Desperately seeking…………

Happy, snowy new year to you all.

I couldn’t let January pass without revisiting my blog (cue suitable fanfare) and vowing to keep it coming.

Sorry for the radio silence, like most independent consultants I spent 2012 looking for work in a very crowded marketplace – as did many of my friends and associates.

I was lucky. I was accepted as an approved supplier for the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, and have landed a 12 month, part-time Strategic Marketing Manager contract with a fantastic organisation, The Goldsmiths\’ Centre , in Britton Street, Clerkenwell.  

The  charity promotes the Jewellery, silversmithing and allied trades and provides work space, educational opportunites and professional development for the wannabe and newly-qualified; and access to all-important apprenticeships for young people wanting to develop a trade.

For all you business people out there, it also has a great cafe where you can use the free wifi and  meet colleagues and clients in comfort. There’s also a great exhibitions programme for when you have time between appointments.

2012 wasn’t just a bad year for sole traders. The surge of redundancies sent many marketing and communications specialists out into the wilderness, looking for a new job – and nowadays there’s so much to think about:-

Do I jump straight back in to full time work? Do I look for interim contracts? Do I become a temp? are just some of the questions extremely experienced people are facing right now – and not just in marketing and communications.

As a marketing professional vicariously involved in my friends’ attempts to find a job, I’ve found some of their experiences a real education.

Agencies seem to be seen as  an important resource for flexible job opportunities not necessarily advertised in the media by recruiting companies and job seekers alike. 

They have a dual role to play – in marketing organisations to candidates, and candidates to organisations -  but something tells me they don’t really get the rules of marketing:-

Know your product. I’ve heard so many stories of candidates leaving an agency briefing  having to look on the net to see what the company they’re being recommended to actually does. And when it comes to feeling confident that their own experience is being understood by the agency, and adequately conveyed to the client, forget it.

Understand the need. How many times have you been put forward for a job that you’re totally unsuitable for, and wouldn’t want to do, by an agency? A clear case of being sales rather than marketing-led, methinks.

Get to know your audience. This is the big one for many of the jobseekers I know. How can someone 20 years younger than you (at least), who has never worked in your industry understand, the ins and outs of what you have to offer an organisation? Marketing and communications may be a relatively ‘young’ industry but that doesn’t mean that those who have years of experience in it are past it, or out of touch with modern methods. Let’s face it, we are an ageing population who are going to be working for a long time - and the whole point of marketing is adapting to your market.

Promote your product effectively. If you don’t really ‘get’ the person or company you’re representing, how can you know what will resonate with the ‘buyer’? A friend of mine working in finance, going for a strategic role in a small charity was incensed when the guy at the agency spent an hour telling her that her staff management experience was ‘ a bit old’ whilst totally ignoring her experience in a number of roles as Financial Director in…………………..a small charity.

I could go on – but what can we learn from all this?

Jobseekers: you’re going to have to market yourselves! Get that CV off to a fine art and anticipate all those thick questions. Do your own research on the company you’re being considered for and match your skills to the need.  It’s tough out there but you really don’t need to waste your time and energy going for unsuitable jobs to fill an agency’s quota. Cliched it may be, but it’s time to identify and sell your USPs – for all you’re worth.

Agencies: Maybe it’s time to employ consultants that reflect the demographics and experience of your potential candidates. They might cost you more but they’ll fill more vacancies. Get to know your customers and what they really need – and, most importantly, see job applicants as assets that will reflect well on your agency – not just vacancy fillers.

Employers: In the current market, with hundreds of applicants going for every job the need to use an agency as a filter is obvious – but be very clear what the filters are and what you really need.

Happy job hunting in 2013. I wish you every success.




About Philippa

Philippa Cowley-Thwaites is a no-nonsense South Londoner with a passion for communications. Since graduating in English from London University in 1983 she has established herself as an expert communicator for a variety of brands in the private, public and voluntary sector with great success – she’s one of the best business writers in the business.

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