Media executive search: the slow summer job markets

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

Like many people, I have just returned from holiday. Mine was spent in the Hebrides – so please excuse the fishing references which pepper this column that is otherwise about media executive search.

Anyone looking for jobs in August will have struggled. The job pages are empty, apart from adverts telling you, hilariously, ‘how to improve you’re proofreading’. September offers rich pickings; there is a sudden profusion of advertising. Jobs, we hope, proliferate.

The trouble is that the few people who have been looking for jobs are suddenly joined in September by a whole load of new malcontents: those who have returned to work and loathe it. They had forgotten how much they dislike their colleagues; the nights are closing in; their boss is foul because his holiday home requires another £20,000 of repair work. Whatever, they want a new job.

Job advertising works in much the same way as fly-fishing: September is like a dusky, moon-bright evening when you can see the ripples on the lochs as trout pop up for their prey; that’s the time to cast your fly. August is the heated afternoon, when the fish stay deep and advertisers, like holiday fishermen, go to the beach.

In September, clients will receive hundreds of applicants for every job, and very few candidates will be appropriate. People, like the fish, are indiscriminate: they will go for everything they see.

I have written before about how to prepare your CV and write your covering letter, but there are really two main rules: carefully select your target; and take the time to tailor both documents to maximise your chance of success.

Observing the first rule will give you time for the second. By concentrating on a few choice targets, you will dramatically increase the time you can spend on each application. Of course, like Yosser Hughes, we all think “I can do that”. But the truth is that unless you feel supremely well qualified for a job, it is likely that other people will automatically be ahead of you.

So, concentrate on the areas where you feel confident, and spend the time to get your presentation right. Rather than sending out hundreds of CVs, spend a few hours on the right jobs. You are a journalist: write your (short) covering letter from scratch and arrange the facts of your life and career into a coherent CV that will best display your fit for the role. Never lie in either document.

To conclude a poor analogy, make yourself the smart fish that catches the real fly. Let the others suckers swarm around the hook.