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The Digital Skills Job Seekers Need to Survive Now

Five Types of Hires Organizations Claim They Crave

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It used to be so simple.

Back in the day, agencies and marketers seeking great creatives and account and brand managers had a pretty straightforward sense of what they were looking for. Likewise, job seekers could safely ensure they had the key skills with which to populate their résumés for maximum effect.

But now, as new technology has spawned unprecedented complexity in the advertising, marketing and media landscape, so too has it forced the need for greater complexity in new hires. The digital skills that job seekers must have and that hiring organizations demand are varied, nuanced and cutting-edge. And they're required assets if digital professionals want to get ahead in this industry.

Here are the five types of hires organizations claim they crave:

1. HACKERS

Not the law-breaking kind, said Organic CEO Mark Kingdon, but "Web 2.0 junkies who live on Del.icio.us, TechCrunch and Digg and peruse ProgrammableWeb.com looking for the latest mashup. ... These people signed up early as Facebook developers, trade the latest apps and regularly hack around on Organic's own social network (called Organism) to add new functionality, change their template, hide Easter eggs and leave us special 'surprises.'" While technology has always been important to firms such as Organic, those companies are no longer just looking for people who know how to build sophisticated and complicated content-management systems but people who like to tinker, who understand how to build on top of application programming interfaces, creating Google Maps mashups and Facebook apps. And passion for these kinds of tools is a must, said Jenny Wall, president-interactive at Crew Creative.

2. TECHNOLOGICALLY CURIOUS

OK, it's not necessary for everyone to be able to build the next great Facebook app, but everybody needs to be curious about and aware of what kinds of digital innovations are cropping up and where marketers might fit into them. Crew's Ms. Wall said her account team "needs to be on top of the Facebook open application program or the new [Apple] Leopard blogging software."

3. ONLINE EAVESDROPPERS

Conversations are going on all over the web about brands and products -- and agencies and marketers are increasingly looking for people who can help mine those insights, which can be used to help identify emerging problems. That chatter can also be a source of campaign ideas. For example, Mr. Kingdon said, look at the community groups that have formed on Facebook because of their affinity for Jeep. He called it a "great source of inspiration."

4. DATAHEADS

"Most marketers aren't quants," said Steve Rubel, a senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution who's chronicled industry changes for the past decade. He said the companies that are able to use data to their advantage, building relationships and unearthing trends, will be the big winners. "Marketers need to at least have a good grounding in how to use new kinds of data, even if they leave the crunching to others," he said.

5. TRAILBLAZERS

A trailblazing attitude is less a digital skill and more of an inherent quality that the digital age requires. And it was this quality that Greg Schwartz, VP-sales at Zillow.com, was seeking as he built his staff. "I was looking not just for folks with a talent for internet advertising but those that flourish in a non-structured start-up environment," he said. Start-ups often can't compete on dollars -- but they can compete by having environments that foster and require innovative thinking and challenges to conventional wisdom. Start-ups also require a little extra acumen because they often don't have the scale of the giants.

Trailblazers are, however, fairly easy to pry out of large media companies, said Mr. Schwartz: "Slinging banner ads leaves a lot of people uninspired."
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