What has a traumatic brain injury got to do with headhunting?

Pascal Hänggi 


This is my personal story of how I became a headhunter and what I'll be focusing on in my new job.



You know your life is heading in a questionable direction when you don't know why or what for. 


One day in May 2021, I woke up with no idea what I was doing all day or why I was there. This went on for several weeks until I realized it was time for a change. Did something go wrong? I needed new challenges and new opportunities. Finally, in early July, I remembered what I was doing and why I was doing it. So I was able to take the big step and start a new time in my life. 

The new challenges were completely different and nothing I had ever done before. However, as co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of a biotech start-up, I had proven many times that I was hands-on, able to manage hundreds of tasks on a to-do list, and resilient. However, my perspective had to shift from short-term to long-term thinking when, after 3 months, I was finally able to leave intensive care and move into neurorehabilitation. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury and my priorities were completely focused on getting as close to normal as possible. 



A long way back to the light 


During my rehabilitation I was still in a wheelchair and was given impossibly boring tasks. They weren't fun, but I had to learn a lot of things from scratch again. I had to realize that I wasn't alone, that I had incredible support, but that I had to do all the exercises myself. This is where grit and patience come in. The term grit is very similar to the expression 'getting sh** done'. If you don't like it, that's too bad. Be persistent, be patient and keep practicing until the skill improves. However, in my mind the hustle and struggles was always omnipresent. 



A long road up to recovery from here 


You could argue that at this early stage of my rehabilitation, it's not the best idea to be planning and booking your first 4000m summit in the alps. However, given my motivation/stubbornness at the time, I booked the course for the July 2022 summit from the hospital. It was very important for me to have this as a goal during all the physiotherapy and brain training.  At the time I was also thinking about another type of event. During a team building event, other people criticized my statement: "Excellence should be achieved as a team and not just as an individual. "I personally struggled with this criticism for a long time, as teamwork and empowerment have always been very important to me. The third factor that finally changed my job was the investors' decision to change their investment strategy and pull the plug on the company. 



A long way to making it right 


After my long journey of recovery, I took up another position in a diagnostic company. However, I re-evaluated my current skills, knowledge, abilities and attitude and came to the conclusion that seeking short-term results was not enough to motivate me in the long run. My mindset had changed and I was looking for a position where I could use all my experience and learn from our mistakes to help other people and companies. As hiring the right people has always been one of the most challenging tasks, I decided that the position at Wirz & Partner was the perfect opportunity for me. These three points are key for me: 

  • Taking the time to understand the needs and expectations of both the client and the candidate is key. 
  • Changing the perspective that headhunting is just about passing on CVs. 
  • There's always something I can do to make things better. 

Special thanks to my partner Rachel, my family and all the therapists who supported and helped me to recover. This journey has clearly confirmed that excellence can be greater when you work as a team and everyone is open to constructive feedback. 

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