Virginia Sharpe – Life at the Pointy End

Virginia Sharpe. A name known by many in the Cairns business community. Successful. Driven. Professional. These are just some of the ways in which people describe her, but what most won’t know is what led her to forge a career in recruitment in the first place and how she has gone beyond simply being ‘good at her job’, to excelling at it.

We sat down with Virginia to learn more about her journey, how she balances family life and hear her take on recruitment in Cairns and find out how she has built such an impressive reputation within the industry.

Tell us a bit about your career at CBC?

I moved to Port Douglas twenty years ago from Melbourne after a period of ill health to take some time out for myself. I was initially attracted by the climate, the pace of life and the natural beauty of the region which I still enjoy today. I didn’t plan to be here for this long, but that seems to be what happens to many people who move from out of town or overseas. It’s hard to leave, and why would you want to?

Having completed several assignments through CBC with other companies, Sally Mlikota, Director of CBC Staff Selection, approached me to ask if I had ever considered a career in recruitment. She saw my potential and encouraged me to explore the possibility of utilising my skills within the recruitment industry. It certainly wasn’t a path I had on my radar, but having only known her for a short time, I had already built great respect for Sally and felt that if she believed I could be a good fit, I would embrace the opportunity. I haven’t looked back! It was one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments in my life.

What job would you be doing if you weren’t a recruitment consultant?

Probably something in the health profession – I always wanted to be a physiotherapist but it wasn’t meant to be. I would definitely have pursued a career that involved helping people as that’s what drives me. I love making a positive difference to the lives of others and assisting business and individuals to grow, it is a huge source of job satisfaction for me. There aren’t many other roles where you can make such a positive difference to someone’s life.

What roles have you had at CBC?

I started at CBC as a recruiter, then progressed to Senior Recruiter and most recently, have been promoted to Recruitment Manager with five direct reports, as well as my clients and candidates who I continue to work with daily. It’s challenging but for all the right reasons. I work best in a busy environment and prefer to lead by example; I find it brings out the best in me as I can achieve outcomes that benefit everyone.

What do you love most about working at CBC?

Everyone at CBC is genuine. We care about what we do, and we don’t compromise on our standards. Probably the most important thing for me professionally, is to have a career that I am passionate about. I am a self-confessed perfectionist and I couldn’t work somewhere which didn’t align with my work ethic. I firmly believe that one of the reasons CBC has been operating successfully for over 30 years, is because we all share that same mindset and have allowed our clients to engage with us in multiple ways, instead of having to align to a fixed structure. We don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Some clients like to work with one main point of contact for example whereas others, enjoy working with a variety of consultants.

I have amassed a huge amount of knowledge from working alongside Sally – we have been a team for 18 years which is the same amount of time it takes to grow a human from childbirth to adulthood. Sally helped shape a compelling vision for CBC and inspires a higher level of achievement. By focussing on collaboration, we can bounce ideas off one another rather than just making snap business decisions individually. By removing the guesswork and replacing it with teamwork, we are all invested in the growth of CBC and continuing success. It also makes for a harmonious and fun workplace.

What have you learnt from your professional life that you apply to your personal life?

I have learned to truly believe in myself and to not sweat the small stuff. CBC has always supported me. We all have setbacks and personal challenges in life but even when times have been tough, I have been fortunate to have had complete support from the CBC team. We are a close team and the value of human kindness as really stood out to me when life has given me a few lemons.

We spend so much time at work so it’s vital for me to be around like-minded people who help each other to reach their full potential. That’s also why my new role of Recruitment Manager is so exciting – I really appreciate and understand how much difference it can make having people around you who bring out your best and are truly ‘on your side’.

What changes have you seen over the past 18 years in the Cairns?

Cairns has gone from being a place where you come for the lifestyle and find work, to somewhere that people are now actively moving to in order to build their careers. I have noticed particularly over the last five or ten years that the calibre of jobs available in our region has lifted markedly. Health is a growth industry in Cairns and of course with the likes of Crystalbrook taking the tourism experience to another level, so too has the need to recruit exceptional staff to deliver a first-class customer experience.

Technology has of course had an impact as it has allowed for more flexible working arrangements, but I am careful not to be glued to my phone as that isn’t healthy, particularly as I have two children and a partner. Having a line and sticking to it benefits everyone and we love the fact that we are all present in one another’s lives rather than living in a virtual world.

Are there any common mistakes you see clients and candidates make regularly?

Typos are my pet hate – it shows a lack of care and attention to detail and whilst we all do make errors, having someone else check your resume or application letters will usually catch them. I also regularly see applications from candidates which are for a completely different job to the one they say they are applying for.

From the client side, I think businesses can underestimate the amount of work involved with finding the best people for a role and try to do it themselves without realising the breadth of contacts we have at our fingertips. At CBC, we think outside of the box and often find solutions which businesses simply wouldn’t have been able to achieve by themselves.

Are there any stand-out moments that stick in your mind at CBC?

Sally is a massive supporter of personal development, so I have been fortunate enough to attend a lot of training and professional development seminars and courses such as those facilitated by Greg Savage, or the RCSA conferences on the Gold Coast. Some of the speakers I have heard over the years have been amazing and I always come back to Cairns feeling inspired, as well as confident that our professional and ethical approach at CBC is second to none.

What are your future goals?

2020 is all about growth both professionally and personally for me. I am blessed to have a wonderful, supportive partner who has been such a great source of strength, not to mention a great source of fun too! We love spending time together just enjoying the simple things in life – laughter is a key theme in our world and our children are happy and healthy. There is not much more I could want really. I count my blessings every day.

My two children Jack and Lily are now at ages where they are growing into mini adults and whilst this doesn’t mean I can or want to take a step back, it does allow me a bit of breathing space knowing that they are responsible enough to make good decisions in daily life, whether that’s getting things done around the house or making sure they are doing all of their schoolwork, it does reduce some of the stress and has made the hard work of the younger years, all worthwhile. Parenting is rewarding but as most people will tell you, it’s tough at times too. They love their school and when not there or at home, you’ll find Jack playing Soccer and Lily at dance class. Seeing them getting so much out of their interests is extremely rewarding. They are great kids.

I will also be investing some of my time this year into professional business coaching classes and spending more time with my friends – I get so much joy from that. Naturally my partner and I also have a few things planned but equally, we enjoy spontaneity and try not to let life zoom by without appreciating the daily moments. We want to build memories which us and our children will look back on fondly in years to come when they have left home. It seems like a long way off but also, I know how quickly time passes.