How running a marathon is like building a career in recruitment sales

Posted by Victoria Williams  

"Hmm, a 42.2km run, that sounds ok. I’m sure I can do that distance. It doesn’t matter that I have only ran 17km before, and just because I can’t actually run it all without stopping I’m sure with a bit of hard work I can do it right? In all seriousness it’s can't be that big a deal, I mean I have seen what you have to go through to compete in Ironman and that's a far more gruelling schedule. A 42.2km run is like a walk in the park." These were the thoughts running through my head as I signed up for my first ever marathon 6 months ago.

So why am I rattling on about this? Well, as I was running the 42.2km marathon I thought about how the training that goes behind competing in a marathon reminded me of a very important life lesson. A lesson that I feel, has had a huge influence on the success I have achieved thus far in sales and recruitment. For anyone out there who wants to build a long term career in this industry of recruitment sales this is definitely one for you to read!

 So the story goes like this: 

For any of the women reading this blog and men too -you’ll understand this when I say managing weight loss is no easy task and for me it’s as bad as getting a stone to sweat blood! It was last year that after 15 months of sweating it out in a gym with a personal trainer 4 times a week that I realised my body was not going to shift any of the weight. Just like my personality it was stubborn and it was time I listened to my body and figured out what other strategy I could bring in to kick start the weight loss I had so desperately been waiting for.
And that is how running and I were introduced.  A friend of mine encouraged me to run, yes I didn’t like it and yes it was hard but ultimately what did I have to lose? It was either that or surgery and I somehow don’t think my bank manager would have been too happy with that choice so running was my choice.

I suspected I might be a little unfit as gym work is so very different to running so I went for a jog around my neighbourhood. Problem was that after 2 kilometres I had to stop as I was out of breath and felt dizzy, in fact I was that bad that my neighbour thought he may need to call me an ambulance!! Bad news. I was seriously unfit! As I hobbled back into my nice warm lounge I made a promise to myself. If I really wanted this then I had to prove I could do it, it is and was that simple. I have to say at this point I had no idea I would be running a marathon 11 months later!

So easy to say. So hard to follow through.

But I was determined, and I started training. I would do a 2.5km run in the morning and a 2.5km run in the evening. I set goals of trying to run a total of 10km in a week, over time this increased to 15km, 20km to a whopping 25km. I would allow myself to either split the runs so a run in the morning and then again in the evening or I could attempt longer runs. Within 3 months I was running 3-4 times a week and covering between 6km-11km per run. 

All of a sudden at the 6 month mark I had lost 12kgs and had started to do Saturday runs of at least 10-15km! Feeling good and strong I have to say I started to enjoy running, I could see the rewards for the hard work I had put in and I felt really proud. But as the months passed by I started to lose interest and it was at this point a friend suggested we did a marathon. Not a half but a full marathon!  Could I, would I, did I really want to do it? I felt so comfortable with where I was at with running, this was a challenge that was going to take me out of the comfort zone and into an arena I just wasn’t sure I belonged to!

Well I guess it doesn’t take genius to figure out I signed up for a full marathon, a 42.2 km run. I had 5 months to get from running 17km to 42km.  I have to say the training schedule wasn’t hard but it was consistent and there was no room for error. It hurt, it was painful at times and I am not someone who does well when they have to stick to a schedule. I would say that was the hardest thing for me- sticking to the schedule and listening to what people were telling me.

Over half way through the programme I was tracking really well, everyone kept saying once I did a 30km run I would experience the dreaded ‘hit the wall moment’ my 32km run came around and I was fine- in fact I felt the best I had ever felt. My confidence went through the roof I felt invincible a 42.2km run was going to be a doddle if I felt the way I did at 32km! 

Boy oh boy I had no idea what was about to happen to me. Our programme was structured in a way where you would increase your overall mileage each week however your big runs would scale up and down as to ensure you didn’t over train. So on the week where I had to run 32km, the following week I only had to do a 26km run. WOW I thought 26km is going to be a doddle I had just done 32km and smashed it so what did I need to worry about?!

At 17km I hit the wall, my body started to shake, my vision went blurry, and I couldn’t get enough water into me for the sweat that was pouring of me. My legs felt like I was trying to run through treacle and my stomach had the worse cramps known to man. And the worst of it is I still had 10km to finish!!! As I crawled home I got into the shower and had to sit down on the shower floor as I felt myself about to faint. It was the worst moment, I really thought I was dying (yes I admit I am a hypochondriac) it was horrible. 

As I managed to get myself out of the shower and on to the couch, I thought to myself ‘how the hell has this happened?’, ‘how could I feel so bad?’ I fell asleep and I don’t remember too much about that day, but when I woke up I made a promise to get back out there in 2 days and finish the run. And that’s exactly what I did I finished the run and I felt great…but at just 1.5km away from home my left knee buckled and I’m on the ground. This was it, my body had completely given up on me and mentally I had done the same, I hobbled home, tearful and thinking how stupid I was to think I could do this - ME a marathon runner? Who was I kidding what a joke!
Suddenly an image flashed into my mind. I was sharply reminded of a conversation I had when I first started my career in recruitment sales.  My boss could see I was having a hard time in reaching targets and getting very frustrated had some very good advice. She talked about the fact that to do sales and to be successful you needed to be persistent. She spoke of the fact that nothing worth having ever came easy. She spoke of courage and character and shared stories about how she too at the beginning had rough patches and how she turned things around. We talked about how building a reputation and a real business took time and when you have times where you feel as though you are getting no traction,  all the work I was doing would pay off in time, and when it did I would feel pride and self-esteem and a sense of achievement.

And how true that is. I knew that whilst I had come across a few stumbling blocks I knew that all the work I had put in to training for a marathon would pay off. It takes perseverance, grit and dedication and I have that, I have grit, I have determination and I have perseverance. I can and will finish this marathon
On the day of the race I felt so sick to my stomach I looked green. I knew I was there with real athletes; all decked out in the latest gear. To say I felt out of place was an understatement. But guess what, I did the race and about 1km into the run my fear and nerves fell to the curb side and I just soaked up the atmosphere – I was pumped! There was no doubt in my mind when I finished the marathon that it was worth all the hassle and the pain. So much so I signed up in less than 48hrs to do my 2nd marathon in Auckland in November this year! 

And so is it with our jobs. It’s true that often people have early success in our job. A good match, a bit of good fortune, a client or two inherited.  It can make you look good and there is nothing wrong with taking wins when they come around.
But real success? Building reputation that will last? Developing sophisticated skills? Building a portfolio of loyal clients? Evolving into a trusted advisor, shareholder? Generating referrals and word of mouth sales? Generating repeat business? Securing clients who use you exclusively?
That takes time, perseverance, grit and effort. It takes consistent activity. It takes moral courage to do difficult things like cold calling. It takes ego strength to withstand rejection and poor results. It takes an open mind to learn new skills and work at the things you are not good at. And slowly but surely the rewards will come. 

Victoria Williams is the Sales Director and Business Partner for Talent Propeller Australia, Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn. 

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