10 Trends to Watch in the Advertising Job Market

One Career Coach's Observations on What's Happening Out There Now

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Stuart Parkin
Stuart Parkin
As we enter the fourth quarter, the advertising and media landscape shows about as much certainty as the weather. Agencies continue to let staff go but, perhaps confusingly, in some cases, are hiring in numbers. One agency CEO explained this as a "retooling of our talent pool" while another explained that "there's no margin for error. If we get business, we hire and [if we] lose it we fire." As a recruiter, I can vouch for a re-engineering process that all agencies are grappling with, albeit from different perspectives. And as a result, there are a number of clear trends emerging for the job market.

1. Confidence levels have improved. This plays out in the vernacular used by the media and by Wall Street and this is permeating, to some degree, the overall media landscape. There is a desire to be more positive and to talk things up, at least a bit.

2. More potential candidates, employed as well as unemployed, are contemplating job, if not major career, changes. Individuals are feeling burned out, having worked consistently long hours in streamlined companies, or just feel the business is not evolving fast enough to satisfy their work aspirations. Those seeking work are offering to do more for less. The class of 2008 is offering themselves as interns to gain work experience.

3. Having cut back hugely over the last 18 months, many businesses are stretched and contemplating increasing bandwidth. This process is not clear cut. Agencies are adjusting their talent base. People are being hired while still many are being fired. Much of the hiring taking place is still at the margins of this adjustment or against client wins and losses. Purse strings are still fairly tightly closed, if slackening a tad.

4. The process of hiring people has seen a greater use of internal recruiters. Where external recruiters are used there is, in many cases, a cutting back of the number of search agencies/recruiters used. Search fees have also been squeezed by agencies. There has been a movement to contingency vs. retained searches. There is an increasing use of social networking/digital mediums to find and attract job seekers.

5. Among employees there is a willingness and ability, particularly with the development of social-networking tools, to help connect and recommend others. Digital resources have in themselves (along with typical hiring criteria) made the talent world appear much smaller.

6. It's taking longer to make decisions. That's in part because it's a buyers' market and also because hiring is often taking place only as extra business is accrued. Further, no one wants to make the wrong decisions.

7. There are still some job-growth areas. These relate to the obvious: digital, the emerging "battlefield'; those with brand/communications planning combination skills; and the perennial -- health care -- and any results-oriented personnel such as great sales/new-business people.

8. More than ever, candidates need to market themselves. They must have a focused offering, use social networking, have a clear idea of what they want, and should not rely exclusively on recruiters.

9. Recruiters will succeed through taking a longer-term perspective to the business of aligning talent. An increased focus is needed on "relationship building," not only with clients but with candidates. For clients, it will be increasingly key to understand organizational culture; for candidates a focus on provision of "best advice" will continue to be the best way to build the recruiter's reputation/business. It will also be key to avoid "force-fitting" candidates to jobs.

10. Optimal talent sourcing will need human-resources departments to have more cooperation and involvement of departmental managers. This is particularly true when it comes to the quality of job briefs. Greater focus on high-quality briefs will both save huge amounts of time for internal personnel, as well as recruiters, and help the company recruit more cost effectively.

We have had a year of slashed budgets as companies improved numbers via cost savings and efficiencies. As 2010 beckons, purse strings are not going to be suddenly loosened, and growth is likely to be very gradual. The question is whether there will be sustainable increases in expenditure occurring from this point and through 2010. To do so it will have to be innovation-led -- and this, in turn, makes the hiring of the best talent more important than ever.

Stuart Parkin is a New York-based career coach and executive recruiter. He has 20 years of experience in agency new-business and marketing and has worked on four continents across agency disciplines. He has run Sparkin, his New York-based consultancy, for seven years, working with a range of traditional, multicultural, digital and PR agencies including DDB, Rapp, SpikeDDB, Porter Novelli, Dieste, Fallon, Berlin Cameron and Organic.
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