Climbing the corporate ladder rung by rung? How passé! It’s 2023, and the world of work looks very different than it did in years gone by.
Enter: the nonlinear career path. Instead of focusing on moving up and up and up, professionals are exploring opportunities to make lateral or diagonal moves, embrace twists and turns, learn new skills and let their career journey take them to places they never expected.
Today we’re chatting with Stefan Rolfe (Associate Director, Insurance) about starting a new job (in a new country!) right before the world shut down, the power of persistence and the development and growth of Impact’s insurance team.
Q: Okay, Stefan – let’s do this! We’ll start off super easy: tell me your name and your current role at Impact Recruitment.
A: Right, well, I’m Stefan Rolfe and my current title is Associate Director for Team Insurance. Full disclosure, ‘Team Insurance’ isn’t the official name of the group, I’m quite certain that’s just a me thing.
Q: Well, I think it’s got a nice ring to it, for whatever that’s worth. Alright, let’s see, I guess we should start at the beginning: how long ago did you join the company?
A: It’s actually coming up on four years in a couple weeks here, this October will be four years.
Q: What – already! That’s crazy, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone.
A: Wait, let me just think for a second, it would be embarrassing to be wrong about my own work anniversary… no, yes – four years in October. That’s right.
Q: Mine’s next month too! It’ll be seven years for me, thinking about that I’m just like – wait, what?!
A: You’ve got a few years on me!
Q: Ah, you’ll get there. Alright so, when you first joined Impact, what role were you actually hired for at that time?
A: Oh, good question. I believe it was actually a mix of recruitment and business development, initially, with a bit more of a focus on the business development side of things.
Q: And what sector were you focusing on?
A: I started my business development efforts in the engineering space, I was comfortable with that, having had previous experience working on those types of roles while I was back in the UK. Pretty quick, I was approached by Mark [Fenwick] and he just sort of said, “Look, what do you think: shall we make engineering your thing, or do you want to try your hand at starting a brand new division that’ll specialize in roles in the insurance industry.”
Q: That’s a big decision!
A: The funny thing was, he didn’t sugarcoat it at all, he told me, you know, we’ve got absolutely no insurance clients, so I’d be building out this entire division from the ground up.
Q: A little daunting, no? Seems like it would have been the safer choice to stick with what you knew, engineering.
A: You’d think so, but I guess I was ready for a new challenge, because I decided to give insurance a go.
Q: Well, spoiler alert, everyone – it was the right call!
A: I think so!
Q: I have this memory of you being brand new to Impact and just so ready to get going and get out there. You were so gung ho, even at the very start when it was obviously challenging. You just put your head down and started building up that client base.
A: There really wasn’t any other option, if I’m honest! I’d only moved to Canada six months before so there was lots to learn about a) my new role and b) the insurance industry. At that point, I didn’t have any knowledge of the sector, so I had a lot of work to do.
Q: What was your initial opinion of the insurance industry in Canada?
A: Well, if I’m completely honest, if you’d asked me four years ago, I would probably have said that insurance, how should I word this, that insurance maybe wasn’t exactly the most sexy industry out there. I didn’t really know enough about it to make that assumption, though.
Q: So you’ve changed your mind now?
A: Oh, completely. The more you learn about the insurance space, the more interesting it gets, and I mean that. There are so many moving parts, it’s such a huge part of the way we live and it’s one of those sectors that’s always busy, so that’s been really good – lots of demand, lots of work to keep me on my toes!
Q: You’d mentioned that when you joined Impact, you’d been in the country just six months. At that point, what was it that drew you to the company?
A: Well, I had a background in recruitment, I actually ran my own recruitment company back in the UK, so I was very familiar with the ins-and-outs of the sector and it just made sense for me to find something here where I could put those skills to use.
Q: Of course, so you knew you were looking to join a recruitment firm.
A: I did, but that’s about all I knew! I wish I had a great story about how I decided on Impact, but, honestly, it all started with a Google search. I didn’t know what was out there, so, I mean, what do you do? I just Googled ‘recruitment agency in Vancouver’, vetted the top three quickly and reached out about opportunities.
Q: There are no wrong answers! I probably would’ve done the exact same thing if I’d been in your shoes.
A: Once I began interviewing, it was pretty obvious Impact was the right choice. I was really impressed by the senior leadership team, the people I met seemed really passionate about their roles and about the company. I think the people I met during that stage is probably what won me over in the end.
Q: And now, fast forward four years, you think it was the right call?
A: Absolutely. It’s really rewarding looking at what’s been build, seeing that all that work’s paid off. The team we’ve got, I almost hate saying this ‘cause it’s so cheesy, but we really are like a little family, we all just get along so well. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job, working alongside such a solid group of people, it’s a pleasure.
Q: So, to recap, you joined Impact in a business development capacity, got thrown into a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure situation with the whole engineering versus insurance thing, you go with your gut and decide on insurance. Now, present day, you’re an Associate Director – what happened in between?
A: Oh, wow. Well, we started growing a client base, getting word out there that we knew the insurance sector – I really wanted to establish a strong presence and develop a good reputation with insurance firms and brokerages right off the bat.
Q: Based on how busy your team is, I’d venture a guess that you managed to do just that.
A: Yeah, it was hard work but we were seeing results, we had a good rapport going with clients and candidates, things were ticking along and we made our very first insurance placement! Exciting stuff.
Q: Why do I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming…
A: But then COVID happened.
Q: There it is!
A: And suddenly we were all working from home, no one knew what was going on and, obviously, hiring wasn’t a priority for anyone in the midst of a global pandemic, so yeah, basically right as we were starting to gain some traction the whole world shut down.
Q: That’s some truly terrible luck.
A: Tell me about it! I actually went home to England in March and because of the time difference I figured it’d make more sense for me to work Ontario hours, so I focused on building up our presence in Toronto rather than try and connect with potential clients on the west coast who were on a totally different schedule than I was. I did that for quite a while and we saw some good results, so I guess my strategy wasn’t awful.
Q: And then you came back!
A: That’s right. After a few months, I came back, and that’s when I shifted focus to include Vancouver. The rest is history, I guess; the division kind of blew up, in a good way. We just kept getting busier and busier in both the Toronto and Vancouver markets and now we’ve expanded into Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well.
Q: Yeah, that’s some serious growth. Is there any one thing you’d say was, like, the key to your success? Not everyone could do what you did here!
A: I mean, the truth is that it’s mainly just the persistence in making those calls, just sticking with it. During COVID I was doing anywhere between twenty and forty calls a day and not having a ton of luck, at that point.
Q: Oh man, I can only imagine.
A: It was understandable, of course, given the whole pandemic thing. I was getting a lot of voicemails, a lot of ‘thanks but no thanks’ and even a few ‘why are you calling me’s – but you’ve just got to keep your chin up. Don’t get too discouraged.
Q: That’s easier said than done, sometimes.
A: Truthfully, I was really grateful that I actually kept my job through all the mayhem of 2020. I was so new, and everything was so up in the air, it would have been easy for Jeff [Harris] to just say, like, thanks but see you later. Lots of companies were doing layoffs and I appreciated that Impact wasn’t one of them, so I wanted to give it my all and make a really good impression, and that persistence definitely paid off.
Q: It has for sure.
A: I mean, when I think about it, this has always been the goal, what we have now. It feels like a really big achievement to be able to say that. I’m really passionate about the work we do, that makes me feel really lucky.
Q: I love that. Right, so do you have a favorite thing about your job right now?
A: The team, they’re just so great – they keep me going. They make it fun, you know? It’s like a funny little family, we get a kick out of it. We have a laugh.
Q: You guys might be the funniest division, honestly.
A: That’s excellent. I appreciate the feedback.
Q: Anything else?
A: I appreciate the amount of autonomy I get from Mark, being able to do what’s got to be done and knowing he trusts me to make the right call.
Q: Marks an excellent leader. I really, I’ve always felt that from him. He’s one of the good ones.
A: Yeah, he’s great, honestly. I owe a lot to him.
Q: So, let’s talk future plans! Is there anything that you’re particularly excited about moving forward?
A: I’m just excited for us to keep up the momentum, keep increasing awareness and growing our presence across the country. I want us to be the face of insurance recruitment in Canada, and I truly believe that that’s a realistic goal. I have no doubt we can do it.
Q: Well with all the media attention you’ve been getting lately, you’re well on your way!
A: It certainly doesn’t hurt! And you know, with the way with the way it’s going, I’d like us to dominate the Canadian market, move into the States and then, who knows, maybe down the road even expand internationally.
Q: If we’re going to go work in some quaint European town, count me in.
A: And I’m sure we could be of use to brokerages in the Bahamas, too, right?
Q: Sign me up for that! Alright, we flew through this, we’re onto the last question already: what is your best advice for somebody who’s new to recruitment or new to impact, whichever route you want to take?
A: Oh, that’s tough. It’s hard to choose just one.
Q: I know, it’s a lot of pressure.
A: Okay, well, I think just be yourself, which is like, yes, it’s cliché, but you have to be real, stay honest and be true to who you are. People can tell when you’re faking it, so being genuine goes a long way in this industry – you’ve got to really care, and you’ve got to enjoy it. If you do that, the rest falls into place.
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