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!

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