The Transition Phase were delighted to recently speak with former Premiership Champion Chris York about his career after rugby, and how he is enjoying life in his new role at recruitment firm Scene! – by Jamie Lashley

The build-up to the festive period can be quite manic! How are you finding it at as a relatively new employee?

Having joined quite recently I wanted to make sure that I hit the ground running, completely immersing myself within the company and getting as much understanding of recruitment as fast, and as thoroughly, as I could. I’m not just looking for the quick transaction deals that are sometimes associated with recruitment, so there’s a steep learning curve! I’ve done a lot of calls and meetings, and I find every single one is different to the others.

What did sporting background before moving into the business world entail? What level did you play at?

I started playing rugby as a professional straight out of school, joining Harlequins just a few days after I did my A Level exams! I was there for four seasons, starting in the Academy for the first couple years before progressing into the first team squad. In my last year we were really successful, winning the Premiership. Being a part of that squad was a really great way to finish my time there, before moving on for more playing time and ensuring that I was progressing my career. I went up to Newcastle for three seasons and was helped them get promoted back into the Premiership in my first season there. I had a great couple of seasons there, making lots of friends and experiencing the difference between living and playing in the North and the South. I met some great people and played some great rugby. I then moved on to join Ealing Trailfinders, meaning I was London based, and was there for two more seasons, before considering other things that would be more long-term for my career, because I was not quite scaling up the way I wanted to.

What were some of your biggest achievements and favourite memories of your playing career?

I would definitely underline that final year at Quins when we won the Premiership, it was certainly the biggest highlight for me. Also, during my time at Quins, there was a game against our rivals Saracens, and they played some of their home games at Wembley Stadium, and I managed to get myself on with 7 minutes left and score at Wembley in front of 45000 people, which is a fantastic highlight to have and look back on.

So, it was when you were back in the Championship that you started thinking about jobs away from rugby?

After my time with Ealing I jumped into the business world of Sports Content and Media. I was at Perform Media Group for two years to start off with, which was then acquired by a bigger company, where I had a similar role as account executive. However, during lockdown I was furloughed because of the uncertainty regarding the future of the company and the media section. Then the media department was sold, and we were newly named as FootballCo, where I carried on my account executive role there.

You went straight into professional sport and did not go to university, but was it something you considered?

Thinking back, I perhaps should have looked at a part-time degree whilst playing, but I was so focussed on the sport. Education-wise, I was at Epsom College up to A Level, and then it was an easy decision for me, because whilst everyone was doing their UCAS applications, I had a contract offer from Harlequins, so further education was not really on my radar at the time.

Did you have any doubts about moving into the corporate world as a result of not going to uni? How did you find that post-rugby job hunting process?

During the latter years of my playing career I was thinking about what I could do when I finish, and what I was interested in. I believe you need that initial interest level, not to just throw yourself into something you’re not interested in. You hear a variety of things: some say go into something you are good at because you will enjoy doing well; or go into what you’re interested in because you will always have that interest level there even if some days are bad or slow, because the great days will be even better. You do get that different feedback. I asked around and spoke to people within my support network, getting the most comprehensive information that I could in front of me. I was always keen on the hospitality industry, so I spoke to people who owned restaurants or small start-up businesses. Recruitment was certainly one option on the horizon, so I spoke to people to begin with because it was an industry I didn’t know much about, and there were limited industries at that time that I did know about or could potentially go into. With that sporting background there is inclination to go into something that’s aligned to sport for your first move in the business world. That’s why I think the decision to go to Perform Group was the right one at the time because I wanted to try something a little bit different, and this was something with a majority focus in football. Funnily enough I’m not a massive football fan myself so it was a bit of a dive into the deep end for me. I learnt the ropes very quickly and had a great team around me bringing me up to speed in the media world. I certainly learnt a bit more about firstly the sport, and secondly the industry. Working with large global clients was great, because it allowed me to build my understanding in terms of communication, and get to know what people are looking for. I learnt about their missions, targets and campaigns that they come to you to work on, and it was a great stepping stone onto where I am now.

At what point did you start speaking to The Transition Phase?

Funnily enough TTP and I started speaking before the Lockdown, and they were very open and honest in their communication with regards to what she thought would suit me based off the conversations we had. It was not simply a case of what was free or what company was looking at the moment; she gave reasons as to why she thought I’d be suited to the company, and would give me good background information about the company, the outlook or the team. By giving me all the information that I needed each time round, it felt like a bespoke service to my interest and skills. We had an ongoing dialogue intermittently across the next 18 months regarding what came around that looked interesting or relevant to my experience or skill set, and discussed it.

Now you are newly started at Scene, how are you finding it? What are you enjoying most about the role?

I’ve had my first four weeks of Scene life, and I guess it’s still the honeymoon stage! It feels longer, not in a negative way, but due to the amount of learning and everything we have covered. It feels more like a few months in that respect! The firm will tweak the onboarding and induction process each time round for a new batch of trainees, so they’re always looking for a better way of helping people who do not know anything about recruitment to get up to speed, people from a junior level like myself. People that are slightly more experienced will still have induction, as they learn what is asked of you when joining Scene as an employee, what you are representing and trying to achieve. I’m always engaged with learning more about something I don’t necessarily know about, but have an inclination and an interest in. So, learning about recruitment, what we are looking for, how we can be the best within our own industry and how essentially do we mark ourselves above other recruitment agencies; and why we were working in this specific industry of fast growth tech as well. All these things are very relevant and suited to me, so I do as much as I can and the time is flying so I must be enjoying it!

What advice would you give to somebody going through that transition and that job-hunting process?

I would certainly say to take a couple of days to just think about everything you have considered in terms of what you want to do and what you are interested in, and then how you can make that happen. What I did in my own way was take a few days and think, ‘right these are the fields or industries that I’m interested in or engaged in, who can I reach out to that is close to me or can talk to someone that is in the know’. I recommend talking to them and have an honest conversation. I think a lot of people will sell you the best thing when they talk to you, but don’t give you the real hard facts, because there are some days that you will be challenged, or you might have a couple of weeks where you’re not necessarily doing certain things. It certainly is not all glitz and glam, so it’s about having that open and honest conversation with people that you respect. That is a great starting point. Following that you can go out further and expand on the ones you are still interested in, by discussing with people who you aren’t necessarily close to, but have more experience and expertise, to get a different set of opinions.