From teacher to Talent Acquisition Specialist

Hanne changed the course of her career entirely.

Hanne Lievens is a Talent Acquisition Specialist, but prior to that she worked in education teaching French and Dutch at middle school level. With a master’s in interpreting under her belt and even before completing her postgraduate teacher training diploma, Hanne took the plunge and started teaching. She tells us why she wanted to become a teacher and what led to her decision to change career again. And what are the transferable skills and expertise she brings to her current role with Pauwels Consulting?


A passion for communication 

When I was deciding what to study in college, I followed my heart. I had a passion for languages and wanted to be able to use languages in a career, so a course in Applied Linguistics was the obvious choice. In the program, you choose a combination of three languages to study in depth. Unlike literature, Applied Linguistics focuses more on the practical application of foreign languages in business contexts, translation, and learning about linguistic spheres and didactics. I studied French, Dutch and Flemish sign language. The latter was an unconventional choice, but a friend of my father's is deaf and I was always fascinated watching him using sign language. From that, I was inspired to learn it myself. I find it amazing that people are able to use it to communicate in a whole language universe of their own. I'm also a people person, and I liked the idea of opening a new door that would allow me to translate between spoken language and sign language. 

Diving head first into education 

I had nearly completed my studies and was about to graduate with a Master’s in Interpreting, with just one module left to go. So, because I still had to re-enroll and wanted to spend my time usefully, I decided to do a teacher training course concurrently. As an interpreter, you're in a helping role, and you work closely with people, but I thought that was something I could also do as a teacher. Even before I graduated from my teacher training course, I had the opportunity to step in to cover a part-time teaching role. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see if teaching was my thing. I absolutely loved it. I taught middle school students from year three to year six, and even taught sign language to year six students, a really enjoyable challenge because of the link with my studies. 

Successes bring rewards 

The best thing about teaching was the "aha" moments with students: the satisfaction I got from their triumphs and progress was priceless. I also liked the independence and being free to design my lessons as I thought best. I find work very rewarding and, if I'm aiming at a particular result, I'm willing to put the extra time in. Preparing fun lessons, supporting those students who could use some extra help, I really threw myself into it. Organizing excursions and activities was another enjoyable aspect of my role. 

Time for a new direction 

On the other hand, I found it difficult constantly having to account to parents when students weren't doing well. The many hours of work I put into my lessons, and the lack of motivation among some teenagers could be discouraging. No matter how much I worked, or how hard I tried to push the students, it all seemed to land on my shoulders if they didn't do well – for whatever reason. And, whether students do or don't get a good report card depends on a lot of variables. As a teacher, you only have control over your lessons and your role, not what the children themselves experience. Eventually, I realized that I needed a change in order to stay motivated, and I decided to take a different career direction. 

Hanne: "The patience I needed in the classroom, I now bring to negotiations or when searching for the right candidate."

From education to recruitment 

In March, I informed the headteacher that I wouldn't be returning to my post when the new academic year began in September. I then started looking for a job where I could use my talent for organization and my people skills. I only came to realize this is something I could do in recruitment after getting the opportunity to work for half a day a week at a company that was also active in staffing and consultancy. I didn't want to stay with that company, but it was a very rewarding experience that really opened my eyes. 

Why Pauwels Consulting? 

Armed with the understanding that recruitment could be for me, I continued my job search. When I came across a vacancy for a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Pauwels Consulting, I was initially struck by the human and transparent job description. I applied and it wasn't long before I heard back. They didn't leave me hanging: they followed up very quickly and those initial conversations were super encouraging. There was a sense of genuine enthusiasm, which made me feel welcome even before I'd signed anything. 

More than recruiting 

I thought a Talent Acquisition Specialist was the same as a recruiter. To be perfectly honest, the job of recruiter had some negative connotations for me. I had it in my head that it involved a lot of cold calling that people might perceive as a nuisance. But, the role of Talent Acquisition Specialist was a real revelation – in a positive sense – and the job offers much more than I ever expected. You might think it's just a trendy job title for a recruiter, but that's far from the case. My role is really about making connections between people, and helping them get where they want to be.  

What does a Talent Acquisition Specialist do more than just recruiting? 

I look for jobs for people and try to match people with jobs; we're here talking about vacancies that won't necessarily appear on every vacancy website. But, it's more than that. I also assist them during the application process: for example, I recently attended an interview with a candidate at our customer's premises. I helped them with extra context, to answer the questions fully and acted as a neutral intermediary during a process that most people still find extremely stressful. Our account managers will often attend interviews with the candidate and can give them feedback if they weren't successful, so that the person can take this with them to the next interview. 

If the candidate is offered the position, I negotiate for the best deal for all parties, the ultimate aim being that the person is happy with their choice!  

Transferable skills 

As well as my communication and language skills, other transferable skills from my previous role have stood me in good stead for my current role. In teaching, I learned to remain professional under pressure and understand the point of view of the other person, such as in situations with dissatisfied parents. I can see the crossover in situations where candidates are dissatisfied with an offer or their current position. It makes a world of difference not just to them, but to me too, that I always act with understanding of their point of view, and I'm approachable and open. The patience I needed in the classroom, I now bring to negotiations or when searching for the right candidate.  

In-depth onboarding  

My first day as a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Pauwels Consulting was very full-on. When I opened my calendar, there were all sorts of meetings scheduled in for me. You're certainly not left to your own devices here! These meetings were mainly training sessions, introductory talks and information sessions about the company and how it is run. As well as your own job, you also get to know your colleagues and develop an understanding of what Pauwels Consulting does, who the customers are, who our target groups are, and more. Consultancy was still quite new to me since I came from the world of education, so there was a lot to learn. But it was all explained to me and the job description and context slowly became clearer. That made a big difference. I had the sense that they had all the preparations in place ahead of my arrival, and I felt free to ask about whatever I needed to. 

The first few weeks 

The first few weeks as Talent Acquisition Specialist were busy, but I learned an awful lot. While the first week was mostly taken up with training, you start screening profiles starting the second week. So, this means that we contact people in our candidates database to find out what they are doing now, whether they are settled and satisfied in their role, and whether they have other future plans. Together with the Talent Acquisition Lead, you learn about the job description and person specification for different job profiles and practice being a good listener. After screening, more tasks are added and you gradually take on more responsibility until you are managing and searching for candidates yourself. 

Reflection 

Making the switch from teaching to recruitment was a good decision for me. I'm still working hard, but I can see the results of my work right away. The cooperation with colleagues and the support I get make working here that much more enjoyable. For example, it's a tradition here to celebrate each other's successes, and I think that's a very positive mindset. Because we are such a tight-knit team, we're able to learn from one another all the time, and you can always approach your colleagues for advice. That culture of openness and being in a place where everyone can be themselves is something I would wish for everyone.  

Colleagues watching on screen laptop in Ghent office.

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