Christina McLean – From Fashion Branding to Boutique Recruitment

Rutherford Cross consultant Christina McLean sheds some light on how she transitioned from fashion branding graduate to senior finance recruiter, and provides an insight into her first three months at Rutherford Cross.

After completing my International Fashion Branding degree in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, 6 months of which I spent on a study secondment in Denmark, I was naïve to expect all the pieces to fall into place right away. In a struggle to find my feet in the competitive fashion industry, I stumbled upon an opportunity to work in commercial sales within the oil and gas sector. This felt like a stroke of luck, especially during a period of economic uncertainty and volatile job markets.

I learned a lot about myself during this time, in terms of my ability to adapt quickly to unfamiliar industries and just how much I genuinely enjoy building relationships with customers and other businesses. As I grew into the role, naturally my motivations, drivers, and long-term goals began to underpin everything; and after almost two years, I started to question my purpose and prospects. What are my next steps? How can I make a difference? Is this industry sustainable? The voice inside my head was persistent, and it soon became apparent that something was missing, but I couldn’t quite close the gap until I began to explore the world of recruitment.

Expectations Vs Reality

Let’s start with the interview process. I had initially applied for the Livingston James Group graduate scheme, thanks to Lynne in our sister company Hamilton Forth who referred me to the business. I had only heard positive things about the company, but like any change in path, there was the fear of the unknown.

Being a purpose and value led organisation, for the first stage of the interview process I was asked to create a presentation on how I ‘live’ the Livingston James Group values in my everyday life. I was thrilled to get creative for the first time in what felt like forever, and I found comfort in knowing that values and morals were at the forefront of not only the organisation, but its employees. Interviews are always daunting, but for the first time I felt excitement rather than dread! Fast forward a couple of months; all four stages of the interview process were complete, and in June this year, I was offered a permanent role within the Rutherford Cross Interim Team. I found the recruitment process to be a healthy balance of intellectual challenge and personal reflection, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to fast track the graduate programme and prove myself as a consultant.

Now, let’s talk about brand strategy. Rutherford Cross is a boutique trading brand of the wider LJG group and is known in the market for its niche offering of senior finance appointments across Scotland. This individual brand strategy is key to the success of the overall business, but I have grown to understand that Rutherford Cross’ success comprises many small pieces that make up a bigger puzzle – some of which don’t traditionally scream “recruitment”.

Rutherford Cross is a pioneer in the field of branding, marketing, networking, and advisory. Through its client spotlights, events, charitable work and blogs, as well as an abundance of valuable market knowledge; Rutherford Cross tirelessly invests in its candidates, clients, colleagues, and communities. Working within Rutherford Cross not only allows you to develop the brand itself, but also allows you to create your own personal brand within it, driven by purpose and values to find your place as a recruiter in the senior finance marketplace. As someone who recognises the importance of brand strategy, finding an organisation where I could help bring this to life was important to me when considering a career change.

The Highs and Lows of the Interim Market

As a consultant, the attraction of operating in the interim market is often the ability to turn vacancies around quickly due to an already established network of ‘hotlist’ contractors. From a client perspective, whether it is a 3-month project role or a 12-month maternity cover, contractors are almost always immediately available and know what is expected of them. From a candidate perspective, contracting can offer greater flexibility and often higher earnings.

My role as a consultant within Rutherford Cross allows me to specialise in the interim and contract market across the West of Scotland. My network ranges from newly qualified accountants to more senior finance professionals. Since starting in July, I’ve been approached to appoint 18 interim finance jobs and 30% of my job activity has been in the public and not-for-profit sector – an area that doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Alongside my day-to-day responsibilities, I got the chance to get involved in my first corporate event by helping co-ordinate the next in our series of Interim Roundtable Meetings, featuring a presentation from ‘The CV Master’; an extremely insightful event with a fantastic turnout.

The primary difficulty that the recruitment industry has been facing throughout 2022 is an influx of vacancies combined with a shortage of talent. This makes for heightened competition within the market, higher salaries, and increased responsibility for recruiters to manage expectations effectively and candidly. Although busy, the interim market has been subjected to increased competition from an even more demanding permanent job market. Entering my recruitment career at a time when job flow is buoyant, and talent is scarce, has instilled in me an element of resilience which makes it even more rewarding knowing that we continue to deliver high calibre placements during challenging times.

Taking the Leap

Reflecting on my journey, I have discovered that there is no right or wrong path into recruitment. The degree you studied and the industry you transitioned from are not prerequisites for who makes the cut. What matters most are your values, personality and ambition, and having the passion to help others succeed.

It feels as though I blinked and the past three months are over, but as we move into the final quarter of 2022 and my second quarter with Rutherford Cross, I am optimistic that I’ll continue using my purpose to make a positive impact on the careers of my candidates and clients in the Scottish interim finance community. At Rutherford Cross we certainly work hard, but we play hard too, and I look forward to plenty more laughs and celebrations just like we had at our day at the Ayr Races and watching the Happy Mondays gig in Glasgow!

If you are curious about a career in recruitment, or if you’re a candidate or client looking for interim solutions, please get in touch for a confidential chat [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]