Reflecting on Five Years at Livingston James

Livingston James Group Head of Research, Kirsty Sim, reflects on five years at Livingston James, taking the plunge on moving cities, and why ‘gut-feel’ can sometimes be the best indicator of a move that’s right for you.

In 2016 I made the mildly terrifying decision to uproot my comfortable life in Aberdeenshire and relocate to Edinburgh, accepting a role as Research Associate at Livingston James, a business I knew very little about, but had a strong ‘gut feel’ for. Fast forward five years and I am now leading the Research team, having learned a huge deal along the way.

Prior to joining Livingston James, my background had been predominantly Oil & Gas focused, however since then, I have had exposure to a variety of different sectors including Manufacturing, Food & Drink, Technology, Professional Services, Agriculture, and the Public and Not for Profit sectors. Clients I have worked with have ranged from a charity feeding two million children across the world, to a dental laboratory group developing the latest in dental technology, and a technology innovation and research centre playing a key role in delivering the UK’s net zero targets.  Through working on these global, senior, and often highly challenging mandates, I have honed my research skills.

Why Recruitment?

Whilst these research skills – how to take a consultative brief from a client, where and how to find candidates, and how to run a robust and transparent process – are critical to my role, the most interesting part for me, and the reason I entered the recruitment industry eight years ago, is the people. I studied Psychology at University as I had always had an interest in people and what made them tick. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to utilise what I had learned in a practical setting – thus landing on recruitment.

Over the years I have learned a great deal about people and their personalities and idiosyncrasies through on-the-job experience. Knowing that the psychological aspect is a real interest for me, Livingston James put me through the BPS-accredited Saville psychometric testing training in 2019. This allows me to administer and interpret Saville personality and aptitude testing, providing a deeper insight into our candidates’ workplace performance and potential. Not only does this allow us to provide a more rounded service to clients, but the understanding of different competencies and workplace behaviours has also allowed me to qualify roles and candidates’ backgrounds more successfully at the beginning stages of a process.

Adapting to Change

Of course, it is impossible to reflect on the last five years without reflecting on the last 18 months. Whilst the pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for businesses and individuals alike, I do believe that a huge amount of learning has been done – particularly in terms of how businesses might operate in the future.

I have thrived on developing and adapting to a changing marketplace at a fast pace more than I ever thought I would. A real continuous improvement culture has developed within Livingston James Group where we are constantly reviewing our collateral, processes, and beliefs in order to become better and provide a superior service to our clients. Over the past few months alone I have personally upskilled in areas such as marketing strategies and systems, psychological theories and personality traits, and approaches to increasing diversity and inclusion. The most ironic thing is that had you asked me two years ago, I probably would have told you that I was averse to change!

The Power of Flexibility

Not only have I learned new skills and developed my capabilities over the past five years, I have also discovered a great deal about myself.

Livingston James was kind enough to allow me to take a four-month sabbatical at the beginning of 2019 to travel South East Asia with my now fiancé. It was something I had always wanted to do but having worked since the age of 13, I was reticent to take a career break. This trip was a huge learning curve for me – I realised I was far more resilient and braver than I had ever given myself credit… and I could live out of a 12kg backpack!

The main benefit of the entire experience was that I grew in confidence, and since I’ve returned to the business my confidence has continued to increase, particularly over the past 18 months. This could be as a result of the development in my capabilities or perhaps as a result of the supportive environment and the opportunity to take accountability and have a voice in business decisions.

Flexibility has become increasingly important since the pandemic. Livingston James Group has opted for a hybrid-working approach, allowing employees to choose how often they wish to work in the office. With a move to the suburbs on the horizon for me, having the flexibility to work from home a couple of days a week will be hugely beneficial. The business also introduced a shorter working week during the summer which is being extended on a trial basis until the end of the year. Given I am from Aberdeenshire, this allows me to travel home in the afternoon rather than evening, giving me time back to spend with my friends and family. Even on weekends I’ve stayed at home, I’ve felt more rested, and by Monday morning I am more energised and motivated.

Why Purpose Matters

As I hurtle far too quickly towards my thirties, I am beginning to recognise what is truly important to me. At the end of 2019, Livingston James Group went through an exercise to define our purpose. Our purpose is to advise and support people and organisations to realise their potential so that together we can impact lives and communities for the better. Although this purpose was not properly defined in 2016, the values were as they are today, and I believe the sentiment of the purpose was already at play. When I think about why I chose to join Livingston James over the other two businesses I had offers for, I realise now that that decision was not purely made on ‘gut feel’ but on my initial, and continued, perception of the company culture. I am privileged to be surrounded by exceptional and experienced colleagues who all play their part in contributing to the Livingston James Group culture and I look forward to continuing to learn from them, as well as our fantastic clients, candidates and communities over the years to come.


We are currently looking for exceptional individuals to join the Livingston James and wider Group teams. If you are interested in kickstarting your recruitment journey or taking the next step in your executive search career, please get in touch with Kirsty Sim at [email protected].

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