Follow The Money: Are There Any Jobs Out There?

Web sites are shutting down (ttyl Portfolio.com), media giants are shrinking their staff, and media folks who once reviled their current employer are now whistling an “I’m-so-thankful-I-have-a-job” tune. As the media bloodletting subsides (we hope), the question in the forefront of most of our minds is, “If I lose my job, will I be able to find another one?”

We talked to three recruitment experts who wouldn’t sugarcoat the state of professional affairs, but they do have plenty of hope for a prosperous New Year.

What’s going on?
Jackie Riley, a senior executive recruiter with Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment, isn’t too surprised by the volume of recent layoffs. “We have a challenging time in our economy where changes need to be made. Companies may have had a lot of fat or perhaps were overstaffed,” says Riley. If anything, the demand for budget cuts accelerated layoffs that needed to be made. Some of the outlets hardest hit were already having difficulties before the September 2008 crash on Wall Street, she says. “This is not solely based on the economy.”

Indeed, says Tony Filson, the president and CEO of Filcro Media Staffing, Inc. “Companies are taking advantage of the [economic downturn] to consolidate areas that should have been done a long time ago.”

And while it may seem the pink-slip parties of the early millennium are poised to make a bigger comeback than Robert Downey, Jr., Riley says, “Our lights are on, and we’re working on active job searches.”

Reassess your career
Before you start a job search, pull your professional self together. First of all, it’s a good idea to reassess where you are in your career. You may be the senior member of a three-person team at a small media company, but how does your experience translate at other companies? Read job postings, advises Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group, a national recruitment agency specializing in advertising and marketing.

“Go online and read as many job descriptions as you can for the positions you are interested in,” she says. “Read through the qualifications that companies are requesting and see how your skill set and experience and background match up. That’s a good litmus test to see how the market classifies you.”

Once you find some interesting opportunities, says Filson, “Do the research and due diligence for the job you are applying for. You have to address skills for a specific job. It’s indicative of your work habits if you show up unprepared, and it’s what differentiates who gets hired.”

Abstain from demanding work-at-home hours or a telecommuting arrangement if the listing doesn’t offer them, he says. “When you start off by setting conditions and rules for employment, it pushes people off to other candidates.”

Hybrids aren’t just zippy cars
One-trick ponies don’t usually get hired to headline an act. “Hybrid” is the buzzword on the lips of recruiters everywhere. In this economic situation, where companies are forced to reduce headcount, the best candidates are going to be able to fill two or more roles, at least. Writers should be able to create content and produce newsletters, editors should have HTML skills, and Web designers can help themselves by learning front-end coding.

Riley suggests taking on freelance projects that “build credentials and expertise so you don’t have such a narrow focus.” If freelance work isn’t available to you, volunteer at a nonprofit to help create content or work on a campaign for the organization.
Even if you decide to stay put at your job, you can increase your skills and promote your work by launching a personal venture with a professional slant. “Publish your own blog on a [industry-specific] topic that’s of interest to you, and begin your own podcast. They’re popular and easy to publish,” says Slabinski.

Is it time to hire movers?
You know we have to bring it up so as not to ignore the pink elephant in the newsroom. While some of the larger cities, namely New York and Los Angeles, are seeing an increase in recently unemployed journalists and media industry veterans, not every city is feeling the pinch. “People with New York talent are scooped up really quickly and relocated to other parts of the country and the world,” says Filson. On the bright side, he says, you could end up in a better situation, like setting yourself up to buy real estate and opening yourself up to entirely new markets. If you’d be willing to pack your bags and go where the work is, say so in your cover letter to any search firms you contact.

If you can’t or won’t move, at least consider a longer commute, says Riley.

Is the future so bright we gotta wear shades?
“I think we’re going to continue to see employers be more cautious,” says Slabinski. “The credit crunch prohibits companies from making investment hires if they can’t get loans from the banks. Hopefully if this $700 billion bailout package plays out, the availability of resources and funds to companies will increase and their ability to leverage new products, go after new business, and hire additional headcounts will improve throughout 2009.”

Unless you are forced out of your company or get offered a great new job prospect, Slabinski’s advice is to sit tight. “If you’ve got a good job, take advantage of any educational opportunities or skill enhancement opportunities that your employer might offer to keep yourself marketable. Stay networked because you just never know, good or bad.”

You’re So Money: 10 Tips to Succeed in Your Job Search
1. Spread the word. Get in touch with your network of friends and colleagues by joining sites like LinkedIn, sending emails, or making phone calls. Be specific about what you are looking for, including title, responsibilities, and company size.
2. Revamp that resume. “Don’t try to be all things to all people,” says Riley. “Get a template down and tweak it to the position you’re applying for.” Slabinski agrees. “If you market yourself as a jack-of-all-trades, you typically end up nowhere.”
3. Get a referral. If you see a job posting, find out if anyone in your network can pass along your resume to the hiring manager because you’re more likely to get a call back.
4. Keep it clean. Create a professional email address — no one is going to take you seriously if your email address contains the word “hottie.” Make sure your social networking pages and blogs are rated PG.
5. Broaden your horizons. Consider a longer commute or a full-on relocation for the right job.
6. Sell the bottom line. Use your resume, cover letter, and interview to highlight the return on investment in hiring you. How can the company generate revenue with you on their team?
7. Negotiate realistically. When talking salary, look at the whole picture including benefits, perks, and the opportunity to beef up your skill set. Research salaries for comparable positions at similarly-sized companies.
8. Follow up. “The art of the handwritten note is something that has been lost in the digital age,” says Slabinksi, but it’s still appreciated among hiring managers. It could even put you ahead of other top candidates.
9. Solidify your skills. Develop expertise and experience in more than one area to make yourself more marketable.
10. Be selective. Mid- to senior-level candidates shouldn’t register with multiple agencies and post a resume on every job board. Junior-level job seekers can work with several firms, but remember that every agency should ask for permission before sending out your resume.

Originally published January 2009 at MediaBistro.com

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