The newest member of the team, Rebecca Haroutunian, joined The Works Search just over a year ago. Rebecca has worked in corporate communications for nearly 20 years. In her last comms role, she managed a team at the University of Brighton and its joint Medical School, overseeing media relations, crisis communications, leadership comms and external events. She’s also worked in a busy media relations team at Sussex Police and started her comms career at a tech PR agency after working in drugs research at the Home Office. Alongside this, she has worked as a Women’s Health Coach, Pilates Instructor and massage therapist. Here she reflects on her career to date, and why she made the move to executive search.
1. Can you give us a brief overview of your career so far, what’s the common thread?
I’m really lucky that my career has been so diverse, taking me from drugs and alcohol research to public relations, women’s health coaching and now to executive search! But the one thread that has run through everything I’ve done is to build relationships and advise people, as well as concentrating on my own continuous learning and development.
2. How did you move from drugs research all the way through to executive search?
I started my career at the Home Office working on drugs and alcohol research which ultimately underpinned the change in policy for 24-hour licencing laws. I enjoyed working with the press office to release our findings to the public. And, having done my research and spoken to numerous people I decided to turn my skills to PR.
I joined a tech agency where I learnt the bread and butter of media relations and leadership comms. I quickly decided that I wanted to focus on one client. My work at the Home Office together with my PR experience, led me to a role in an extremely busy press team at Sussex Police. The work was eye opening as well as heart wrenching including reporting on dawn drugs raids and supporting victims of crime at press conferences.
I moved to the University of Brighton to promote its research, courses and the work of its staff and students as well as covering corporate events, speech writing, and working on its corporate narrative. The brief was very broad but I secured wide-ranging coverage, from a graduate fashion show featured in Vogue to the successful release of very sensitive research around childhood asthma which received critical acclaim and international coverage.
Health and wellness have always been important to me. When I fractured my hip running, I managed to quickly recover thanks to Pilates, so I decided to become an instructor. I’ve also trained as a women’s health coach and massage therapist and set up my own business to give me flexibility when my children were young. I did, however, miss working with a team and the world of corporate comms which finally led me to executive search.
3. Your background in communications is impressive! What has been your highlight?
Whilst working at the University of Brighton, David Dimbleby chaired a debate about the role of universities in towns and cities. My role was to fully brief him about all the issues that affected higher education, and the impact that a university and its student population can have on the community, its residents, and its infrastructure etc. I went to his house armed with a thorough briefing pack that I’d created and found that he was absolutely delightful. He had a lot of questions which luckily, I was able to answer. I can safely say I have never been so prepared in my life!
4. What motivated you to explore moving from PR to executive search?
I had been working as a women’s health coach for a number of years and had learned so much and helped a lot of people, but working on your own, without the support of a team could be isolating at times. Also, part of the reason why I moved into self-employment was because I wanted more flexibility, however with the advent of hybrid working all my peers were working flexibly. I was always looking for roles for friends and when I saw a role for an Executive Search Consultant specialising in PR, I thought I could be a good match. And I’ve struck gold, Sarah is a fantastic manager and mentor, and the team is very professional and welcoming, they are all at the top of their game. I feel incredibly grateful to have found this role and The Works Search.
5. What has surprised you?
I’ve been surprised at how proactive the work is. I naively presumed that we would write an advert and responses would come pouring in!! It is very rare indeed that we find suitable candidates from advertising. Most of our candidates come via our network, in fact 70% of the people we placed in last year were sourced from our network and referrals, 18% from LinkedIn and 12% from advertising. Our processes are also very slick, therefore clients only need to meet three of our professionals to hire one and they have access to an impressive shortlist in four weeks.
6. Can you describe your approach to helping candidates and organisations find the perfect match in terms of skills, culture fit, and long-term potential?
We work in several ways, but whether we are working with candidates or clients, we really take our time to find out as much information as possible about them to aid our searches. This is incredibly important if we are going to make a good match. Before taking on an inhouse role we meet the client and take a thorough brief and really listen to what they need. We often have people in mind who could be a good match but sometimes on more challenging briefs, we are in touch with over 100 candidates with relevant experience to produce a shortlist of three or four great candidates in our timeframe. This is why we fill all of our inhouse roles.
Equally when we speak to candidates we really drill down on their values and what is motivating them to move, and also challenge them as to whether this is the best decision for them. Should they try and get a pay rise instead, move internally, change their portfolio of clients etc. It’s a waste of time for them and our clients if they are not invested in moving roles. As a team we really care about our clients and candidates and getting a good outcome for everyone. That’s often why so many people come back to us.
7. What do you find most rewarding about working as a search consultant?
Finding someone their dream job and the client their ideal candidate. For a comms professional it can be life changing and on average we usually secure our candidates a 16% uplift when they move.
8. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?
I like trying new things and I’m not afraid of change, so I’ve been very lucky to always find new opportunities.
9. What or who inspires you, and why?
My technical boxing coach Nick. He’s at the top of his craft and is incredibly knowledgeable, having boxed for England under 19s alongside Ricky Hatton. I see him twice a week at 6am and I’ve never met anyone so enthusiastic and energetic at that time of the morning.
10. Any other hidden talents?
I played the cello at the Royal Albert Hall.
Thank you, Rebecca!
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The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email: email@example.com.