Elizabeth (McGrath) Varrenti, Vice President, Professional Development at MATRIX
Years in staffing: 18 years
Fun fact: Elizabeth first got into technology working the HelpDesk at IBM, later transitioning to software sales and was soon recruited to join staffing by her sales peers that left to join the industry. She was hesitant at first because of the “headhunter” label but found her niche from the get-go with a shorter sales cycle and ability to recognize the impact you can make on an organization.
With so much great internal talent in the staffing industry, I’ve always been surprised that companies don’t do more to attract, retain and advance their own team – with an emphasis on the retention piece. It’s increasingly difficult to find great sales and recruiting staff, but turnover is still high. However, there are certainly standouts that invest heavily in their teams with both training programs and leadership. I was excited to speak with Elizabeth Varrenti for this post to highlight her unique role as the Vice President, Professional Development at MATRIX and her take on training and development given she has had nearly 10 roles at MATRIX during her successful career there.
How’d you make the transition into professional development?
This is a new role at MATRIX, and a new role for me. We had a corporate trainer previously who did a good job, but hadn’t been in sales or recruiting. After their departure, we were left with a big void. I was tapped to help train new employees due to my experiences in so many different roles across the company, which evolved into this role. It’s helpful when I’m training to view things from the new hire’s shoes and look through the lens of how the training will help them meet their goals when they sit back down at their desk. I really love it and am having a blast doing it – but it was a challenge to move from a sales role to being behind the scenes.
What are you looking forward to in this role?
I’m most excited about building out an ongoing, consistent training program. We’re making investments in a new learning management system (LMS) and content tailored specifically for IT staffing professionals. We’re also taking steps to improve the performance of our existing team, based on candid feedback and closely reviewing performance data. Our training is a differentiator when attracting high caliber talent and keeping them.
What did you take away from your own training at MATRIX?
I learned a lot about how to treat people from our owners. Our culture is about “doing the right thing.” What I learned early on is that doing the right thing sometimes means you lose a deal or walk away from an opportunity. When I bring new people into the organization, especially younger people, I share the lesson that sometimes you walk away from things because it’s the right thing to do. However, I’ve seen it come back to me ten-fold and use this wisdom as a guiding principle in my life and career.
What other advice would you provide to staffing rookies?
Be genuine. When I’m talking to a client, candidate or family member – I’m the same person. I don’t put on my sales or recruiter face. You’re dealing with me no matter who you are. When your clients see glimpses of your personality, it might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it makes you memorable. Don’t be a robot. Also, don’t be afraid to question the status quo. When you are just starting out in your career you may be hesitant to challenge things and assume your leaders have all the answers. They don’t!
Do you have a pivotal career moment that sticks with you?
Absolutely. Ten years ago, my husband and I decided to leave Atlanta where we both had thriving careers to move to upstate New York. I submitted my resignation and my manager said he didn’t accept it and insisted that we’d figure it out. This was when I was an account executive. It was a risk but also a game changer for me. The team was extremely supportive of me. Even though I relocated, I never left completely and stayed in close contact with our teams. While working remote, I moved into management and eventually VP roles. They expected me to perform, but I wanted to perform for them knowing the belief they had in me. As my manager always says, “It’s all about the people” and I embrace this same philosophy as a leader.
Are you an industry veteran that’s excited to share your lessons with the next generation of staffing leaders? Share your insights as part of this #womenINstaffing Wednesday series. Contact me to learn more.
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