Natalie Chapman – “Your only limits are the ones you set yourself!”

In this blog, #YesSheCan had the chance to speak to one of our Role Models, Natalie Chapman. Natalie is a Divisional Manager in the building materials sector working with manufacturers and distributors throughout the UK.
She talks to us about her career journey with moving from recruitment to specialising in building materials, the challenges she’s overcome, who inspires her and the passion project she loves, the BMF Ambassador Forum.

I am lucky enough, at the age of 44 to have had two successful careers. The first, I started at the age of 23. Where I was running a hotel and conference center. I had studied hospitality management and loved working in hotels. In 2005, I lost my mum suddenly in a car crash, she was working out in Namibia helping the bushman tribes with supporting their own communities through education. My mum left a legacy behind her, she was a strong driven woman. After mum passed, I knew life was not a dress rehearsal. So I looked for a new career that would allow me to go further and have a role that worked around relationships (and one day a family).

Flash forward a few weeks and I was walking around Leicester, talking with recruiters about potential jobs. I was so unimpressed, they didn’t listen or read between the lines. That day I saw an advert for a recruitment consultant with no experience required, I walked in, sold myself and told the branch manager I would do this better than everyone I had met that day. That is where my career in recruitment started and everyday I have kept that promise to listen and read between the lines. Each person I place is placed in the right job for the right reasons and never to benefit me.

A ‘typical day’ does not exist in my world. Most days I get up at 5.45 get ready and leave for the office or a meeting at 7.15. If it’s a day I work from home, I get an extra 30 minutes in bed.

My day could be meeting with clients, working with the ambassador group, or presenting to BMF members. After I have done all my added value tasks, I start recruiting, sourcing and searching for potential candidates. My interviews always start by listening and understanding what someone needs out of their career. If you truly listen to people, you find out so much more. 

I have explained how I got into recruitment so let me tell you why I chose to specialise in the building materials sector. I started recruiting for Aggregate Industries in 2006 and I was fascinated by it. I was hooked and knew at this point I wanted to specialize in this sector. I just wanted to keep learning more and more and I can honestly say, every year I have learnt more and more about this amazing, diverse sector.

 

“If I am too much, go and find less”

 

How did you get to where you are now, and did you face any challenges along the way? I started recruiting in internal sales, and one day I asked my boss if I could start to recruit for external sales too. He turned around to me and said “I don’t think you are capable”. This was like red rag to a bull. No one tells me I am not capable or enough. So I came up with a challenge. I put forward the idea that if I found the job and filled it, would he allow me to recruit in external sales. He said, “if I wanted to waste my time then go ahead”. So I set to work and quickly proved him wrong. Upon reflection did he really believe I was not capable or was it a way to manipulate me into doing what he always wanted me to do? I’ll never know, but it worked out for me.

If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks? This is a difficult question to answer as I focus on the positive and don’t dwell on the negative. A setback is just a delay in getting to where you want to go. The trick is to focus on what you want and finding a way to get it. The biggest setback I have faced over my years in recruitment is my own self-belief and listening to other people tell I am too much or too Nat (whatever that means). Today being NAT is what has what has made me successful in my professional and private life. What I say to those who said I am too much is, “if I am too much, go and find less”.

The BMF Ambassador forum is my passion project, I want to shout it from the roof tops that we have an amazing, diverse industry, that has endless possibilities. Educating the next generation on what a career could do for them in the building materials industry, is something I will champion for as long as I can. Like my mum left her legacy out in Namibia, this is my legacy.

I think I am naturally a driven person; I think being a twin makes you naturally competitive (yes I am a twin too).

Life has thrown me a lot of challenges in my 44 years on this planet. But I believe that what does not break you makes you.

Over the years I have grown this drive and determination within me by educating myself. I now practice manifestation, law of attraction and gratitude with a healthy helping of positive thinking.

 

“Life has thrown me a lot of challenges in my 44 years on this planet. But I believe that what does not break you makes you.”

 

In recruitment, there is a healthy mix of men and women. However, specialist building materials recruiters are mostly men. In the early days, I would arrive at a meeting with a sales director (usually a man) and he would look at me and ask what I knew about the industry.

Let’s just say, there is not a sales director to this day that has not eaten his words or been very surprised when I have impressed them with my knowledge of the industry.

I know we all say our kids but my daughters are my biggest achievement. Let me explain why…

In my early 20s I had 6 years of smear tests coming back with changes, on one biopsy the consultant took away too much on my cervix and I had to be admitted. As this was a huge mistake made by the doctor, I made a formal complaint and ended up being seen by the head of gynecology. He did a further investigation under a general anesthetic and found nothing; he told me if this kept happening, I would need a hysterectomy. I was only 30 and I knew I wanted to be a mum. I went home and spoke to my husband. He said, let fate take control and we stopped with birth control. 3 weeks later and we were pregnant with twins.

Growing up we noticed one of my daughters struggling. We went through 6 years to diagnose her with ADHD and get her the correct medication.

So, I fought to have my girls and I fight every day to give them every opportunity to be happy and thrive.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is… fight for what you believe in. Especially if you know it is right in your gut. Just make sure you do it with grace and respect.

 

“Fight for what you believe in”

 

My free time is spent doing self-care and relaxing. I do love a good Netflix series. And I enjoy creating playlists on Spotify.

My mantra is… turn up every day and make it count because you don’t know when it will be your last.

The three tips I would give to young women starting their careers…

Believe you can and you will.

Your only limits are the ones you set yourself.

Look for the positives in everyday and that is what you will find.

The best bit of advice that I’ve been given… Say yes to every opportunity, you never know where it will take you.

 

“One of my mum’s friends said Nat you are so strong, and I said that is because a strong woman raised me.”

 

A woman who has impacted my life is… my Mum, she was dealt some pretty rubbish cards in life, but she never gave up.

At my mum’s funeral I felt a strength I had never felt in my life and was able to get up and give a reading for my mum. One of my mum’s friends said Nat you are so strong, and I said that is because a strong woman raised me.

My key motivators are… Recognition, praise and to move forward everyday.

Stop trying to balance it (gender in businesses). Just put the best person in every role and don’t worry about their gender, race or anything else that society judges by. Look at interviewing on skills and I am sure this will stop the imbalance.

A key leadership lesson I’ve learned… Work with people, set a good example, and lead people, don’t be their boss.

I would say to my 16-year-old self... Believe you can and you will, you are stronger than you know.

If I could do anything differently in my career… I would not change a thing as all my decisions have brought me to where I am today.

Thank you to Natalie for sharing her story! If you’d like to read more about our other Role Models in this sector, click here.

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