Navigating the Marketing Job Market

June 14th, 2011

Things are tough all over. The economy is taking its own sweet time rebounding, and certain key indicators are continuing to nosedive. Getting jobs in any industry, in any market, presents a challenge, and marketing job searches have some added barriers to success.

The daunting challenge of finding a job in marketing has spawned a plethora of books and articles on the subject. David Dirks, author of Job Search Marketing: Finding Job Opportunities in Any Economy, has practically made a career of advising folks on how to find that most elusive of positions. In addition to his recent book, Dirks hosts a weekly radio show called “Job Search Marketing.” Dirks espouses creating your own personal marketing and branding campaign, and his book provides strategies and tactics designed to shorten the duration of your search.

So why all the fuss over finding jobs in marketing? Are they really that much harder to find than jobs in other areas? Theoretically these are intelligent, well-educated people who know how to persuade others. Shouldn’t they excel at landing a job?

Unemployment is high nationally, and decidedly higher in select pockets of the country. Marketing jobs have morphed over time, which has added levels of complication to the search equation. Coinciding with a dip in respect for marketing professionals in general, companies have cleverly saved money by merging marketing positions with other disciplines, such as engineering, or saving money by promoting administrative people into lead marketing positions at a fraction of the cost. This trend has significantly reduced the number of marketing positions available, as well as the level of overall marketing excellence.

St. Louis Marketing recruiter Bob Bishop believes that 9/11 created a black hole in marketing employment: “7 out of 10 marketing resumes stopped wherever they were in 2001, the level of very successful people that were getting laid off was astounding.” Bishop believes that it has taken top management 10 years to begin to prove the worth of marketing by showing a resulting return on investment from campaigns. He believes the need for a tangible ROI could be one reason behind the fact that digital has become an absolute point of entry when hiring marketers.

The good news, Bishop said, is that things are finally starting to loosen up a bit. In fact, in his blog, The Marketing Recruiter, he claims that problems are beginning to arise “because hiring managers are aggressively trying to increase human capital to reach their 2011 revenue goals. Having the right people in the right seats is key, and we see many companies take too much time when seeking to hire good talent.”

So with a light finally shining at the end of the tunnel, what are some of the other key points to consider in order to land one of these plum positions? Don’t just sit around and respond to job postings. Instead, Bishop recommends that you market yourself to the companies where you would like to be employed.

Most job seekers, marketers included, just sit around getting hurt feelings when they send a resume and don’t hear back right away. They develop the attitude that “nobody likes me.” Thin skin like that can really tank a search effort. Bishop suggests self-expectation management. Understand that those hiring have a mountain of paperwork to wade through just to see your resume. Try not to be so thin-skinned—and get busy marketing yourself.

Bishop believes the most likely path to gainful employment is to market yourself just as you would any other product. If you have the resources to create your own “look,” even better. Bishop recommends identifying a list of fifty companies by whom you would like to be employed. Determine the people within those companies who need to be aware of and impressed by your personal brand. He strongly admonishes any job seeker who emails or calls asking for a response, or even implying they’re looking for one. Don’t place any more demands on the already busy people you’re trying to impress—just keep building your own brand equity over time.

A simple, personalized and mailed message should be sent to each name on your list every few weeks. It should be a campaign as opposed to a one-shot effort. “Surprisingly, nobody does this,” Bishop said.

Bishop also acknowledged LinkedIn as the king of business networking. Get your profile up and completed, if you haven’t already. Start building a base of meaningful recommendations as well.

For a professional marketer, these suggestions for a proactive approach to a job search should be second nature. Do unto yourself as you would like to get a job doing unto others.

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