GAIL Whipper was in her early 20s in 1975 when she landed a job at Alfred Marks Bureau, then the biggest recruitment firm in Britain.
The Maitland-raised daughter of a coal engineer already had career runs on the board - after highschool she got a job as a bank teller at Newcastle Permanent then got a start at Centacom, one of two recruitment firms in Newcastle at the time.
There she learnt the ropes of the sector, nothing however would prepare her for working at Oxford Circus.
"I thought I was going to die - here I am, this young country girl in the wild area of London trying to pretend I fitted in," she recalls with a chuckle. "In the [Alfred Marks] office we had music blaring - not background music, we were in the heart of the fashion district! - and we all smoked at our desk and everyone was yelling, there was such a buzz."
Amid the hubbub, she fielded jobseekers who made a beeline to her desk.
"The candidate would sit on the stool next to you, the jobs would come in and you'd flick through a day box and you'd try and get them an interview there and then," she says, recalling that she once found Spike Milligan's daughter a job. "It was very confronting, you had to think on your feet."
"Technology was limited to manual typewriters and electric typewriters were the be all and end all. All record keeping was done on cards and relationships were strong with clients because you spoke to them in person or on the phone as email wasn't even an option."
More than 40 years later, her well-known Newcastle company Gail Whipper Recruitment has been acquired by Forsythes Recruitment & HR, effective October 1.
Mrs Whipper's move to retire was in part prompted by COVID-19, moreover a feeling she has much to do, from working with local charity I Am Here to seeing more of loved ones.
Two of her six staff, recruitment specialists Angela Clipperton and Kate Grob, will move to Forsythes Recruitment, a firm Mrs Whipper has worked with on projects in the past.
Having known Forsythes Recruitment & HR managing director Geoff Crews since he began in the sector, she believes he is "forward thinking, not sitting on his laurels, and I admire that."
The deal is a part of Forsythes Recruitment's ongoing expansion, including its acquisition of Greater Western Sydney's largest independently owned recruitment firm Penrith Personnel last year.
"Forsythes and Whipper have complementary clients who will now benefit from access to a larger talent pool and specialist human resource and recruitment experts," Mr Crews said, adding that Mrs Whipper and her team were "very well respected, highly professional with the same 'roll up your sleeves' approach."
After six years in London and winning her employer's 'Top Marks' award as its star manager in the UK, Mrs Whipper returned to Australia. She ran Alfred Marks Bureau's Wynyard office in Sydney before returning to Newcastle to wed her husband, Anthony.
In 1999 she went into partnership in a recruitment firm for four years then left.
Caring for her ailing mother until her death, she thought about starting her own firm.
"I knew I was capable but I'd lost confidence because I'd been out of the industry for a bit, but I didn't want to die wondering," she says.
Her London years taught her a valuable lesson.
"Your candidates are gold and I am very passionate about looking after both candidates and clients, and often candidates become clients," she says. "We always meet every candidate, the whole team, we just like them to feel special, it's as simple as that. That way they will respond to you and that's when you can talk to them, much more easily than just reading a resume."
Recruitment is challenging - "You are dealing with people, using your personality to draw out their best, and influencing the way their life will be to a point" - but rewarding. Technology has made the world "smaller" and hiring field broader.
Amid recession and a pandemic, she advises jobseekers to keep calm and keep trying.
"Be prepared to be knocked back but don't give up because it's not you, it's the situation, you have a lot to offer. Do your research for every job, learn about the company and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
"Think about the long game, not where it is now. Because from every job I've had I've started from the bottom and worked my way up. Your attitude speaks loudly."