Last month marked fifteen years since I became a media headhunter. Much of that time has been concerned with careers in journalism. Which begs the question: what, if anything, have I learned in that time? Here are some things I didn’t know back in 1996:
Clothing company Zappar takes augmented reality clothing to a whole new level. This year, the company created interactive t-shirts that work with a free app – customers download the app and then view the t-shirts through their device screen. The t-shirt then ‘comes alive’ as the customer touches part of the t-shirt on the screen (see video). What’s really clever about the Zappar t-shirt is that it merges shopping and games in a move to generate interest and push sales. The t-shirts went on sale in the autumn in Macy’s and JCPenney stores in the U.S.
U.S. retailer Moosejaw created an X-Ray App last year that uses
It is astonishing how much the sector has changed in that time. The job titles themselves are indicative of these changes. While we still recruit MDs, Editors, Sales Directors and so on, we are now as likely to be working on roles like Head of Product Roadmap or Chief Scientist. As business models keep changing, so too do the attributes of the individuals who can add value.
It is the end of the year – and I would love to be able to give some seasonal good cheer about the jobs market. I rang Allan Cross at Media Networks to see if he could sprinkle a little fairy dust. But, like me, he is cautious.
I have just watched BBC3’s “Up for Hire.“ Four young unemployed people were given an opportunity to show how they would work under different circumstances. I found it quite depressing: not least because it served to underline prejudices about media degrees and media graduates.
Kirsty, one of the four candidates, had graduated in Newspaper and Online Journalism. She was disappointed because she had “paid a lot of money” and couldn’t get the job she wanted in the media. She also mentioned she didn’t like being “told off” or in a team: “I like working on my own really – that’s got something to do with me wanting to be a reporter.” The inability to take direction or collaborate seem pretty large barriers to entry in any career – especially journalism.
I’ve been asked by the Editor for the impossible: to find some good news for those journalists who have suffered redundancy as a result of the closure of the News of the World. Are there media executive jobs – and regular media jobs – out there for them?
Journalists suffer redundancy all the time, of course; but the NoW is special. The reasons for the newspaper’s demise have been well-documented. And because of the mishandling of the investigation by News International, nobody is yet sure to what levels the misbehaviour extended, nor when it stopped (or started).
Shock news: there are a lot of dinosaurs in the media. And Kelvin MacKenzie is amongst them. Is anyone surprised?
MacKenzie said last month that you learn nothing from journalism courses: “It’s a job, a knack, a talent. You don’t need a diploma… There’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper.” He would “shut down all the journalism colleges today.”
“Frankly, Mr. Shankly, this position I’ve held
It pays my way, and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave, you will not miss me…”
As Morrissey famously illustrated, there are ways to resign, and ways not to. However good for the soul it might be to get back at a boss or a business, it is inadvisable. Resignation is an underestimated part of career management. How you leave will often dictate how you are remembered.
A week ago, we picked up a brief for a client looking for a media search consultant (us) to find them senior writers in the energy sector (see “Job Spy” for more details, by the way). We were given the brief because the client had previously worked with a contingency agency who had forwarded a number of CVs without meeting any of the candidates.
I am writing this in December, a week before Christmas. And, guess what? This week, I have ten interviews in my diary.
This time last year, our media headhunters‘ diary was empty. I was not alarmed; December is always quiet, but last year felt different. Looking at the column I wrote then, there was a sense that the Christmas job market was holding its breath: the economy was fragile, and the election was coming. Magazines and newspapers were closing, and people had spent the year making cut-backs. Even the buoyant online market was showing signs of caution.
I have just come back from the burgeoning media market of the Middle East. Dubai is its poster boy: it has a well-established Media City (essentially, an economic free zone where media businesses enjoy liberties they would not enjoy elsewhere), and is the region’s centre for most large media organisations – including Reuters and the BBC. While some well-established media organisations have suffered during Dubai’s well-publicised problems, there is still opportunity to be exploited. There is always a need for experienced journalists, and it is amazing how many old hands (and new) turn up.
In the fourteen years I have been a headhunter and media search consultant, I have been lucky to have worked across an astonishing range of titles and products: from Horse & Hound to The Financial Times, from heat to AOL. We have recruited journalists for Reuters in Russia, Euromoney in the US, and, toughest of all, Saga in Folkestone. Bella, Men’s Health, The Jewish Chronicle; all boast current editors recruited by us.
Those few of you poor souls who have been reading my media recruiting column over the last year or so will have noticed one thing: I am an eternal optimist. While in these dark days of enforced austerity it is difficult to be upbeat, I have a small chink of light for you. Particularly for those of you who have spent the last several years toiling away in the geekier recesses of B2B media.
Last month, I wrote about the positive reasons for changing jobs at the moment. But not everyone gets to choose; redundancies and closures are happening across every sector of the media, and, as a result, more and more people are being forced to go freelance. With this in mind, I asked a few editors what they thought were the golden rules – the media recruiting tips – of establishing yourself when new to the market. It seems to boil down to the following freelance tips:
In September last year I wrote a column for Press Gazette quoting Conor McNicholas on his move to Top Gear. “If you want to be successful, you have to find the opportunities in any situation. There are opportunities in a downturn if you can make it work for you,” he said.
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.
Last month, in a somewhat garbled column (blame the theft of my laptop), I looked at journalism degree courses. This month, I want to talk about further media recruiting tips, in fact the first stage of this process – post-grad courses for journalists, and emphasise how important they can be for entry into the industry.
To a large extent, the days of wandering into a newspaper job direct from school are long gone. Many editors regard NCTJ-accredited training as a minimum requirement for new journalists. This is not surprising: the NCTJ is described by its CEO Joanne Butcher as an “industry charity” with a mission to ensure that training reflects the “industry’s gold standard”. Each NCTJ-accredited course should teach the media basics, such as media law, public affairs, ethics, and shorthand. For Butcher, shorthand is a benchmark. “If you’re starting out in the business, get shorthand. It will open a lot of doors.” She recognises that “not every journalist will need it, but it says a lot about someone’s commitment to journalism.”
In my conversations last month with Tim Luckhurst and Emily Bell, I was struck by their different approaches to what a degree in journalism was actually for.
Luckhurst, whose first students are due to graduate from the University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism this year, was avowedly vocational in his approach: he is clear that he is training journalists. Bell – soon to join Columbia University – took the view that, with entry to journalism schools at an all time high, such schools could not be merely concerned with training journalists; there are simply not enough jobs to go around.
A small seismic shock was caused at the Guardian last month when Emily Bell resigned to head up Columbia University’s digital programme for post-graduate students. At the time, she said that this was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help reshape the future of journalism”, and she is part of a growing trend.
If that question brings you out in a rash, take a deep breath. With B2B publishers fighting for every penny, journalists need to think broadly about media jobs, they need to be to able make a real-terms contribution. They are expected to create supplements, roundtables, and conferences, and work with advertising sales to maximise revenue opportunities. So what does this mean for editorial integrity?
Apparently not. Most experts say that 2010 will be just as challenging for the media sector as 2009; consumer and business confidence will remain low, and advertisers and subscribers will be increasingly selective.
This month, as promised, further media recruiting tips, namely a brief look at how to succeed in interviews. I’ve had some real horrors in my time, including a man who, boasting about the money he earned, dropped his trousers to show me the labels. Unusual: but there are many potential pitfalls. With some comments from Allan Cross of The Media Network, here are some danger areas to watch out for:
We are all media companies now. And we need media skills to match.
The phenomenal pace of change in internet and mobile technology means that retailers, banks and other consumer-facing businesses are no longer just competing with their high street rivals; they are competing for consumer attention with anyone who has a presence in the digital space. To be effective, they are having to think like media businesses.
I promised to write about the journalism CV this month – some basic media recruiting tips. I wish I hadn’t. It’s a minefield. Here are five simple rules, though, which are pretty much universal.
You will not get a job in journalism if there are mistakes on your CV. Get the spelling and grammar right. We all know how tricky it is to edit our own copy: get someone else to check over your CV for errors.
A CV should be (relatively) brief. Note to Australians: two or maximum three pages please. No CV should attempt to encompass every aspect of your career; just the most relevant bits (see 3).
CVs are not a standard document. There is no rule that says it is cheating to adjust it for the job you are applying for. By all means have a standard one ready for generic HR-style applications – otherwise, take your cues from the job description to which you are responding. Make it relevant.
Do not lie. If you didn’t launch the Daily Snipe’s Saturday Magazine, don’t claim credit for it: the media world is small, and someone will know someone… However, if you were the Features Editor on the launch and created a template for ground-breaking profiles, mention it. The same goes for dates of employment: be accurate, and do not try to cover up gaps.
Probably the most important of all: CVs should be about achievements. Everyone has an understanding of what a Features Editor does: there is no point banging on about responsibilities. Tell us what made you a great Features Editor.
So, given these rules, an example of work experience in a journalist’s CV might look like this:
May 2000 – June 2003: Features Editor, Sunday Cod.
Team of 15; budget responsibility for £1m; frequent Sunday Editor.
Commissioned ground-breaking investigation into slavery in the Congo.
Established William Topp, Jane Solid, and Sunita Pluck as columnists.
Won Press Award for Best Feature in consecutive years (2002 and 2003).
Created “Three’s Company” series of profiles, which still run in C2.
Reduced commissioning budget by 40% while maintaining quality.
As discussed above, CVs are all about relevance. Write your CV backwards: potential employers want to see your most recent role first. Similarly, there should also be a greater weight of achievements highlighted in your recent roles: the implication that you started brilliantly and tailed off is one you want to avoid. For the same reasons, employers rarely like to see your education given a higher priority than your work experience: stick your GCSEs at the bottom please.
And should you include Interests? If they are relevant or genuinely interesting, by all means: it often gives insight to a character, and might give the interviewer something to break the ice with. However, please do not put “Socialising”. It means you are a drunk.
Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.
Not so long ago, Louise Chunn and Marie O’Riordan were facing it off across the newsstand: Chunn at InStyle, O’Riordan at Marie Claire. Yet this year, they were competing for the contract to publish the John Lewis magazine.
For many years, customer publishing was considered the poor relation among magazine publishers. But publishing agencies were quietly building an impressive portfolio of titles: many would not disgrace the newsstand – indeed, the source of their funding means that their production values can be higher than their paid-for cousins. There are now over 1000 customer titles, with 92 launches in the last 18 months: two of these (I and Arise) have been nominated for BSME’s Launch of the Year category.
In a tough trading environment, the difference between success and failure is marginal. Let’s assume that 5% makes all the difference. This means publishers squeezing 5% more out of their budgets; sales directors improving their profitable revenues by 5%; and editors getting 5% extra creativity out of a budget reduced by 5%. The same principle applies for the events and research sectors – indeed, for any business.
But how does a company achieve this? Well, it requires
It’s September: the kids are back in school, the holiday in Cornwall seems a distant memory, and you are back at your desk. Again. Writing captions on unfunny photographs of minor celebrities. As every year before, you start to think “there must be something better than this”. You log on to pressgazette.co.uk to look for new media jobs.
Except this is September 2009. If you are lucky enough to have a job, the last thing you are going to do is look for a new one. The economy is shot, advertising revenues are in freefall, and the world has suddenly gone risk averse. Why on earth would you think of moving jobs in a recession, when nothing is certain and the worst position to be in is “last in”?