Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

After Many Pivots, This Career Changer Found Her Calling as a Recruiter

Veronica Weatherspoon, a principal talent acquisition business partner at Northrop Grumman
Veronica Weatherspoon, a principal talent acquisition business partner at Northrop Grumman.
| Courtesy of Northrop Grumman

Growing up, Veronica Weatherspoon was one of those kids who wanted to be all the things. “A writer, a doctor, a lawyer, a world-changer!” she says. “The problem was that I had no idea how to become any of them.”

As first-generation immigrants, Weatherspoon’s parents weren’t able to offer her much advice about how to launch a career or navigate the world of work in the U.S. As a result, Weatherspoon found herself dabbling in a variety of industries, relying on the guidance of people she met in each new job.

“Most of my early career was walking through doors that opened for me along the way,” she says. “Each pivot was prompted by someone who saw something in me.”

That’s exactly how Weatherspoon found herself applying for her first role in recruiting, at Northrop Grumman. Today, she’s a principal talent acquisition business partner at the aerospace and defense technology company.

Here, Weatherspoon talks about what led her to work at Northrop Grumman, how she overcame imposter syndrome as a career changer (and scored a promotion in the process), and the best advice she received as a first-time mom.

What led to your job at Northrop Grumman, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

Right before joining Northrop Grumman, I was the connections director at a large church. My job was to help new members get plugged into everything our church had to offer and help them find their place in our community. A dear friend from church saw how much I enjoyed meeting people and connecting them to opportunities, and invited me to apply to an entry-level sourcing role at Northrop Grumman. With her encouragement, I took the leap of faith, applied, and got the job!

Northrop Grumman allowed me to stretch and exercise my strengths early on. Even though I was new to recruiting, I wasn’t new to organizing projects, teams, or people. I fell into a role leading hiring events and discovered my passion for helping people from different backgrounds find their place in our company. Like me, many of them had no idea where to start and just needed help navigating to the right career path.

What are you responsible for in your role? Are there any skills from your previous experiences that have helped you in this role?

Our team calls ourselves the “sourcing legends.” We find incredible talent for those tough, hard-to-fill positions. In my role, I’m responsible for equipping our team to lead successful hiring events. When I started supporting events for Northrop Grumman, I drew from my previous experiences running large church and nonprofit events.

When you’re doing an event for a nonprofit, there’s a lot of natural energy behind the mission because people care about the cause and that’s why they put their all into it. In the corporate world, I had to figure out how to build that same level of excitement and shared commitment to success, especially when we returned to in-person events. The solution was simple: I put together a mission statement for each event and reiterated it at every planning meeting. I reminded our team that we weren’t just putting on an event for the sake of hires—we had a chance to share our culture and create a memorable candidate experience.

What is the biggest challenge you faced when changing careers, and how did you overcome it?

When I first joined Northrop Grumman, there were a few people who felt like the job was handed to me because I knew someone. At times, their doubt caused me to question whether I was truly qualified for recruiting and deserved this opportunity. On paper, I didn’t have hard recruiting experience, so what business did I have recruiting for a multibillion-dollar corporation?

In those moments of doubt, I pushed myself to make the most of the opportunity. I sought mentors, read recruiting articles, and completed extra trainings on a regular basis. I’ve been blessed with the tenacity to learn quickly, and I worked hard until I started to produce results that I was proud of. Within my first six months of working for Northrop Grumman, my hard work paid off and I was promoted! When I’ve had the chance to engage with the “doubters,” they often share how impressed they are with my growth and what I’ve been able to bring to the company.

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion advocate at the company, what do you like most about the culture at Northrop Grumman?

What I love about Northrop Grumman is that you’re encouraged to bring your ideas, perspective, and full self to the table, even if you’re brand new to the company or early in your career. From day one, you’ll notice an openness and a humility that is rare to find in large corporations. We recognize that the best idea can come from anyone, and we know we need to approach problems or challenges from diverse perspectives to get to the best solution. I’ve seen this happen time and time again on our team. When someone feels safe enough to voice their thoughts, they are much more likely to be engaged and bring their strengths to the table and contribute.

What skills or lessons has being a mom taught you that you apply to your career?

Time management and how to prioritize! As a mom—especially a working mom—I am constantly making decisions about which things need to get done (like cooking dinner for my family) and which things can wait (the pile of laundry staring me in the face). Before becoming a parent, I didn’t understand boundaries. I didn’t understand that I could pause and come back to something at work, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to handle it all. Now that there’s a little human relying on me, I must set boundaries and choose what items to knock out on a given work day.

In what ways does Northrop Grumman encourage work-life balance? Are there any related perks or benefits that you take advantage of?

Imagine your manager telling you, “Hey, you’re burning the candle at both ends and I know you have a family to take care of. Have you thought of taking some time off?” That conversation happens at Northrop Grumman. We take care of each other here. Not only does it happen in interactions with our leadership team, but it’s also built into our schedules. Most employees at Northrop Grumman get every other Friday off—what we call our 9/80 schedule. This means that I don’t have to use PTO to plan a long weekend vacation. It means I have a weekday to take care of appointments, pay bills, or spend time at the park with my son.

We also have self-care sprints when we get together once or twice a week to set self-care goals. Goals are usually activities you find fulfilling but haven’t had time for, like learning how to cook, training for a marathon, or finishing that book you wanted to read. These sprints also allow us to get to know our team better by learning more about what they like to do outside of work.

What advice do you have for working parents who may be struggling to find this balance between work and family?

As a first-time mom, I’m still navigating this balance! While I haven’t figured it out yet, I quickly learned the value of being present with my son. Once I finish work, I take a few minutes to play with him. He’s obsessed with chase and hide-and-go-seek right now! Even though there’s dinner to be made and a house to clean, I completely pause my to-do list to make memories with him. I turn my phone off and step away from my computer so he can have 100% of my attention.

A wise piece of advice another working parent shared was to be at peace with what you can give. You can’t give 100% to work and 100% to your kids. That’s 200%! There will be days when work gets 75% because you have a deadline. There will be other days when your child is sick and might get 90% of your attention. That wisdom has lifted tons of guilt off my shoulders and helped me to set realistic expectations for myself as a mom and as an employee.

Updated 12/15/2022