The rapid changes in media, distribution techniques, platforms and fickle consumer tastes have put the marketing communications hiring market into a state of turmoil. Companies want to hire leaders who are proven and experienced in the exact thing they need. And since that thing is constantly changing, it’s pretty challenging for them to find anyone who’s actually done it.
At a recent NYC panel discussion I attended, senior managers from big ad/media firms including WPP and OMD said that when they can’t find their silver bullet, they look for “resourcefulness and entrepreneurship” — that to be a strong candidate one should be “on the edge” and “relevant and ahead of the trends.” You have to be thinking outside the box. The traditional candidate (whatever that was) just “doesn’t cut it anymore.”
As a job seeker in this industry, what can you do to persuade hiring companies that you are the right fit? Maybe their desperate search for the right person is why they’ve interviewed you 16 times — just in case some heavenly choir shows up to endorse you as their dream hire. Your job as a candidate is to help them find the light they seek — and to find it in you. And that will probably mean changing up your pitch.
As businesses beef up their innovation and move on from legacy technologies that are hobbling their operations, more and more are wanting “change agents” and “change management.” To address the fast-evolving needs of customers and clients and stay ahead of their competitors, they understand they have to coordinate a more complete suite of offerings and speed up decision making and response times.
These improvements all fall under the rubric of “change,” and in order for it to be successful, it is necessary to bring all stakeholders along on the ride — so that change has to be carefully designed and managed. Success metrics will need to be defined and tracked. Employees and clients must be excited by the new approach so they’ll evangelize it; stick-in-the-muds have to be wooed. Firms are looking for people who can do all this. Change is becoming a discipline in itself, rather like project management, that exists independently from industry specifics.
Demonstrate Change Management
This is a clear cue for you, as a candidate, to start reframing yourself. What measurable change have you ever managed? Have you restructured a department or a business and successfully brought your team along with you to that new world you’d envisioned? Have you grown a group from a couple of people to 50 or 100 and managed the evolving challenges that came along with that? Have you implemented new technologies that supplanted legacy systems? Have you repositioned a brand or launched a new product?
There are a whole lot of things that you might have done that you had perhaps not realized at the time was change management — you were just doing what needed to be done. Search your history and see if you can rethink some of your triumphs so you can talk about the successful changes you’ve led.
Interview Hiring Managers
At the same time as those hungry hirers are interviewing you, you should be interviewing them to be sure that you can work with their leadership effectively. The biggest obstacle to successful change in an organization is a leadership team whose members are not in sync with each other, so be sure that you are not walking into a minefield of resistance or conflicting agendas.
I suggest you try and discover what your interviewer hopes their new hire will be able accomplish, so you can dive into that need, giving them a taste of how you think, and also getting a sense for how open they’ll be to your ideas. In this constructive spirit, you can ask, “What are the biggest challenges you see in moving this forward? Is there an agreed upon vision or is this still up for discussion? Would it be helpful for me to meet with the individuals that are driving the change?”
I can tell you from personal experience that just winning the gig will not be a good thing if it is impossible for you to deliver once you are installed.
In sum, your new pitch has to put flesh on the clichés in the employers’ heads and demonstrate that you are the agent of change they’re seeking. Show them you’ve done it before, that you have vision for what’s next, and can bring people together to realize it. They will be surprised and delighted that they were smart enough to find you.