – how do you show the candidate that your offer is the best suited to them, while providing a great service to your client?’

‘You will make mistakes, but more importantly, you have to learn from them quickly otherwise you won’t be in recruitment for very long.’

Transferable skills

In terms of the training or experience gained during his Service career that he’s now finding useful in civilian life, Josh cites: ‘Mainly the core values that are instilled in us from our basic training – courage, determination, cheerfulness and unselfishness. If you keep your discipline and hard work going into civvy street, that gives you a real edge, and it’s the reason you see so many ex-military people in senior positions for some of the world’s top organisations.’

As for the skills and aptitudes picked up in uniform and transferable to civilian life, there are plenty of positives there too: ‘In particular, our ability to manage difficult tasks in stressful situations. In recruitment, there are a lot of external factors you can’t control, like a candidate not turning up to an interview or a client no longer wanting to hire for a particular vacancy you’ve been working on. Being able to stay calm under pressure while coming up with a solution is a great asset to have in recruitment. It makes you an indispensable member of the team; someone your teammates can rely on for help when things don’t go according to plan.

‘It also takes a lot of resilience to work in a sales role. You need to be able to take rejection and brush it off quite quickly so as not to affect team morale – also a great deal may be just around the corner so you need to keep going and not give up.’

If there are any downsides to leaving, they are largely to do with the fact that, says Josh, ‘you will never find the bond you had with your friends in the military elsewhere. The situations you find yourself in create these bonds. You don’t get as much downtime in civvy street, and being young in the military you are somewhat looked after from a welfare point of view. If you run out of money, you can still eat and sleep under a roof. Nobody looks after you when you leave, you must grow up fast and take responsibility for your own actions. Also you must learn to be politically correct very quickly – they have HR teams in civvy street!

‘One of the best things about the military is the amazing experiences and places you go to – and get paid for it. You have to create these opportunities for yourself in the corporate world’ … However, ‘you are home every night and your time is your own. You can take annual leave when it suits your lifestyle and for as long as you like. I personally believe that civvy street offers more opportunities to take whatever career path you choose, and there truly are no limits to what you can achieve.’

Sound advice

‘If I could do my resettlement all over again,’ says Josh, ‘I would have attended more networking events. I would have thought very long and hard about the sector/job role to go into, and not just followed what my colleagues had previously done. I would have done more research, research, research!

‘I can’t stress enough the importance of asking questions and doing your research. Reach out to senior managers/directors in top organisations in the UK who are ex-military. You will be very surprised by how willing they are to help you – the more senior they are, the more likely they are to help! Second, I would look at organisations that have military engagement programmes, such as BT and the top banks. This is all part of their corporate social responsibility and they hold frequent events, so put yourself out there.’

Get in touch with Josh

Josh has kindly said that he would be very happy to answer any questions you may have: ‘please just drop me an email and we can arrange a time to speak’ –
Visit Huntress Search Ltd’s website here:

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