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March 9, 2009 / davebirss

So what’s the job market really like then?


When I’m going around agencies, creatives always ask me what it’s like ‘out there’. Lots of people are worried about their jobs and want to know how easy it will be for them to find another if they end up getting the boot. And I haven’t been able to answer them properly. From my own experience I’ve found it to be shit ‘out there’ – but my experience is limited to my own job role and a handful of agencies. However, it’s an important question to answer, so I decided to ask an expert in the job market – a very lovely headhunter.

So here’s my interview with Jan Sullivan at Canna Kendall. I hope it answers your questions.

In any recession, the advertising industry is going to suffer. From the recruitment point of view, are you noticing any changes?

Yes, we have about a third of the briefs we are accustomed to! Clients are slashing budgets and agencies are cutting back on hiring.

One of the first signs of fear in the industry is a hiring freeze. Are you seeing more of that?

A lot! About 50% at least. It’s false economy to stop hiring talent in a recession but agencies are cutting back.

A downturn is traditionally a time for agencies to get rid of dead wood. Is that the case just now or is it beyond that now?

Quite a few agencies are doing that as they are forced to think more smartly about the way their agencies are structured. It’s not just dead wood, there are some very talented creative’s on the market at the moment, through no fault of their own.

Are you seeing a difference between marketing disciplines? For example, are ad agencies finding it harder than digital agencies? How is DM faring?

Traditional agencies are definitely finding it harder than digital agencies. True integration is what clients want. DM seems to be steady too.

What about different sizes of agencies? Who is faring best? small, medium or large agencies?

Tough to tell at the moment. Redundancies are happening across the board.

I presume there are a lot more people in the market for jobs just now. What advice do you have for candidates to help them stand out from the crowd?

Have a your website/CV ready to go. Make it clear, easy to navigate and draw on your strengths. Do your homework on agencies and be charmingly persistent – but don’t haunt people.

On the other side, what advice do you have for agencies trying to hire new talent?

We are biased of course because we’d say use us!!! Agencies need to hire for the future. Different skills sets are now required and agencies need to keep ahead of the game in hiring innovative people.

Is there a shift in the balance between the freelance and full-time markets?

There is a flood of freelance talent due to the layoffs. And there’s a clear lack of full time jobs.

Should people who’ve been made redundant look at freelancing just now? Or is it better to try to get back into a full-time position?

Try to get back in to a full time position. Freelance can be very famine or feast.

These things usually affect jobs in different ways. Which roles are really suffering and which ones are doing well?

We only handle Creative here so it’s difficult to say. But we’ve noticed that the higher up the level you are, the worse it is. You need movement at the top to start the ball rolling.

Do you have any advice for any juniors trying to get into the industry just now?

Do as much creative and spec work as possible. Do your homework on an agency. Always go prepared and ask the person you’re seeing for a brief to work on. You never know, your brief might be the one they show to the client. Go out and network at as many events as possible. See things that inspire you like exhibitions, travelling, museums, music, etc. Visit NABS – they have computers you can use and mentors to help you on your way. They also have a lonely hearts book club for single juniors looking for someone to team up with. Don’t sit still.

So, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like very good news at the moment. My advice would be to keep your portfolio updated. And try to do something with it that will help it stand out from everyone else’s.

What’s your experience? Do you disagree with this? Is there anything else you’d like me to find out? Just drop me a line or leave a comment on this post.

One Comment

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  1. saminthemoon / Mar 9 2009 6:29 pm

    Thanks Dave
    Probably schadenfreude, but knowing ATL agencies are finding it even tougher helps somehow.
    Good info linked via your tweet, so perhaps it’ll be survival of the twittest…

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