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EmploymentHuman ResourcesRecruitment

Does the Early Bird Really Catch the Worm?

Fire up the time machine, rewind four years and you will find an alternative version of me out and about applying for her first recruitment role (younger, enthusiastic-er and with significantly worse hair). Coming from an Insurance background, my experience of full time work was compliance-based, legislation-driven and pretty much work-by-numbers. You arrive at this time, work until that time, take a lunch break of precisely 60 minutes, then knock off at this time. Every day. Highly administrative in its function, routine came naturally, work fell into a comfortable, predictable pattern and aside from the odd cross customer or curly underwriting query, things were, well, the same. Every day.

Recruitment wasn’t a job option I’d even heard of, let alone considered, before making the move to Auckland. If anyone had told me you could walk in off the street, unqualified but eager and land a job at virtually any agency in the city, I would have laughed so hard I farted. I thought you would need an HR degree for anything even remotely in that realm. Then I met the wonderful Mr. Jonathan Rice, and he told me almost precisely that. Thankfully, I managed to hold in both the laughs and the farts.

I also landed my first role in Recruitment as a result of that meeting, and underwent an all-guns-blazing initiation to the craft that left me with no doubt whatsoever that this world was vastly, wildly different to that of Insurance.

“Recruitment is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.” That mantra was oft-repeated throughout my first year, and so eager was I to prove myself as a truly consultative consultant that I took it on board and wore it as a badge of honour. I worked long hours, cold called myself hoarse; wielded my faux leather compendium with pride and diligently plugged everything into the CRM. (Perhaps too diligently – while meticulous record-keeping was a point of pride in insurance, in recruitment it was deemed over-administration and an “area for improvement”. Go figure.) I sent emails at ungodly hours of the night, chased ads when others were watching TV (sorry), hunted for candidates in the dead of the night and never, ever turned my phone off over the weekend.

But you know what I didn’t do? Despite being asked to over, and over, and over again?

Start early.

I just couldn’t do it. I have never, ever, not once in my whole entire life been able to get my shit together in the morning. I’m lousy pre-9AM. It came with puberty and never left. Most teenagers quit being teenagers at some point, but honestly, if you turned to me right now and gave me permission to sleep in until 10AM every day, I would be gleeful. I hate mornings. And as a recruitment newbie, marketing to sales leaders in the Building & Construction industry, that was a constant, glaring sore spot. “Recruitment’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle” – in other words, GET YOUR ASS UP AND CALL PEOPLE!

I resisted, persisted and insisted that I could be successful without hitting the phones pre-8AM, and for the most part I was. I certainly did better in my first year than most recruitment newbies (I now know). But the pressure never eased, and the whole “get up early” thing isn’t unique to that one agency, or even recruitment. There are scores of articles and research papers that sing the praises of an early start, with Richard Branson perhaps most notably making it harder for all us late-risers to argue our case when he came out with his daily routine, featuring – of course – a 5AM start.

“I have always been an early riser. Like keeping a positive outlook, or keeping fit, waking up early is a habit, which you must work on to maintain. Over my 50 years in business I have learned that if I rise early I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore life.”

And he’s not the only one. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey along with many, many others pride themselves on waking at ungodly hours and starting their day while many of us are still deep in the land of nod. But most also say they always been early risers, which surely makes it easier for them? Oxford University biologist Katharina Wulff, who studies chronobiology and sleep, says you shouldn’t try to be a morning person. “If people are left to their naturally preferred times, they feel much better. They say that they are more productive.” YES. ME.

BUT, numerous studies have found that morning people are more persistent, self-directed and agreeable. They set higher goals for themselves, plan the future more and have a better sense of well-being; all of which sounds pretty darn attractive for anyone striving for success, right?

So, with no further ado, this blog finally reaches some semblance of a point: I am going to quit being such a teenager about it and get up early for a while. Between now and my next turn on the Whiteboard (in three weeks), I shall rise at 5AM every weekday, and put this damn theory to the test.

Will I be more goal-oriented? Successful? Healthier? Better?

We’ll see.

And in the meantime, I would love to know your thoughts on the matter. Does the early bird really catch the worm? Is it worth throwing my circadian rhythm out of sync for three weeks to try it? Are you an early or late riser yourself, and do you think it’s impacted your life significantly either way? (Does anyone care?!)

Natasha Foster

Recruitment Consultant at New Zealand firm Rice Consulting, shaking things up in the HR world. Photographer on the side, Te Reo student, rock climber and learner surfer. Most happy off the grid.

One Comment

  • Ben says:

    Wow! Nice to know I am not the only one. I am a recruiter of almost 15 years and definitely not a morning person. A week ago I made a point to start waking up earlier for the same reasons you mentioned in your article. The universe was telling me it was the only way to be more productive and I obliged. Yes, I’ve been successful, but have always felt that there is more I can do. I didn’t jump all the way back to 5am, let’s be realistic. 6:30am is hard enough, but I have kept it up for a week straight! It has already made a positive impact on my work and personal life. Life no longer feels chaotic. Instead I am more focused, productive and no longer have anxiety at the end of the day about whether or not I got enough done. My wife ordered a book from Amazon called “Make sh*t happen!” Something about this simple read was enough to finally light the fire I needed. I also downloaded an app called “don’t break the chain”. Simply put, You track your goal on a calendar and try not to break the chain, in order to create the positive habit. I know I probably sound like a paid Yelp reviewer, lol, but I am not. I am real person and I am just sharing the tools that worked for me. From one snoozer to another, thank you for sharing your story. Good luck turning into a rooster!