Career stories: Stephen Isherwood, CEO, ISE

Feb 2, 2022 | Careers, Sector & policy

Before joining ISE, Stephen worked in student recruitment for more than 20 years. Here’s his story.

I went to university a little later than usual after starting my career in retail management. When I graduated, I joined the recruitment team at Coopers & Lybrand, which became PwC. Before taking over at the ISE I was head of student recruitment at EY.

To be honest, I fell into graduate recruitment via a secondment to cover a maternity leave. I was supposed to go back into HR but liked the graduate role so much I stayed.

I was attracted to the range of things I could get involved with and I liked the mix of external and internal responsibilities. I liked the breadth of our industry, from working with school kids to people rolling off training programmes into management positions.

Back in the day, our team was led by a partner, Ian du Pré, who was a great mentor to me. People joined Coopers just because they had met Ian. Even when I joined EY I came across partners who remembered Ian recruiting them into their first job. He remembered everyone’s name, signed off every offer and led every campus presentation.

I would encourage people working in early talent not to just focus on the operational aspects of their role. Become knowledgeable about all aspects of our sector but also know how what you do contributes to your organisation’s bottom line.

Being able to inform business leaders about the broader market increased the credibility of my team and helped get support for what we wanted to achieve. And build your networks, as others can and will help you in so many ways. 

Being successful in this field sometimes requires a bit of resilience. I’ve been through phases where I really haven’t enjoyed my job because I wasn’t in quite the right role. But grit your teeth at times like this, have a bit of patience and persistence and you’ll be all right.

A real interest in students and the whole recruitment and development process helps, as does a good dose of self-awareness. There are lots of areas you can specialise in so find one that best suits your abilities.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development. Read more insight and know how from ISE’s Guide

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