Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Paradigm Career Making jobs

The new paradigm of the post recession world: it will be hard to get full time marketing work and growth will be slower in the economy. To get the head start on your career, or like me on the next phase then you need to consider the new paradigms, which I will blogg about a few times in the forthcoming weeks:

1) forget job, think project, think task, think opportunity in the box
2) forget work place: think availability for the key calls and key pressing of flesh
3) forget "administration": move away from positions which have a lot of filler: concentrate on the higher value mental and personality oriented activities

When I say "forget job" I don't mean you should lose your concept of working for a brand-name, blue chip employer to get it on your CV. In fact if you eventually do want to forget being a delivery bitch at a company and go self employed, then you almost MUST have some decent employers on your CV. What I mean by this is that you should think about what the opportunity is for you and the company to engage in work of higher intellectual value.

Now this means examining the position you are in or being interviewed for or alternatively, identifying opportunities for virtual promotion within the company or value chain "nodes" you are dealing with on a totally pre-emptive basis. You want to avoid being a delivery bitch for long, not that you ever stop needing to do some hard, boring work until you become an MBA God at a firm, but that you need to reduce, avoid and displace menial tasks off your desk and out of your job description.

In outset for you as an MSc Marketing graduate, this means being wary of job offers with vague "marketing executive" titles and enough of a mix of low level BS that you wonder what you will end up doing. This could be sales work, or menial database work etc. If the job is at a lesser B2B brand or whatever, then this is worse: brands sell product, and sales people just work out the discount-volume and what dinner / golf tour the buyers want to "seal" the deal. PWC is a brand, Ernst and Young, McCanns, Blackberry, Zantac, Viagra, Oracle etc etc. Little plucky clever unbranded company does not need an MSc marketing graduate as canon fodder sales material.

It is more important for you, and funnily enough for me now, to define what tasks are high qaulity in a potential job and to try and work around that in discussions with employers. You want to persuade and jagole the employer into giving you responsibility for projects and tasks of higher value, while they also declare how much of the job is menial. Then think opportunity- reduce the job to it's elementary core added intellectual value: marketing strategy.

You may not formulate a marketing strategy yourself, but contributing to NPI, market research, acquisitions, investor relations and so on adds value to your CV rather than monkeys on your back in a low level job.

So dare to push the employer to identify these tasks. Take a week or two's work trial with them if you get an offer. This is thoroughly recommended for any entry level job with a diverse list of tasks. If you don't like the job don't worry: just say it sucks! They aren't going to grass you up to the dole. Be direct and tell them it is boring for you after the two weeks are underway, and tell them what you would rather work with. Look out for opportunities: points of touch, e-business, marketing purchasing, new markets & customer segments, new products/e-marketing ( social media strategy anyone?)

I am back in this position actually because of the recession and the general miss mix of my bloody minded, male and pompous attitudes ! Had I been in touch with my female side (Ha!) then I could have thrived in doing the manual tasks and sucking up to my aggressive bosses.

I need to assert my space in a job now, and so do you because it is really important to get a "career making" job within 2 or 3 years of finishing your MSc, otherwise you need to seriously consider working in another area or getting new skills, like I did when I got some IKT skills : perfect timing! HTML programming in 1995. I never really did much, but it gave me the edge in interview and also performance in some jobs.

I digress: you need to assert your space in the job and this is absolutely best before you start because otherwise you are on the back foot as a would-be-eager-bunny. ( I am SOOO NOT an eager bunny in new jobs with BS to do. I mean maybe a week or two before my nose is out of joint and I am all anarchic again.) In the interview phase you have leverage and they are on the back foot having chosen you. If they really push you though, and won't allow you to actually come in for even a couple of days and look at the tasks you will be doing, then check the work contract and it may have only a weeks notice which will make it very easy for you to move or threaten to move.

Salary is actually a lot less important for you guys luckily, and this is why you can afford to do a two week work trial, or to turn down a 100% position with "blah blah, 9 to 5" and take a part time job where you focus only on those higher value activities: or at least those which are bone fide marketing.

Some administration is however actually sufficiently high value for you to put your back into: Some high value admin will give you the edge in getting a better job, becoming manager for someone replacing you or if the axe falls, you have a "business critical" admin set to do: for example product administration through ISO and accounts and logistics systems.

As against, cleaning databases with calls, telesales itself, sales support admin.

The reverse situation is more dangerous - I know I have been there- you take a job which is "marketing" in title only or very low grade and bang your head off the wall to try and get a year's work experience on your CV. DON'T DO THIS! AAAAAH! Negotiate tasks worthy of you, and accept a part time job if that is all the time it will take, or just a project based job.

I can hear the cogs turning now, some of you are sceptical to becoming "perpetual projecteers" without ever a taste for operational management. Yes this is a danger! But MSc students are overlooked for the majority of blue-chip APM roles or top 3 agency Account Exec roles so you need to be able to add value to yourself with the smaller brands. Small brand with big strategic impact you made is really where it is going to be at over the next few years of recovery, with new small brands becoming the next FaceBooks or Kindles. (I say brands rather than company because if you are at a company with no brand other than flesh-pressing then forget a career in marketing with them!)

I'll blog again on this area, but I hope you leave with the ideas of being more assertive in defining what you do with your valuable time while you are young enough to work hard and work smart!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mointoring Consumer Generated Media- The new King

The other day there was a programme on the idiot box about measuring IQ: Kalahari bushmen have been measured as the lowest IQ of any homosapien. 61 or the like. POS that IQ tests are for measuring actual ability to learn, perfect crafts, hunt and so on. THis was driven by a fairly racist appearing "researcher" who had done some "convenience samples" and some meta analyses to draw up these intelligence quotients for different ethnic groups.

Another researcher pointed out the validity of IQ tests as they stand: to get by in the modern world and use your brain to forward your well being and reproduce, you need to be able to relate to the westernised IQ test! There is little point in being a hunter gatherer in the 21st century, you are on to a loser.

Now this may seem a bit removed from doing social media monitoring: but in future will consumer opinions and groups who DO NOT make CGM about brands not become largely irrelevant?

I think that market research will become completely web and IP telephony based. And we will use anonymsed IP MPEG streaming to sample into street level consumer behaviour, and into those social strata who don't do CGM yet are important enough to some brands of sports clothing .....yeah the underclass buying their bling rags....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Interviewing your Prospective employer

Now I have to come back to two points about careers and making the right choices, because I am painfully remined of how bad things can go with a company in the "patient capital" late start up ( F-up) phase. They are running out of cash and I am bailing out, having noted that they have actually a pretty inefficient core "technology" from which it wil be hard to compete while making any decent gross margin.

1) You are interviewing the firm as much and more than they are you!

People forget this: we are nervous and want to match our best abilities against the job decscription AND offer some more, often superfluous info to them. We then get given a standard corporate blurb back at us an in the end of the day, none of us is all that much wiser about the possible exchange of values. We both know it will happen though, and given you are the least bad candidate you will get the offer.

Now, you actually have learnt rather little about the job and they have learnt just enough to know you will be able to function at the hands of the politics and flagrant lack of trianing you will get.

When I was a self respecting masters graduate, I considered a two week work trial ( as supported by the dole office, BA or whatever they are called now) as being a total sell out of my skills and abilities. Now I see it, even at first job level, as a really powerful means to gather info, understand the job and lay down some assertions about what you actually want to do.

In a two week period you will get the core tasks of an entry level graduate job and get to work ( or maybe only fleetingly) with your manager. Thus you will get a real insight into the job and if it is at Aardvark Galactica selling widgets to nobody's then you get the chance to say no.

A MUCH BETTER situation than I have now: the company's technology takes too much manual time to produce results and is therefore destined to be over run by faster, leaner competitors who are more customer quick-win oriented. I knew this within two weeks and that my bosses were aresholes but I perciveered because CGM monitoring is pretty trendy and I need a lift. So I coulkd have spent two weeks with them, as I suggested actually come to think of it, and turned round and said the job was far too junior and played to only weaknesses in attention to detail and motivations. Instead I am six months in, they are going belly up and I am stressed to hell.

So a two week trial is pretty good actually.

2) You need to get the RIGHT first job or know you need to move to the next RIGHT job asap!

I have been in the wrong jobs for all the right reasons, and had maybe two trials or . contracts both of which lead to jobs. The trouble for MSc-ers is that you have no real networking route or trail blazed into the big FMCG brands and you must languish in 2nd rate public service and SME marketing in Scotland if you will not move. In this market it is very, very easy to get a marketing job which turns into a nightmare of doing either sales donkey work or having all the monkeys in the department put on your back: ie all the shit no one else wants to do gets queued for your desk from day 1!

The MSc is a double edged sword because really it prepares you for MBA graduate jobs, while people do not respect it as much. So while being qualified to do strategy work you are actually too sharp for the jobs often on offer and cannot compete with "full MBAers" for those jobs you should aim for. I mean I worked with some prick recently who kept on refering to "fluffy" in the marketing department, AS the marketing department actually: market strategy being too important for the likes of marketers to touch !

A work trial of two weeks can allow you to swing in, get a grip on the company's failures and possibilities and then present yourself as a more strategic analyst and planner than the original "marketing exec' " role was specified as.

More often though, you will be able to see if the job is really just a sales admin type job or if it has very little of interest. You may be able to then play anouther card, often played actually, taking a part time position to cover only those functions you feel are relevant to your qualifications. This is really cunning because it buys you the RIGHT experience to shine in AND TIME to look for other jobs, start your own consultancy or take a convenient second job in.