6 months ago by Harold Liu
It's 7:48 pm on a Tuesday night in late February. I'm staring at a blinking cursor that seems to be almost mocking my writer's block, thankful to be in the office's fluorescent lighting and AC instead of having to deal with the humidity and heat outside.The familiar opening chords of the Killers' "Somebody Told Me" suddenly pierces the silence and directs my gaze to the lit-up phone lying on my desk; my Mother is calling. I answer, we exchange pleasantries and she immediately has a minor freak out when she hears that I'm still working. All I can do is ruefully shake my head and sheepishly defend myself. Oh the irony...
The topic of work ethic comes up a lot nowadays; in the age of 'hustle' and the start-up grind, the verdict on working 90-100 hour weeks seems to sway between "you're being forced into unhealthy behaviour" and "gotta chase those dolla dolla bills son." When it comes to me personally, this is a story that proposes an alternative: it's just what you do.
My story begins with my parents and I emigrating to Australia on my 5th Birthday. My Mother had been completing her PhD in Chemistry and my Father had been a marine biologist who specialized in aquaculture but after moving to a small regional town with less savings than the average university student, they effectively had to restart their careers. Ultimately, they ended up starting their own business 2 years after we'd arrived in the country.
I didn't realize it at the time but in hindsight, my parents struggled.A lot. I had to spend almost as much time in after school care as I did actual classes during primary school and there was rarely a weekend where they were both home. It didn't bother me though, I grew up reading a lot and developed a very inquisitive mind.
Things changed in some ways during my teenage years. My parents' business grew and our standard of living improved but for some reason, my parents work lives didn't seem to get any easier and in fact, seemed to get even more difficult. To this day, I remember being 16 and watching my Mother slaving away at her office desk while almost 7 months pregnant with my sister. It didn't make sense to me and it even frustrated me. Why were they still doing this? What were they trying to prove? Could they not just take it easy and dial it back? I brought this up with up with my parents countless times; Their response was always some form of "because this is what we do here and it's our responsibility to make sure it's done well."
I've held onto that answer for a long time...
Now that I'm 2+ years deep into a craft I literally obsess and have dreams about, I think I'm starting to get it. I don't often publicly talk about this (unless it's blogging to the entirety of the internet apparently), but I encountered a plethora of objections when I first started trying to get into recruitment including some that probably weren't dissimilar to those my parents encountered; you've got no experience, you don't come across salesy enough, your name is hard to pronounce (My name isn't actually Harold and this one is definitely more of a suspicion than a reflection). In a nutshell, many variations on "you're foreign to this and you won't be able to do it."
But then, an opportunity presents itself; I got a shot and suddenly, none of those opinions mattered. I'd found myself in a race where everyone else had a big head start and there was no way I was going to win if all I did was run just a little faster than those in front.
Is it exhausting? Yes, but it's what I do here and it's my responsibility to make sure it's done well.
Damn it, don't you just hate it when your parents are right?
I am Harold Liu; a technical recruitment enthusiast at BLACKROC, serial asker of questions and X-Games calibre snowboarder (not really).