Work life: Fashion Head Hunter

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Stylist Team
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Tracy Short, 47, is an executive search consultant specialising in fashion and luxury brands. She lives in Kentish Town, London, with her boyfriend Matt and cat, Rosie.

I’ve been working at MBS, an executive search company, for nine years. We work with clients such as Harrods, Kurt Geiger, My Wardrobe, Topshop and Monsoon, to find talented people for very senior positions. Clients will come to us looking for, say, a marketing director or CEO and it’s our job to find them. A big of part of this job is networking and building relationships to identify up and coming or high potential people. I work with a small team - my PA and dedicated research assistant - to make sure I’ve got the right fit in terms of skills and culture fit, as well as handholding through the whole interview process. It sounds like the dark arts but there’s a process to follow.

My career path wasn’t typical. I trained as a primary school teacher but because I working in retail throughout my degree I was offered a job and couldn’t turn it down. It was at Club 21, a retail company that owns the franchises for Emporio Armani, Georgio Armani, Prada, Donna Karen and DKNY in the UK. The MD created a role for me that combined my retail and teaching experience and I did everything from product training and visual merchandising, to sales and retail standards before becoming more involved in recruitment and training.

My life has been ruined by iphone. When my alarm goes off at 6.30, after I’ve snoozed I check my emails and Facebook to observe what’s going on in the world before I step out of bed. I never know what I’m going to wear so I always check what the weather will be like and, because I work in the luxury market, I always have to be well dressed and fairly fashionable. I like wearing dresses, by Tucker, Dries Van Noten and Vivienne Westwood, because they’re smart and on trend. Breakfast tends to consist of a cup of tea and a biscuit, which is naughty isn’t it? Then I feed my cat and do a bit of yoga to get the body moving in my studio downstairs.

My office is in Primrose Hill so, unless I have a meeting elsewhere, I walk to work in my Converse then I keep loads of heels under my desk. My day is completely varied so I could have meetings first thing or I could be checking emails or reading the news. As well as being very challenging, my job is really rewarding because you’re helping people to manage change in their lives. Moving from one job to another can be a life changing decision especially if you’re picking up a family and moving them to another part of the world. I recently placed somebody working for a luxury drinks company in London into a luxury eco holiday resort company in Thailand. That was a global search – we had candidates from Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, America, Italy and the UK and France.

I usually arrive at the office between 8.30 and 9.00. Office hours are 9 to 6 but my job is definitely not. I have to be available to take a call whenever it comes through and because of different time zones this could mean at any time, even when I’m on holiday. When I was in India in March I did two negotiations while my boyfriend hid in the bathroom pretending not to get annoyed with me. I have to see a job through right from beginning to end, though. The whole process usually takes around eight weeks. If it’s global it might take longer and you have to account for notice periods.

At any one time I’ll usually be working on five or six jobs at once. The most I’ve worked on at one time is 11! We look at the market place, trends and new insights. This is the difference between recruitment and executive search; it’s research driven. We’re creative with the way we work - our shortlist we will always have exciting people that have transferrable skills, rather than the obvious choice.

I don’t like leftovers so I usually go out for my lunch. I tend to have soup or salad from the vegetarian cafe at the nearby triyoga centre. I’m a qualified yoga teacher so some days I teach classes at work. It’s been really helpful because we work under a lot of pressure and are pretty desk-bound. I also have lunch meetings with potential candidates. We do have to be confidential but because we’re based in Primrose Hill we’re able to be discreet. If people can’t make it out of their offices we’ll meet them in a hotel or coffee bar and I’ve met people in the park before. I’ve only once approached the wrong person. It’s weird because you can tell who the person is from the way they move.

I find it really satisfying when a position has taken a really long time to fill. I’m really proud of placing a president at agnés b in Japan because it was such a difficult brief. We had to find somebody who could speak Japanese, understand the culture and was used to working within a European company because the head office is in France. The person we recruited had just set-up Uniqlo’s European head office. He was Japanese but working in Europe when I met him.

Levis was also a big success for me because they were so strict about what they wanted. They wanted an Italian-speaking denim and womenswear specialist who was currently working in a corporate business, understood the Southern European customer and was also able to manage a diverse design team. They also had to be prepared to relocate to Brussels, so that’s a lot of boxes to tick. The successful candidate was a consultant working in New York.

The best thing about my job is the people. I’m extremely privileged because I meet incredible, inspiring individuals every day. Some candidates are so grateful when I place them in their dream job they buy me presents! Once I got a set of beautiful china cups and saucers from Liberty that spelled out my name. I’m so afraid to break one!

After work I go to a lot of networking events or to dinner with clients at Nobu or Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, The York and Albany, which is near the office. Matt and I have to plan a date night. We like to go to the cinema, or out for dinner. I like to keep fit too so I go to a very senior yoga teacher once a week to keep up my learning or I might go for a run on Primrose Hill with my PA. I’d like to say I get to bed at 10.30 but it’s usually 11.30 then I start all over again with that 6.30am phone check.