Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Your First Marketing Career Move in the Recession

Following on to "Job Hunting for the Marketing Graduate in 2008-09

Let's be positive! Companies need marketing in a recession, some are desperate to survive by reaching new customers. Also companies can be more demanding in who they recruit into marketing because they will expect those few to have a high retention and develop their careers with them. Maybe they will specify marketing education for these first positions whereas before they percieved a more open "best person"- they will be facing many more applications from graduates so they may use this as a filter.

Take another angle as presented in the last blogging, there will be fewer applications from experienced candidates in work because they will be keeping their heads down. Only a handful of marketing managers or even assitants will lose their job, so the competition from them is far less. Further to this, people will not want to leave a secure job to work in a start up or higher risk profession. Sales people will stay out in their cars, and marketing assistants will not move into advertising agencies for example.

The down side is that many, many more graduates will be seeking work and applying to advertised vacancies. It is therefore your task to save companies money by going direct before they advertise or go to the expense of comitting to recruitment firms. You are going to

Going south to the London area becomes more attractive because there will be lots and lots of rental properties and other northerners won't want to risk moving there. COnversely people in marketing jobs in london who own their houses or have a cheap place rented will not want to move due to the whole negative equity thing for the former. So some jobs in the provincial counties ie Up North, out West etc may be more available.

So once again- my key advice: do many, good quality spec' applicaitions, network to markeitng managers to find out how they got there and maybe get your name known, and move south. Get involved with new spin outs and start ups and any LEC or Scottish Enterprise support for small companies or placements for graduates.

The Size and Shape of Your First Job

Being in a job makes it a lot easier to get another job. It puts a value on your head for the recruitment constultants and a percieved "pinch" from another firm of someone who is willing to get out of bed early and work hard. Also YOU are showing your mMO for the job at this other firm OVER that job you have already.

SAYING IT ONCE AGAIN: last time I promise : YOU ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED ONE YEAR IN YOUR FIRST JOB to be able to move to a better job.

This puts a new complexion on things- you can take a job any time after your exams and either stuff doing the MSc project, or run it as a project in your job which is a lot better than struggling on in the evenings with it and will get all round brownie points AND probably move you more in to a marketing stream in the company rather than say just sales-

Once in this job you do need to keep it relevant to be able to sell your self out or indeed to just hold on to it and your sanity if nothing else really turns up by the time a year has gone by.

How do you do this? Well you may get taken on a very vague premise as a graduate trainee or just a placement by a LEC and it is easy to get side lined into what becomes largely a telesales job. Turn this on it's head by doing the MSc project there and doing some good quality market research. Demand some marketing responsibility - PR is free, web pages cheap as chips; or actually ask for a defined, ring fenced communications budget. Use my SBM techniques to mopve your job as far away from being a dull direct markeitng, telesales follow up or just endless presentations to potential "partner" ie punters.

Small or Large?

When looking at the above, LEC and spinout/ start ups then these are mostly small or smallish companies. If you land a "marketing assistant" job at a big company it can actually be harder to move out without first moving UP and that can take time - meanwhile you are the marketing dogsbody with your MSc the butt of jokes!

When coming into a small company you have more levarage over your job title. Be cheeky- try and get somethign like product manager, brand manager or even marketing manager ! Avoid being landed with "marketing assistant" or the vague "executive" and ask if you could be at least an Assistant brand/product or marketing manager. I have been offered brand manager and declined out of embaressment for their measily budget after a LEC placement came to be a job.

Small companies don't have the time to waste going back to recruit new or take someone else on a placement so use this leverage and the power of your MSc to win a decent job title in order to spring you out when you want to move into a proper budget company!! Having at least "APM" as job title will make you much more sellable by other people- and on paper, but especially when networking and doubley especially when now contacting those once disinteressted parties, the recruitment companies. Michael Page Marketing will now be calling YOU quite frequently.

When workign for large companies, at entry "assistant" level, you need to make sure that you aren't walking into two years of photocopying or if there are unexpected surprises- try and talk to the person last int he job and push the line manager as to what tasks you will get andwhat the likely career progression would be given hard work! (phrase it as much as what is in it for THEM as ME!) For example there are several jobs in Scotland I have been to which were marketing assistant to begin with and progressed to being a sales or account manager - with few positions ever becoming vacant beyond that. A large company may expect you to serve your time in sales to ever get a brand manager job, and this pretty much reigned in the whisky and beer marketing jobs when I was graduating- a long slog flogg!

Using an Outside Job Offer as an Internal Springboard where you are!

In a recession, complaining about your job when it is clearly as it was in outset is a bad idea.... and even if the "maybe get to do's" talked about don't come to fruition, complaining can put your head on the block when it comes to cut backs or when a bosses niece wants a marketing job! ( i was sacked for this very reason and very nepotistic replacement as the bread winner in a family with children by some fukkking norwegians last year!)

BUT if you aren't getting to do juicy marketing then there is something wrong. You should have looked the gift horse in the mouth and outlined a couple of concrete projects to utilise your skills before you even sign up..... but all that can go wrong and petty jealousys from those already employed can soon see you side lined in an "assistant" role. Trying to get onto projects is good, but you will quite likely end up the dogs body !

IN big companies then you do have to be aware that the best route may be a short time in sales rather than as a marketing dogs body, or alternatively to work in smaller companies as say an APM and come over quickly into such a role in a blue chipper. Ask carefully how for example a brand manager has got into their position.

Ad Agency Versus Client Side in a Recession

Advertising agencies and all the other marketing and related IT business services have a tough time in recessions BUT recover very quickly because they are lean and mean!

The economics of nearly all agencies is simple in a recession- lose a client, lose your job! Big or small, loss of a major client, several smaller or just big budget cuts from them means the company is "right sized" over night.

This is all a very known fact amongst experienced marketers and it is known as a high pressure, long hour job. Agencies of all sorts may be very open to a trial period, free project period or placement because they don't incurr costs. Also you can maybe get in as a dispensible graduat account executive on a low salary. A perfect spring board to other agencies! keep on lookign for a job elsewhere !

Under a recession while in the ad' agency you may find that you have more responsibility earlier than in any client side job, and also it can diversify more quickly as agencies struggle to win "through the line" business from existing clients rather than doing too much pitch work (they have right sized and often just don't commit resources to more than defending current clients as In agency.) So you may start in account planning and end up running a big internet site for a customer!

You will as always get very hands on experience int he mechanics of producing all that is visible in marketing. ALso you will get exposure to doing this profitably with lower budgets! This makes you ideal as a marketing manager in a company needing to cut budgets when you leave the agency world for "client side"


As I stated above, many marketing positions demand that you have worked in sales wihtin that company or at least industry. I would say in b2b marketing, 90% of product manager have worked in sales. Also there are some plumb foot int he doors at big companies as sales people leave or fight for promotion to an office job which may be percieved as safer. Take overs and down sizing are rife and it is often the cream who leave at the first wiff of redundancies. So there is space often in good territories (worked well by the last guy and with enough potential customers in a small enough geography to maximise your time in creaitng any growth figures)

I would extend whisky and beer sales for PM entry to probably financial marketing- the biggest two employers of marketers for nine years agho when I was a lad!

As a graduate sales trainee you are actually more sheltered fromt he recession than the marketing asssitant. Also you are not expected to be truely performing until 12 months are up, so you may well have moved on before you need to slog those 12 hour days in the mondeo to get a sales track record as a springboard- both strategies in one scentence! Work hard, get results, threaten to leave or just leave to a competitor as a marketing person armed with invaluable information !

Some elements of sales are related to your degree and you should exploit this so as to show prospective employers in marketing how you are apllying your knowledge in not just the usual sales day. Business analysis, customer segmentation, analysing market research reports, business planning, sales conversion analysis, consumer behaviour, real world versus internal blah-blah claims for products. Crucially, marketing communications at the coal face- what works and what doesn't hold water right there and then from the customers response.

As long as you have a nice manager and fun team to work with at training and conferences on Tenerife, sales is fully tolerable and indeed an alternative career in itself. TO move on you will need to get results, which means finding buyers and listening to them over a period of time and winning their trust enough to really find out what will be decisive. Simple as that. wiht a lot of tyre wear and shoe leather using up your grey matters time on this planet. With an arrogant, overbearing and dominatn boss and managemetn structure it can be a nightmare and you should be getting out into their marketing dept asap.

CIM Dip Marketing in 2009-10?

If you are not in a sexy, hands on marketing job but rather at assistant level, in sales or in shitty job, a CIM course wiht attendance at meetings can:

  1. keep you sane
  2. use your brain
  3. case study is good for personal development
  4. network with potential managers who may employ you
  5. find out who sales reps work for and beat them into their own marketing departments before they qualify in CIM!!!
Armed with the Dip CIM you can always go down further career development plans with them, and also you can hunt down employers who prefer CIM (only ever met one small company, but LECS maybe like accreditation for consultancies)

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