Anthony Haynes writes: From time to time on this blog we seek to show what goes on in talent acquisition behind the scenes. We do this in the form of interviews with FJ Wilson Talent Services (FJWTS) staff. Here we’re pleased to publish our latest interview, with Susannah Schofield.
- You have a rich and varied career history: what kinds of work have you done before coming to work for FJWTS?
I started out in the third sector, first working for a careers education charity and then specialising in communication roles for other organisations.
After I had my family, I was lucky enough to find a local part-time job working for a school in alumni relations which I could fit around the school day and holidays. I stayed – and grew with the job – for nine years.
The constant thread in my career has been nurturing relationships: with the media, with former pupils, with clients. After I moved out of London I worked on a freelance-basis whilst my children settled in to their new home and school.
I continued working for FJWTS after I found a local part-time staff job – when you work with a gold-standard organisation like FJWTS, you don’t leave them!
- You’ve won a prestigious broadcasting award without ever having been a broadcaster. What was the award and how did that come about?
I received the Royal Television Society (RTS) Judges’ Award for Television Journalism in 2012. I was given it in recognition of my work in setting up a charity, the John Schofield Trust, which recognises and nurtures young journalists.
I set it up in 1996 in memory of my husband, John, who worked as a journalist for the BBC and who was killed in Croatia. He was 29. I wanted to commemorate him in a meaningful way rather than simply mount a plaque with his name on it on a park bench.
John was, I am told by his colleagues, one of the most welcoming and helpful faces in any newsroom. The Trust first established the Young Journalist [later re-named Talent] of the Year award with the RTS to recognise brilliant news operators at the start of their careers. The award has talent-spotted many journalists who have since become established names, such as Faisal Islam, Ciaran Jenkins, Rohit Kachoo, James Reynolds.
Over the years, we decided to expand our work to nurture more young journalists and so, in 2011, created a mentoring scheme whereby young journalists are mentored by experienced journalists.
All our mentors are volunteers and there is no fee to take part. Mentors have included Jeremy Bowen, Lindsey Hilsum, Bridget Kendall, Jeremy Vine, Sian Williams.
One of my favourite quotes is from a mentee’s former university tutor who observed, ‘He was talented before, but joining the John Schofield mentoring scheme was like putting rocket fuel to his engines!’
- What is your role at FJWTS and what exactly do you do?
I must have the easiest job in the FJWTS team: I interview candidates and their hiring managers about their experience of using the agency. I have interviewed over 70 individuals about our services and all of them said they would recommend FJWTS.
I conduct the interviews over the telephone and talk through when they first came into contact with FJWTS and how we supported them through the recruitment process. Recently, I carried out a summary of the main points which came up. I was heartened to see that everyone I interviewed said they would be happy to recommend FJWTS.
I discovered five words/ phrases which kept cropping up to describe the service offered by FJWTS: ‘trusted adviser’, ‘straightforward to deal with’, ‘refreshing’, ‘insightful’, and ‘responsive’. No-one could ask for more from their recruitment consultant.
- What insights have you gained from working in the area of talent acquisition/talent management?
My work with FJWTS has confirmed what someone told me in my first ever job at that aforementioned careers education charity: that people like being asked for their feedback and, even, for help.
As a fresh graduate who thought she should know everything, I thought asking complete strangers for their advice and views was an admission of failure! How wrong I was. Seeking the views of your clients – be they candidates, hiring managers, former pupils, delegates, volunteers – is paramount to the continuing success of your business.
No business can afford to operate in a vacuum if they wish to stay relevant.
- You are a portfolio worker: your work combines work for more than one organisation and in more than one industry. Where else do you work and what else do you do?
My other job is working for a prep school in Hampshire overseeing its alumni relations and fundraising campaign for the school’s bursary fund.
Like many independent schools, it offers fully funded places to children from disadvantaged backgrounds whose families could not otherwise afford it. The education and pastoral care provided by the school gives a life-changing opportunity for the child and a break for their families who, safe in the knowledge that their child is being cared for, are given the time to address the challenging issues that they are facing.
As well as my paid employment, I lead the board for the John Schofield Trust. In addition to running the mentoring scheme, we are now developing initiatives to unlock social mobility within newsrooms.
We have seen that fewer people from poorer backgrounds are entering the industry. 51% of the UK’s leading journalists attended private schools and over half went to Oxbridge (‘Leading People 2016’, Sutton Trust, published 24 February 2016).
With the media not foreseeing the will of the country in the last three major political events (2015 and 2017 elections, EU referendum), never has getting representatives from all sections of the community working in UK newsrooms been so important.
- What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve had?
The only piece of advice I received from my school careers adviser was to ‘make sure you believe in your employer’s work’. At the time, I didn’t think that this was much to go on as I launched my adult-self but, with the hindsight of many years, I have had frequent cause to recall this piece of sagacity. And that, dear readers, is why I continue to work for FJWTS. Its values, professionalism and integrity are second to none.