8 Aug 2017

Are you in your dream job?

Ok.  Here it is.  I’m not sure there is any such thing as ‘the dream job’.   I was reading a competitor’s blog last week and they were advising clients how to make their internal roles, their candidate’s dream roles thus gaining loyalty and staying power from an increasingly transient workforce.  It got me thinking.  What would my dream job be/have been? Probably a travel journalist at one stage and I can definitely remember wanting to be a Doctor, until I saw a corpse and gave up on that one.  I definitely never set out to be a Recruitment Consultant – yet, of all the jobs I’ve had, it has been the most satisfying, most flexible, most rewarding – financially and personally job that I’ve done. So technically, it is my dream job. 

I think there are a few things going on here.  Firstly the definition of your dream job and secondly, the realisation that that definition can change throughout your lifetime and what was your dream job at the age of 25, probably won’t be by the time you are 45.  We’re very lucky really. In my parent’s generation, your job was your job.  You did it for life.  Albeit, you did usually get a final salary pension scheme too so they didn’t do that badly!  These days, we are able to change career and increasingly, people are looking for alternative ways to make a living that don’t involve a relentless daily commute or mind numbing 9-5 . 

 I do see several candidates try to make the break.  And whilst there are a few who have succeeded, there are an equal and opposite number who after perhaps a year or two years doing something different, have come back to the industry.  Often it’s because the grass isn’t always greener but often, simply because the ideal dream role with lots of flexibility and balance, doesn’t always pay very well.  Often, I’ll see candidates who want to ‘Freelance’ or ‘be a Marketing Consultant’.  It’s really important to weigh up the pros and cons of doing this before committing.  I think in the North, there is a great Freelance market for Project Managers, Developers and top quality Designers.  Not so much for client services, account handlers or in-house marketers. The best we can do there is usually maternity contracts.  Most often, the consultants find that they can fill 2 days of work with an old client or existing work but it can be tricky to top up...and then financially it doesn’t become the same win win plan.  Lots of time but not enough money...

We also see quite a few industry leavers who go into alternative therapies, life coaching and yoga teaching. Again, the feedback is that whilst these opportunities are personally rewarding, the financial side of things is a bit of a come down.  And increasingly we find individuals coming back into the jobs market.

So there is definitely something to be said for employers trying to make their employee’s lives as enjoyable as possible.  We’re very lucky to work in marketing. For the most part, it’s interesting, challenging, has lots of variety, is evolving all the time etc.   In my annual surveys, the most important benefit that employees value is the number of days holiday and the ability to buy extra days.  Second in line is flexible working. Whether this is one day a week working from home or the ability to start at 8 and leave at 4 or start at 10 and leave at 6.   Increasingly pensions are both requested and provided. Other softer benefits including  gym membership, free fruit,  pizza Fridays etc – they are nice but it’s the things that allow quality of life with family and friends that make the difference.  I think over the coming years, we’re increasingly going to see individuals wanting to work part time and employers who can accommodate this will probably find increased loyalty and greater staying power in their employees.  In my recent experience, as individuals enter their forties and fifties, they don’t want to stop working, but they’d love to work less.  At the moment, this is more easily accommodated with in-house marketing roles than in agencies but perhaps that will change as the century progresses.  We will see.

So, are you in your dream job now?  As long as you feel like you have a good work life balance, are paid fairly and you get a kick out of what you do? I’d say yes you probably are.  If not, give me a call and we’ll see if we can find it!

19 Jul 2017

What not to wear...

With the recent good weather, it has been tricky to get interview apparel right.  One doesn't want to arrive at an interview with sweaty armpits or perspiring gently on your forehead.  However, one candidate got it very wrong by arriving for an interview in her flip flops.  I've reviewed this with several recruitment colleagues and it's surprising how many companies have a (unofficial) 'no toes' rule for interviews.

It is made trickier in the advertising sector.  In many of my agency clients in Manchester and Leeds, dressing down is the norm.  This is a creative sector and individuals do use their personal style as an opportunity to demonstrate that creativity.  Once you've got the job, that's absolutely fine.  In fact, when I visit agencies, there are usually a few people in sandals and shorts, very rarely do I see suits.  However, it's important to treat interviews with respect and to acknowledge that even in the most creative agencies, it's important to understand the etiquette for what not to wear.  

Surely it's common sense?  I generally advise candidates when I am confirming their interview, what they should aim for.  Mostly, it's 'smart casual'.  If I'm unsure, I'll call the client to confirm what they expect.  Seldom will you be judged for being too smart (you can always say you were interviewing somewhere more formal earlier in the day).  However, if you get it wrong, that's not going to give you any extra points.  Most agencies will be happy for smart casual to be the format as the tendency is only to wear suits for pitches and very important clients.  Make sure you double check if it's an in-house client employer though. Often, if you're being interviewed by HR, they are especially conscious of interview attire so you may need to up the ante a little.  I don't deal with many companies these days who expect a tie but again, double check.  

General rules of thumb:

No open toes
No jeans (and it makes no difference if they are 'designer'
Nothing with rips in (it has been done)
Tuck your shirt in (seems obvious)
Don't wear your sunglasses on your head (immediate judgement - and not positive)
No tattoos or irregular piercings on display
Cleavage. Less is more.
No 'too short' skirts
Nothing leather
No pants on display
Nothing 'spray on' (seriously)
Give yourself a good sniff before you go in. Poor personal hygiene is something else that clients don't react well to.

Remember, polished is good and shows that you respect both yourself and the potential employer who you are meeting.  Any level of slovenliness will imply that you are similar in other areas of your life and behaviour.  Don't let something so simple as personal presentation let you down. Good luck!

15 Jun 2017

How long does it take to find a job?

How long does it take to find a job?  One of the most common questions that I get asked.  And to be honest, there is no fixed answer - other than 'it depends'.

At the time of writing (June 2017), the market in the North is reasonably buoyant.  However, it's more buoyant in certain areas than in others.    The digital market is buzzing and there will always be a role for a Digital Project Manager or Developer.    Similarly for integrated agencies, the market is reasonably consistent when it comes to AE to AM level - there are usually several opportunities around for people at this level.  The caveat here is that often when the market is more buoyant, candidates have choice and this often frustrates clients as the candidates will reject offers whilst waiting for something more 'attractive' - something that doesn't happen in the less busy periods.

But timewise....If a Digital Project Manager lands in my inbox today - a solid and traditional PM who has min 3 years experience in a pedigree agency....I can probably place them within 3 weeks. Possibly sooner.  However, if a Digital Account Director comes along looking for £55k, they may have the perfect CV but it is likely to take a little longer.   The market contracts as we head towards the senior roles and the bigger salaries. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the salary, the longer it takes to find a job.

In the agency world, we don't normally see recruitment cycles around the financial year or seasons. It's just down to supply and demand. If clients have won new pitches, they'll recruit.  However, recruiting an Account Executive or Project Executive is a reasonably small impact on client overheads so the decision making is not normally extended or long winded. If I put a good CV in front of a client at that level, they'll make a hire.  Proactively trying to engage clients in senior/expensive candidate CVs is more likely to result in a coffee rather than a formal interview - it's something that I do but without any expectation that it's going to lead to an immediate placement.

I usually advise people to keep their CV up to date (yes, I know I would wouldn't I).  If you're SAM level and above, I would say it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the market.  The roles are not so frequent and if you wait until the day that you really want to find a new role, you'll have less choice. I encourage candidates to stay in touch regularly, even if they're not actively hunting for a new role - I'm a useful contact if you're trying to gain a pay-rise or to get the most out of your appraisal. Equally, if you have a vision of your 'dream role', it's worth making your recruiter aware of it so that if it does land, they'll call you immediately.

Rough guidelines:

Account Executives: Should find something within a month
Senior Account Executives & Account Managers: Should find something within 3 months (depending on how choosy you are!).
Senior Account Managers: Currently this level is quiet.  Largely because most SAMs are looking to move to an AD role....and the AD market is flat.  So it can take 6-12 months.
Account Director and above:  6-12 months.
Digital Project Mangers: Up to £35k and a solid CV - Within 2 months
Search Marketers (SEO, PPC, Display): Up to £30k - Within 2 months.
Search Marketers (SEO, PPC, Display):  Up to £50k - Within 6 months - market quiet busy at the moment and candidates short in supply so likely to be shorter lead time.
Brand Planners: Usually in high demand and short supply so it can be very quick....but again, at the senior end, it can take longer to find a client with budget to hire.
Digital Development & Design:  Clients at the moment are looking for quality and strong agency backgrounds.  I'd almost go so far as to say that we could place 'quality' within a month across both sides of the Pennines such is the shortage of candidates.  But you must have recognised agencies on the CV and have impressive portfolios.

Ultimately, agencies are increasingly wanting quality candidates with solid work backgrounds and people who have stayed in their roles.  This gives them confidence in hiring strong talent and they'll recruit quickly.  My advice is that it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the market as you never know when the perfect role will present itself. I send out a weekly jobs update to candidates and if you'd like to be on this circulation, email me at fiona.christian@perfectmarketingpeople.com.  This has all the latest opportunities on both sides of the Pennines and if there is anything that appeals, it's easy to drop me a line - but equally easy to ignore if the timing isn't right for you!

8 May 2017

Does Age Matter?

I'm up and at it early this morning and have been listening to the Today programme (yes, really) with the News that Emmanuel Macron has won the French Elections.  Interestingly, much of the reporting is focusing on his age - 39.  Has he got the experience to do such a big job at such a young age?

I see ageism on a daily basis.  Not always, as you might think the typical 'on the scrapheap after 45' but more commonly what I call 'reverse ageism' - I've just looked it up and it is actually a thing. Monsieur Macron, whilst having a sound career background commercially has not had much political experience and we'll probably now see the media focusing on that.

Often in this industry, we see very young individuals doing jobs with a senior job title.  The initial reaction is often a certain degree of cynicism, however, over the years, I've learned to address each candidate individually as for some early achievers, it is entirely possible that they have the right skills and abilities to do the job.  I'm also experienced in recognising the agencies in the North who do tend to promote rapidly and which agencies do that the right way and with the right people.

I was recently chatting to an Account Director who was 25.  Just over 3 years experience post graduation with a global agency.  They were earning £40k.  Instantly I saw the agency that this person had worked for.  It's an agency where they spend a huge amount of time and money on their Graduate recruitment process and similar to perhaps management consultancies, a lot of responsibility is given to relatively junior people who are fast tracked into senior positions.  They are one of a handful of agencies in the region who do this BUT I do recognise that this agency trains well and given the quality of their graduates, the type of work that they do and the training they gain, they can generally justify their salary.    It is, however, often challenging persuading other agencies of their worth, particularly since most agencies do have structured salary brackets which often depend on 'number of years in the job'.

To be fair to (agency) clients, it's not always the case that they'll question the specific skills of the individual who has 3 years experience and is an Account Director. They'll question the overall commercial experience, the ability to work with challenging clients, specifically they will question the 'strategic' knowledge of that candidate as this skill does extend over time.  They will wonder how credible the candidate will be whilst working with very senior client decision makers - how much gravitas will they command and will they be respected both internally and externally.

The agency world is reasonably structured. For someone in Client Services, the entry level is Account Executive and the progression is to Account Manager, Senior Account Manager and Account Director. We're also increasingly seeing the title of Business Director where at a senior level, it is all about profit and loss, client development and leadership.  There are not many agencies who deviate from this structure and hierarchy. With a starting salary of £17/18k in most agencies for an Account Executive (Graduate with 6 months experience), it's easy to see why agencies might question an Account Director title and commensurate salary after 3 years.

Every year I write a salary survey to give clients guidance on the broad benchmarks for salaries for each job role in our sector.  Ultimately, we do not work in one of the 'high' salary sectors - individuals will make far more in Law, Accountancy and Management Consultancy.  So the Early Achievers really need to focus on a career plan to ensure that they can continue their trajectory.  With several of the 'fast track progression' agencies, the staff retention rates are extremely high. This is because they offer the swift promotion, tend to offer different opportunities - perhaps to work on different sectors or clients or to work in a different global office. If one leaves a 'fast track agency' it can be a struggle to join one of the more mainstream agencies where salaries and levels are much more traditional.   I will try to introduce such candidates to as many agencies as possible and to facilitate a meeting for them to prove their worth.  It's my knowledge of the agency world that enables me to know instinctively who will, and who won't be open-minded and who will see these high flyers as an asset to their business.

So good luck to Monsieur Macron. I hope that he will be able to convince the naysayers.  Fresh experience can often be a very good thing and as in any business, it's the skill-set and the abilities of a cross-functional team that contributes to overall success. Let's hope he has the leadership skills and the credibility side covered too!

1. Not written with any kind of political messaging - just about age!
2. I listen to Today to try and gain some kind of 'intellect'. Not entirely sure it works.