1 Apr 2013

New tricks...

A candidate recently came to me for some advice. I've seen a couple of similar scenarios in the last few months so I thought I would share the story and hopefully it might help others!

The candidate, a well established agency account handler  had,  following redundancy last year taken a role as a Senior Account Manager in a pure-play digital agency.  Previously, the candidate had managed a wide range of above the line campaigns for blue chip companies, managed a team, guided clients on their strategic marketing plans and taken responsibility for the day to day management of campaigns.  A confident and strong Account Director.  However, following redundancy, the number of senior account handling roles were minimal and when offered the SAM role by a former colleague, the candidate jumped at the chance.  The money was a lot less than they'd previously earned but the candidate (wisely, in my view) took the role based on potential and the opportunity to learn some new skills - namely managing digital campaigns which previously, the candidate had not worked on.

Six months in, the candidate was wobbling (technical recruitment term!).  Ultimately, feeling out of their depth and completely out of their comfort zone.  Having previously worked in a larger agency with lots of processes and procedures and layers of Campaign Management, the new agency was a small independent where all hands are on deck and everyone rolled their sleeves up.  For someone coming into this agency environment with no digital knowledge, it was too much.  The candidate felt constantly stressed through their lack of technical knowledge, which then meant that they were unable to give clients considered advice and they felt that within the rest of the small, close knit team, they were losing credibility, constantly having to check things with other people.  The candidate was ready to walk out of the door and not come back.

So we had a coffee and looked at options.  I pointed out all the (many) positives.  Namely that digital at the moment seems to account for 70 % of the marketing vacancies out there, the agency had been happy to take them on knowing that they had little to no digital knowledge, that the drop in salary and status (to SAM) accounted for that lack of digital knowledge, but also acknowledged the general account handling management skills that the candidate did have.  Not many agencies would take on that challenge, especially as digital roles are becoming more technical, however, the agency head had worked with this individual previously so knew exactly what skills were on the table.   The number of traditional integrated AD roles in the North West are still extremely low so given the option of sitting at home trawling the online job boards versus finding a way to deal with the current challenge, we decided to put together a three point plan to find our way out of the problem.

1.  Talk to the boss.  Don't just make it about how hard you are finding the role.  Outline the challenges but also outline the solutions.    Having invested 6 months in someone, the boss is not going to want to spend the time or money on finding a replacement.
2.  Find ways to build confidence. This candidate had been made redundant last year and was still bruised by the experience.  Trying to learn new skills whilst experiencing low confidence is tricky.
3. Logically accept that this is a really good opportunity and one that, if successful, will re-define a career for the future.  Not many individuals would have been given such a chance.

It's interesting, once you've verbalised an issue and shared it, there is always an improvement in how you feel.  In summary, once the candidate had spoken to the boss, he instantly registered her on the IDM Diploma in Digital marketing and organised a one to one session each week with her and the technical project manager to use as a formal training mechanism.  When it came down to it, it wasn't the client servicing that was an issue (after all, they'd over 10 years experience of managing clients) but confidence in knowing what they were talking about from a technical perspective.  The MD pointed out that he had plenty of technical skills in house, what he didn't have was anyone with this level of client account handling and actual marketing knowledge in the team. That was a key reason why he'd offered this particular candidate the role.  Within 24 hours, the candidate had a totally different perspective - they were giving a lot of skills to the agency that they didn't have.  Understanding that they couldn't become a technical guru overnight - (and actually the MD didn't really need a technical guru) allowed a big change in mindset and indeed confidence.  The IDM Diploma doesn't add a huge amount of value on a day to day basis but it does give this candidate a degree of confidence that they know the theory. Finally, the knowledge that the marketing landscape has changed and that in order to succeed in future, some digital knowledge is essential for any role, made the candidate realise that actually it was worth sticking at and making it work.

As always, it proves that there's not many problems that can't be rectified with some communication!  The candidate is 3 months on now and much happier.  In a small agency, it can be hard to fit in immediately, especially if you don't feel like you are hitting the ground running.  The other big change is that the candidate now joins the team for their weekly Friday lunchtime pint which has led to much more acceptance within the team and less awkwardness when admitting that they need help or advice with a work problem.  I've no doubt that in 18 months time, this candidate will be looking at Digital AD roles and finding that this lateral move will pay dividends in the future.