Job One for Marketers: Marketing Yourself

An analysis on the marketing services sector as the economy remains challenging for job seekers.

Meeting_graphs_chartsMarketing is the first to go. Marketers will tell you themselves. They don’t need research to tell them business lines too often see marketing as expendable when an enterprise hits hard times. They might argue that the business stands little chance of selling, producing or providing anything without market awareness, but that position feels rather academic when the marketing, advertising and public-relations budget is slashed and jobs are cut.

Most marketing professionals will tell you they aren’t surprised that their job prospects were among the first to plummet when the economy began to drop in 2007 and 2008. The craft trains individuals to know the market and the audience and what to expect from the business.

The problem, according to recruiters who specialize in executive-level marketing jobs, is that those who practice the craft too often fail to apply its principles to their own careers. Chief among the errors, said several recruiters who spoke to Ladders, marketing executives typically neglect to target their search or aim their applications at the most suitable positions.

“Everyone’s throwing Hail Mary passes,” said Jim Brown, president of Jim Brown Associates, a boutique recruiter in Richmond, Calif., outside San Francisco, that specializes in retained search in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. “I have very few positions I’m working to fill, and they’re highly specific. I’m getting hundreds of e-mails from candidates looking for work, a lot of who don’t have the foggiest notion about requirements for the position.”

By the numbers
Good news is hard to find during this recession. The silver lining many found in the reduction of jobs lost in January was retracted when the February numbers were released, according to the 2008 National Employment Report released by ADP, a national payroll provider, noting that 697,000 jobs were lost, an increase from the 693,000 in December 2008.

But there are jobs to be had in the field, particularly for specific skills. Postings on MktgLadder for statisticians rose 200 percent from January 2008 to January 2009; demand for individuals with skills in e-mail marketing was up 25 percent in the same period; copywriters, 14 percent; catalogue skills, 13 percent; and SEO (search-engine optimization) declined only 1 percent in 2008.

Several marketing functions are also outperforming their counterparts. Product marketing, a mere 5 percent of overall jobs posted on MktgLadder in January 2008, now make up 19 percent of the postings; strategy and business-development positions rose from 5 percent to 30 percent in the same period; communications rose from 2 percent to 9 percent; and online marketing went from 1 percent to 5 percent of posted marketing jobs.

Tactical targeting
The available jobs are targeted, and to improve the odds that you will get one, your search should be just as targeted. Taking a stab at a job ad just because you’ve filled a similar-sounding role in a completely different company and unrelated industry is a waste of your time and the recruiter’s, Brown said.

“If I get a resume from someone at Ladders, there’s a good chance it could be interesting, that she might have the right background,” Brown said. “If she’s a regional account executive when they’re looking for a national account manager, or hasn’t had any reimbursement experience, or managed-care experience, or marketing to the professional side – physicians and nurses rather than consumers – it probably won’t work. I’ve never been able to place generalists, but employers are even more specific because they know how many candidates are out there.”

Some recruiters – including Harold Laslo, staffing specialist at Aldan Troy Group, a recruitment firm in New York – said they believe the employers’ selectivity may prove self-destructive, ignoring otherwise qualified candidates because their resume deviates slightly from the experience specified. But in certain fields, such as medicine and pharmaceutical marketing, it’s not just a best practice, it’s regulated. Medical, pharmaceutical, law, even real-estate industry requirements and federal regulations set standards on the industries messaging and marketing practices that require years of experience.

The best solution is to target your attack to focus on the companies that need your type of skills and then focus your research and efforts on them, said Robert Neelbauer, owner of, a recruiting consultant in Washington, D.C. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, do something radical and actually call the relevant hiring manager to make your pitch, he said.

Many people spend so much time responding to ads and sending out resumes that they ignore the human element of the process, he says. Some hiring managers don’t want to be flooded with calls, but many are looking for something that gives them some insight on a candidate they can’t get from paper or e-mail.

A new path on the same trail
Rather than trying to switch to a new industry, specialty or function – which employers today consider akin to fitting your square peg in their round hole – recruiting specialists advise clients to remain where they have proven credentials, but to put themselves in the in the path of the next wave of technology, business or skill, said Lindsay Olson, partner and recruiter at Paradigm Staffing.

Olson recommends her clients add online marketing, social media and business-to-business marketing to their tool belt. She advises clients to learn the skills on their own if they must and practice it as a freelancer, volunteer or even on their own blog or business.
“We’re seeing a lot more demand in business-to-business services, rather than consumer,” Olson said. “Almost all our clients are asking for PR or marketing people with knowledge of social media – digital strategists and people who can teach a company how to engage using digital media, or using digital services to engage with clients.”

“I think that’s something particularly marketing people can start getting up to speed on, especially when they’ve been downsized,” she said. “Companies are looking for a lot of specialty skills. Training in social media, people who are bilingual and knowledgeable about social media. There are lots of niche things out there.”