We talked to our newest consultant, Martin Elam, about how he ended up working in a recruitment firm after nearly two decades in the Finance industry.
Martin joined our Leeds team in October and works alongside Lucy and Emma, recruiting into the senior finance market across the Yorkshire region.
Talk me through your background Martin?
Absolutely! I’m a Yorkshire local, born and educated in Leeds. I did my A-Levels but then decided not to go to university, for two reasons really: I knew I wanted to go into finance and knew I’d have to do exams after uni anyway, and I didn’t want to get into loads of debt!
I went straight into work at 19, as a Finance Assistant, completing my AAT and then worked in more analytical roles while doing my CIMA. I worked my way up to Finance Business Partner before taking the plunge and changing careers.
Why did you decide to leave accountancy?
I went through a lot of big changes in my personal life, including losing some of the people closest to me, that made me really think about what I wanted from my career. Work is such a big part of your life, and I wanted to be in an environment I found fulfilling. Providing high level and complex financial analysis just wasn’t scratching the itch I had to help people.
I also found myself wanting to work in a more people focused role. I’d sometimes found finance quite an isolating industry, and post-covid it was even more so. I never felt 100% comfortable in a finance environment, I always felt like I was a bit too outgoing and ‘different’ to a lot of people I worked with. It felt like the right time for a change.
You spent all that time getting a qualification – do you wish you hadn’t?
Definitely not. I went into accountancy due to my love of maths, and having not gone to university, I wanted to prove to myself that I was intelligent enough to complete CIMA, which is equivalent to a Masters degree.
I learned a lot of skills that are beneficial to working in business in general, and I now feel my finance background could help me work towards becoming a leader in a recruitment environment, whereas I never really believed that I’d make it up the leadership tree within finance.
So, what was the appeal of recruitment?
I’d moved into a management role in the last 5 years I’d been in finance, and it made me realise how much I enjoyed mentoring my teams, helping them work through their exams and their Practical Experience Records, and helping them work towards the roles they really wanted.
I knew Lucy from Sewell Wallis really well, and we’d discussed the potential of me making the move before, and because we had that connection already, it meant she understood and had confidence in my abilities. The opportunity to work side by side with someone I knew and trusted, in an industry that I felt was more suited to my personal traits was too tempting to say no to!
What benefits have come from moving into a new industry? What skills are the most transferable?
Sewell Wallis is full of talented people with top notch personalities and the work ethic to match. I really feel like part of the team, and being able to talk to candidates, understand their needs and then deliver a role which ticks all their boxes has given me back that satisfaction in my working life that I’d felt I was lacking. These are also skills that are building my confidence and benefitting my personal life.
The knowledge I’ve brought with me has been incredibly useful; I understand the nuances between different areas of the industry, where each role sits within finance functions and the personalities which might suit that role. That knowledge also gives me credibility. Candidates love it when they realise my finance background – they don’t have to explain all of their jargon and acronyms, and believe me, there’s a lot!
What drew you to Sewell Wallis?
I like their style. They do things differently – you don’t get peppered with calls and irrelevant job descriptions and you don’t feel like nobody’s listening to you. If I was going into recruitment, I wanted to do it somewhere where they worked in a way I appreciated as a candidate, and the only agency I’ve used like this is Sewell Wallis.
Also, possibly more importantly, my manager, Lucy. It was so daunting, considering leaving my entire finance career behind, but knowing I would be working side by side with someone I know and trust was a key driver. If I was going to do this, I wanted it to be with Lucy.
Now I’m here, I realise what a phenomenal job she’s done with building her team, too. Every single person is vital to the team in their own way; they’re all brilliant and are honestly a joy to spend 40 hours a week with!
What have you learned since joining?
That everything I learned in finance is useful in this role too, and it brings me credibility with my candidates. I’ve also got to see all the bits of recruitment you don’t see as a candidate or hiring manager, and it’s been really interesting filling in all the gaps. It’s helping me to prioritise tasks better, and building my confidence every day.
The big realisation for me has been learning that I don’t have to work in stoic silence to have a successful career. Working in finance, I always felt like I was pushing my natural personality down in order to achieve, but here, it feels like a strength.
I’d really recommend recruitment to anyone looking for a big shake up in their career, and in particular, Sewell Wallis. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next few years brings!
We also asked Lucy Regan, Director of our Leeds office, what made her certain that hiring Martin was the right decision:
"I have had the pleasure of knowing Martin for several years. I’ve both placed him as a candidate, and offered him guidance on the market as a hiring manager. He consistently stood out to me as an exceptional candidate, with a vibrant personality, stacks of positivity, and genuine kindness - qualities that I consider essential for a successful recruiter. Beyond recognizing his seamless fit within my team, I was confident that Martin's background as a qualified accountant with years of finance experience would instill both our candidates and clients with the confidence that he knew exactly what he was doing – he’s lived it, after all. In our industry, knowledge holds immense power, and Martin possesses a ton of it!
For me, the decision to bring Martin on board was an obvious one, and I’m thrilled that he bravely made this career change. He’s fit right in here and we’re all learning a lot from him!"
If you’re thinking about a career change, and have pondered whether recruitment is for you, give us a shout! We’re a dynamic bunch of people who love people with big personalities and big dreams. If you want to work in an environment where you soak up years of experience from your colleagues, learn and develop yourself and be well rewarded for your hard work, we should talk.
Email us some info about you and your career so far at email@example.com and someone will be in touch!