Career stories: Vanessa Soames, Early Talent Director at Cognizant

Feb 14, 2022 | Careers, Sector & policy

Vanessa has worked in student recruitment for more than 20 years. Here’s her story.

I have worked in student recruitment for over 20 years. I was Head of EMEA Brand and Attraction at AMS where I provided strategic consulting advice for clients and last year I moved to Cognizant as Early Talent Director.

After university I started in student promotions at ACCA, I then came out of the industry for a few years before returning to student marketing at KPMG. While at KPMG I did a variety of employer brand and recruitment roles and my last role there was Head of Graduate Recruitment.

I have also headed up marketing and graduate recruitment at Police Now and was Global Graduate Recruitment Head at Barclays.

I was originally attracted to work in early careers because I loved working with my age group, and then as I got older, I loved that I stayed working with the youth sector.

To do well and actively engage with this audience we have to be innovative, and so the role and techniques used continually evolve, making it an industry of much opportunity.

I enjoy the responsibility and giving back to people on this first step into their career. As I have become more senior, it has also been the international nature of the industry that’s appealed. I have enjoyed understanding and immersing myself in different cultures.

The best career decision that I made was taking the role with Police Now. Seventeen of us started on day one not knowing each other, and together we grew the proposition and brand to put neighbourhood police officers and detectives on the street. To build something from scratch and to work with such inspirational police officers was amazing.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have had many mentors in the industry. At ACCA I had Louise Gillard; Keith Dugdale brought me in to KPMG and gave me some brilliant opportunities and projects as well as coaching me at key stages of my career.

I’ve also learnt from Alison Heron, both from working with her at KPMG and through ISE, and from James Darley both from being on the board of Police Now and working with him on Transform.

I have a huge number of people who have coached me and who I worked with at various stages at ACCA, KPMG or Police Now who I continue to connect and share best practice with.

My network has been invaluable. All my success in each role has been down to the partnerships of people I had in my network or people from my network introduced me to.

I’ve stayed in the field partially because of the variety of the work. It has been fascinating to see the way that tech and data allow us to do the job so much better every year. But I’m also still involved because it is a joy to help people to find fulfilling careers.

I would advise people moving into this field to take risks and ask questions. Everyone else is thinking it, so be the one to ask or do it.

If you want to be successful in this field, you will need to work hard and have talent but the key thing is being willing to take risks. Sometimes you are pushed into the new thing, other times you go looking for it, but one thing I have learnt is always take the risk even if the outcome was not what you thought. The learning that you get from these new experiences will always pay off.

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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