The career I never knew I wanted & certainly one I never knew I’d love...
Where to start… It’s 2010 and I, bright eyed and bushy tailed, am leaving The Emerald Isle to begin my new life in London (well, Guildford) and follow my dream of becoming a Musical Theatre superstar. I spent 3 years training at the incredible Guildford School of Acting, and I was convinced I was going to become the next West End star. When I graduated, I was lucky to get representation right off the bat and so I thought, that’s it, I’m on my way to stardom. As I was going through the usual cogs of the West End audition scene, I soon began to realise that I was nowhere near talented enough to do this - What a slap in the face that was. Talk about a reality check and a huge confidence knock. So, like most out of work performers, I did one of the only things we know how and got a job as a waiter in a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. Not just any restaurant though, I got a job at Bentleys; a famous Irish seafood restaurant - so at least I’d rub shoulders daily with some fellow country folk. And it was here that the course of my life would change forever…
The year is now 2014 in the height of summer. I’m doing my best work out on the Bentley’s terrace, serving lobster and champagne like my life depends on it (well I guess it did at the time), trying to earn as much £££ as possible from the lovely tipping guests. You’d be amazed how much some people would tip after knocking back 3 bottles of 2012 Vintage Dom… sometimes they’d even leave the end of a bottle for us to enjoy after our shift… thanks Trudy Styler.
Two very well-dressed gents, Dan Whomes & Sasza Bandiera, returned for lunch a few afternoons; they’d sit out on the terrace, drink fabulous wine and enjoy an array of overpriced seafood. They were always full of stories and were a great laugh, so I made it my business to always serve them, mainly because they always tipped well too. I kept thinking to myself, I want to be like that. I want to be able to sit out in London’s best restaurants every week, I want to wear the finest tailored suits and I want to enjoy life like they clearly were (I make it sound like I wasn’t enjoying myself at the time, I was living the life, just on a shoestring budget). One Friday afternoon towards the end of the summer, they asked me what I was doing with my life and my response was something to the effect of ‘I have absolutely no idea… but I know that I don’t want to be a waiter’. They told me that I had great chat and a way with people, and that I should come and work for them. ‘What do you do?’, I asked, ‘we run a recruitment company’ was the response. At this point, I had never heard of recruitment, but they told me all about it and I knew it was for me. Dealing with people all day, fast paced high energy environment, and the ability to earn a lot of money - what wasn’t to love? I went through the rather gruelling 6 stage interview process at the time and met almost all of the team, and the one thing that they all had in common was clear, a clear love for the work they do. In my final interview with Sasza, our now Managing Director, and Dan, our Chairman, they said something to me which I’ve never forgotten; ‘Rob, if you promise to always give us your best self, are honest with us and are loyal, we will do everything in our power to make you the most successful version of yourself’. Once I heard those words, I knew Oyster was the place for me, and to be honest, there has not been a day that’s gone by where that promise hasn’t been lived up to.
I’ll never forget my first day, I remember it like it was yesterday. 13th October 2014. I felt like I was on The Apprentice. 13 of us, all in our best new work wear, sitting in the reception of St Albans House, Haymarket, waiting to be called in. I joined as part of the Oyster Academy, the third of its kind, to give you an idea, we recently just welcomed our 29thAcademy. Being honest, I got off to a pretty slow start. Certainly slower than my colleagues who joined with me. I was actually one of, if not the last to make their first placement. It was infuriating at the time. I remember thinking, ‘if they can do it why can’t I’. My first year ended more successfully than it started; a slow burn, well at least I like to think. I had found my rhythm, made a decent number of placements, built up some strong relationships in the industry, and I was starting to see potential in the role. This really kept me going. It is true what everyone says, your first 12 – 18 months in recruitment is certainly the hardest. Experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that this job brings, from candidates dropping out, clients ignoring you, mentally spending your commission and then it not coming through because someone’s cat has died for the 11th time (you people know who you are). What I will say, though, to anyone starting out in their recruitment career - all of these scars just make you stronger. You absolutely need to go through them.
What I'd say to anyone starting out in their recruitment career, is that all of the scars just make you stronger. You absolutely need to go through them.
It quickly became clear to me that the harder I worked, the more I would earn. And this was such a new concept to me. No other previous job I had rewarded my effort in this way. There were times I would get to the office so early that security would have to ring Sasza to allow me access to the office. I wanted it so badly; I didn’t care how many hours I had to work to get it. I had only been recruiting for just over one year when we started to go through quite a bumpy chapter as a business. In 2015, I started managing my first hires, only 1 year in. It’s crazy to think back, but at the time, it’s what the business needed, and what I needed. In August 2016, just before my 2-year anniversary, one of the most memorable moments of my career was about to take place. Sasza, sat me down in his office, and talked me through the problems the business was having and where he felt I could step in. At the time, the Permanent team reported directly to Sasza, whereas the Contract team had a bit more of a management structure in place. He said to me ‘Murray, I need to step away to work on more strategic growth elements of the business, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead the Perm Team than you’. I’ll never forget it. I actually thought he was joking at first, but as he explained the mammoth challenges ahead, I knew I was up for it. I knew I had to do it.
The next 5 years weren’t easy. I was an inexperienced manager, an aspiring leader and I without doubt made every mistake in the book. In fact, I probably wrote a few of my own chapters. Holding my hands up and admitting fault became an all too recurring habit of mine; managing team members who had been in the business longer than me, trying to get the balance right of wanting to get the best out of people but also wanting them to ‘like me’. But, all of this aside, I absolutely loved every minute of it. Our ethos at Oyster has always been to develop our team from the ground up, hiring rookies with no experience and nurturing their talent over the years. This has of course come with its’ own challenges, but the highs outweigh the lows every time. Seeing my team building their careers, buying their first homes, making the most incredible memories - there’s no feeling quite like it. It wouldn’t be right not to give the legendary Oyster holidays a mention at this point. From Barcelona & Ibiza to Berlin & Budapest, missed flights, sunsets, club nights, more sambuca than I care to remember; memories that I’ll never forget. There are a gang of us off to Vegas in May…. Surely this will top them all?!
When the pandemic hit, it really showed what kind of a business we were, and are; it really was a moment of massive pride to look back on. Did we get every decision right? Absolutely not, but we weren’t far off. We didn’t make redundancies, unlike pretty much all of our competitors. We hired 26 new people within the first 6 months, the equivalent of 50% of the business at the time, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Those few years were a real lesson in business. Our Leadership team here at Oyster, led by Sasza, really is second to none; we all value each other’s opinion, which makes it an incredible environment to work in. I’ve always known and felt the importance of showing my team that it’s important to make mistakes, to put yourself out there and sometimes get it wrong, but learn from every wrong turn and be accountable for what happens next. It’s not about the mistake you’ve made, it’s about how you bounce back.
Fast forward to October 2022, we have just moved into our new office in Mayfair and I am so proud to have recently been promoted to Director, a validation of the hard work and commitment I’ve put into the past few years. Oyster is on track for its’ biggest year ever, our team is on track for our biggest ever year and I couldn’t be prouder of what we are all achieving. There are certainly headwinds to face in the next few months, however, I truly believe we are in the best place to overcome these. European and further global expansion are just around the corner, which will provide massive opportunity for the team and those thinking about joining us.
October ‘23 will mark both 9 years in recruitment and at Oyster – such a milestone! Knowing what I know now, if anyone were to ask me about a career in recruitment, my answer will always be GO FOR IT!!! It really can change your life.
If you'd like to explore a recruitment career with us, get in touch with us today.