We are NOT Cool Kids, and There is NO Special Circle

“Yesterday was pretty great. Got to see all the cool kids on the block that I admire. Now I need to figure out how to become a part of their “cool kids” circle! Going to make it a point to spend more time with you all next time! Thank you for the laughs & warm hugs – Prerna Saraff Chauhan

The quote above is from a post that appeared on my Facebook wall after a fantastic recruiting/sourcing conference I attended just recently called RecruitDC.  This post is not about the great time I had with friends and colleagues, but the perception that some of us have in this space and how we seem to be portrayed, it’s not what I thought, and part of me is ashamed of that.  I don’t know how we got to this point, but it’s something I think everyone should be made aware and how we can change it.


Mean Girls? Not Our Style

“Jules: Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what’s Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what’s Fonzie like?

Yolanda: Cool? Jules: What? Yolanda: He’s cool”.

If you don’t know Prerna and are at least in the local DC area, you should meet her.  Both her smile and her attitude are infectious, and you can feel the pure energy flowing through her. Perna was volunteering at the event as it is run by a non-profit and can benefit from all the help it can to run these occasions flawlessly. Volunteers like Prerna are the backbone of any event.  I know Prerna and have chatted with her online. When I saw her, I told her that I did not just want my badge, I wanted a hug! I am a hugger if you didn’t know, and I don’t discriminate. I felt at that moment a feeling of surprise, not that she was scared but somewhat taken aback from my openness. Why? I think what she said in her quote above sums it up. “Got to see all the cool kids on the block that I admire. Now I need to figure out how to become a part of their “cool kids” circle!”


We are all in this crazy game together fighting the good fight, and the whole point of conferences is to meet, discuss, and learn from one another. Trust me when I say there is no one out there wanting to help us, so we have to help each other.  I cannot say that I know anyone that I am associated with that would not take a couple of minutes to chat with you within my tribe, and it’s a big, big tribe.  SourceCon is going to do something very cool in Anaheim, and I am hoping to be part of it, Shannon, wink wink, nod.  They are going to have ambassadors, the old guard if you will, to be there for everyone to get the most from the experience that they can. I want you to come and introduce yourself to me when you see me. I don’t need compliments, in fact, I shy from it. I am no deity, just a boy who found a purpose in life, and I want to share it with you.  I want your stories, your successes, your failures, your voice.  We are all in the people business, and we should and do act accordingly.

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“Always be humble and kind” – Tim Mcgraw

When I went to my first SourceCon I was a speaker. I was invited to a dinner with the other speakers and there were giants in our industry there. I was terrified to speak to any of them until Glen Cathey introduced himself.  Not one speaker was rude or curt with me. We were there to share and learn. Had she told me this, face to face, at that moment, I would have taken her hand and introduced her to everyone I knew that day. Hell, I knew every presenter and almost all of the volunteers, I was one, being part of the selection committee.  So, Prerna, like I told you on Facebook, as did many others, next time you see me grab my hand and let’s meet people together because there are so many people I want to meet too and having a pal around would Bolden me that much further. I do hope to see you, all of you, at the table next time because there is plenty of room for you.  #truestory


Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing in the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions for Engage Talent. He has experience with both third-party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland area. Now, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage.


17 Comments on “We are NOT Cool Kids, and There is NO Special Circle

    1. Aaron, remember at Sourcecon Dallas that big drunk cowboy, who was a total random stranger, asked me if he could have a hug when we were outside at the bar? I said sure, and he told me it made his whole night. The power of #thehug #truestory!

  1. Thanks for posting this Derek. I think part of the challenge is that a good bunch of folks who are within the sourcing community are introverted at various levels, so it’s not second nature to proactively walk up to someone, especially a person whose name is perceived to be ‘famous,’ and strike up a conversation. Couple that with those recognizable individuals also often being on the introverted side and we have a room full of people who are not super comfortable in social settings, desperately wanting to connect with one another but feeling too shy to do so 🙂 I suffer from this as well (I actually really dislike large social settings unless I have a task for which I am responsible) and so often we perceive shyness or introversion wrongly as snobbery. The best we can all do is try to include people in conversations if we see them hanging on around the perimeter of a discussion, ask them to introduce themselves, and be warm and welcoming even if it feels a little uncomfortable. And if you’re able, take someone ‘under your wing’ and make it a point to help facilitate introductions to people with similar professional backgrounds or interests. I will be forever grateful to Jim Stroud for being that person for me ten years ago. Remember where you came from, and always reach back.

    1. When you get to the top of the mountain turn back around and help the next person up. Love your style lady and honored to be a friend of yours. You have so much to offer and you are very giving, its what we need!

  2. And, Zeller, you give the best hugs! What a beautiful post. I’ve always felt welcomed by all the “cool kids” most of whom I’ve only met in person in the last 12 months and though I may get the honour of standing at the front of the room, as I did at RecruitDC, I can still feel intimidated networking a room or walking up to my “idols” including the aforementioned Cathey! 😀

    There definitely isn’t a circle, just a beautiful bunch of peeps to spend time with and learn from. It was an honour to spend my birthday with you all too, still #feelinghthelove

    1. YES! I made the best hugs circle!!! LOL I missed you the moment I left the resteraunt as we could not stop making each other laugh. Great to finally meet you FtoF.

  3. Derek — Heartfelt post. I’ll be expecting a great big hug when I do meet you. For that matter, when I meet all of you. I, too, will ask for a hug. Why? Because this sourcing community is like family, a great group of welcoming people, willing to help and guide. Though a IRL meet up hasn’t happened [yet], I do feel a great sense of knowing that at any given time or challenge arises, that help is a reach out away – as Derek points out, “we’re all in this crazy game TOGETHER”. Thank you sourcing community for all you have done to help me figure this industry out. Rolling up my sleeves and jumping right in.

  4. Count me in as another member of the (really) “old guard” looking forward to being an ambassador at SourceCon Anaheim. I will hug, but only if your arms are already outstretched or you request verbally — Derek has less of an issue with personal space and, in his enthusiasm, may not realize one of your ribs is about to become a complex fracture as a result. 😉

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