Four Tips to Set Yourself Up for 2012's Job Opportunities

How to Tend Your Own Brand as Advertising, Marketing Employment Rebounds

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With the recent news that clients are expecting to increase spending and the employment market is picking up, 2012 looks to be a rebound year for marketing and advertising jobs. We know there is pent-up demand for position change. Last year's 24 Seven-Ad Age Salary and Job Satisfaction survey confirmed that the vast majority of industry workers were looking for new opportunities. We'd like to know how many of you have made a move and hope you will answer this year's survey.

The news is good for those still hunting. Large agencies that kept staffs lean in 2011 are looking to add talent. Small and midsize agencies, especially those that have won new business, are staffing up. Even marketers are looking to build staffs, bringing in expertise in areas once delegated to agency partners -- specifically e-commerce, analytics and digital.

There are caveats. The job market is not what it was. The recession and evolving nature of the marketing industry have changed how businesses recruit. The companies that are staffing up are highly selective. They are using new tools to recruit, research and hire, and are looking outside the industry for talent.

To be considered for today's hot jobs, candidates at all levels must tend their own brand. According to the Harvard Business Review, you need to make yourself indispensable in order to rise. This means you have to keep current on in-demand skills and look at your weaknesses and find ways to improve.

For those seeking new and expanded opportunities, here are four ways to stand out and make your job search successful.

Marketing "Brand You"
Candidates today can no longer sit back and wait for opportunities. Networking has never been more important. Building a strong digital profile is a must. Your social-media presence is your personal calling card. More and more recruiters and companies are looking at LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr to discover today's thought leaders. Studies have shown that active social networkers have an increased likelihood of finding work.

What you say in the digital space can open or close doors. Find a niche that you love and own it through a blog, Twitter or another channel. It adds something memorably unique to your resume and helps differentiate you.

Have more than one resume
Strong candidates must show flexibility but also have proved skills. Just as in the best direct marketing, customization is critical. Your resume is your No. 1 personal-branding tool, and you should have different versions for different jobs. Play to your strengths and demonstrate results -- quantify success with bottom-line numbers if possible. It's worth the extra effort. Relying on a "one-size-fits-all" resume, with all your qualifications in one document might give the impression that you are unfocused.

Go out on your own
Freelancing has become a great way to meet potential full-time employers, build networks and gain new skills. It also provides the opportunity to "try before you buy": You can determine if an organization is the right professional and cultural fit for you. Conversely, employers can road-test you.

In the past year we've seen more professional freelancers, those who have left full-time posts to meet companies' growing needs to staff up as new projects and opportunities arise. Independent work can also provide candidates with additional referrals and recommendations if they decide to return to the full-time market.

Go to school
Nearly every hot job in the marketing sector has a digital component. Keeping your skills current is vital.

For the job you have now and the one you want tomorrow, you must stay ahead of the next shiny new thing. Take advantage of any training and development opportunities offered by your company or industry associations. Take a continuing education class; attend industry conferences and other events. They are not only good ways to learn about the trends but chances to meet the innovators and develop important contacts.

In the last Salary and Job Satisfaction survey, we found that employees' most important concern is ensuring that they have the skills to succeed tomorrow. There's no better time than now to take your future into your own hands and make "Brand You" a priority for 2012.

To weigh in on the job market and compensation, please take the 2012 24 Seven & Ad Age Salary & Job Market survey.

Celeste Gudas is the CEO and founder of 24 Seven, a leading talent-recruitment firm specializing in the specific needs of the marketing, design, creative, digital, retail and fashion industries. Check out its 2011 report on Salary and Job Satisfaction.

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