A Recruiter’s Non-Compete Story

October 7, 2021

On January 5, 2019 I wrote this note to myself, “Trust in yourself and take a risk. Life is more fun, and a perfect plan does not exist until hindsight. Action.” Now, looking back at this note, I have the hindsight. Guess what? God certainly laughed at my plan and life took over. It has been awesome!

I work in a recruiting industry where the dreaded non-compete agreement is standard practice when leaving a company. For one year I was contractually not allowed to compete against my former employer in the business of operation. While it is not fun, I certainly respect it. Throughout my 15-year recruiting career, I have successfully sat out not just one but two non-compete years. 

With the first non-compete year, I had a cushion. I knew I had a salary waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. With this second non-compete, it has been a bit different.

Think about having this conversation with your significant other, “Honey, I am going to resign from my well-paying job without any clue as to what my next role will be. Oh, and this coming year we are going to encounter the world’s first pandemic in 100 years, the city of Minneapolis will be in a state of unrest due to social inequality, and unemployment will approach the 20% range.” Good thing I did not have a crystal ball, or I do not think the conversation would have gone so well.

I have learned throughout this year that a supportive family and spouse are a must. God bless my wife. As I considered my career ambitions and taking a risk to bet on myself, she always believed in me more than I did. One morning after a hard night’s sleep of tossing and turning (on the floor, by the way), I said to my wife, “I don’t know, I probably can’t do it.” She looked at me and without missing a beat and said, “Don’t be a (insert expletive). You want this. You’ve got this!” It was all I needed to hear. It was time for the biggest risk of my life. 

The plan…

  1. Hustle and unleash the greatness in Nate Exsted. Operate with a humble confidence and keep moving forward. 
  2. Help whoever I can in my network. Be a good person, listen to books, self-reflect, and simply wake up and take the first step. If an opportunity arises, say yes no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Get as uncomfortable as I can…and act. No pontificating.
  3. Fight the constant mind chatter of “what-if” and potential negative consequences. Live for the day with no regrets, while planning for tomorrow. Michael Jordan says, “Why should I worry about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?”


This past year has been one of the most difficult and rewarding (and fun!) years of my life. A lot of sleepless nights, late-night conversations with my wife, questioning my capabilities, and wondering what tomorrow would bring. Life is all about perspective, and although there have been plenty of knock-down moments, I am unleashing myself and have made a conscious effort to look at the positive. What I have been able to accomplish in the past year I could not have planned in a million years. Only hindsight has given me the perfect plan. It has been incredible. 

  1. In July 2019 I rented office space at Office Max for $1 for the first month. I hustled and worked on consulting projects outside my non-compete. 
  2. I helped friends with painting projects and manual labor. I assisted with some resume review, provided career counsel, and researched the CFP. 
  3. I surrounded myself with great people and a support system, and took a “fake it until I make it” approach. I never underestimated the power of having a sound network.
  4. I landed in a meeting with the CEO of one of Minnesota’s most exciting and growing companies, PURIS. This plant-based pea-protein food ingredient company needed help building recruiting methodology and staffing a new plant being constructed in Dawson, MN. Who better to recruit engineer, reliability maintenance, operations, and plant-level non-exempt positions than me, right? Turns out it did not matter that I had never done this before and it was a huge win! I could not have imagined what would come of this connection and opportunity, and only experienced it because I took the risk to trust in myself.

This non-compete year has been one for the books. Opportunities have opened that I could not possibly have planned for. I have surrounded myself with great people, had awesome family support, and hustled with courage to win. No one knows what the future is going to bring, but I am excited! I have learned more about myself in this past year than I have in many. I am excited about betting on myself, being around great people, and moving forward each day.     

               To my network and friends, thank you. Stay tuned in the next week.  I hear you… I am back!!! 


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