Digital Marketing Career Kickstart

Get your career search or development off to a great start in 2021 with brilliant tips, key insights, smart goals. Whether your career is in digital marketing or any area, you’ll hear some new ways of looking at yourself and your career path.

Focussing on how to improve your personal or “soft” skills, Will and guests Morgan Cummins (director of TalentHub) and Paul Farrer (founder of global consultancy Aspire) discuss the importance (or not) of values, getting support from within your current job, inclusion issues, and the dreaded “imposter syndrome”.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute, giving you insights from industry experts to supercharge your marketing skills. Today is "The Modern Mindset," where we explore those soft skills that are so vital to developing your career. In this episode, it's all about how to keep yourself attractive to employers through developing those crucial personal skills. I'm Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Morgan Cummins and Paul Farrer to download some of their collective wisdom on the matter.

[00:00:33] Morgan Cummins is a director of recruitment and coaching at TalentHub, where he specializes in helping people rediscover their peak performance in their career. He spent 18 years in advertising, and then transferred his skills and knowledge of this industry into recruitment and career coaching, and he is now in his fifth year at doing them.

[00:00:51] Paul is the founder of Aspire, a specialist, award-winning recruitment consultancy for the digital, tech, media, and marketing sectors. He founded the company in London back in 1992, and now Aspire operates throughout the U.K., but also in Asia Pacific and North America. And through this international expansion, Paul learned a lot about how the same industry can actually operate very differently in different cultural contexts around the world. Paul also passionately believes that while it's undervalued, quality professional recruitment can change lives, and it can transform organizational performance. Guys, welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:31] Morgan: Thanks, Will. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:33] Paul: Likewise.

[00:01:35] Will: Yes, it is a pleasure to have you on, and I really want to get, like, some of your finest insights because you have very interesting perspectives on this matter, both being in recruitment in different ways. So let me start by actually quoting some DMI Research. They did some in-depth research in 2019 with the Economist Group, and they surveyed several hundred C-suite-level marketers, and it was obvious that soft skills – and they're called soft skills, but they're actually, you know…they're important – so they're clearly in demand more and more, and will be throughout the 2020s. What's your experience? How should a job seeker refine and upskill in these areas: communication, time management, team work? Morgan, what do you have to say about that?

[00:02:27] Morgan: So, for me, developing soft skills is something you have to do yourself. So you have to become aware that it's your responsibility to develop these skills. Unfortunately, no one else is going to do that for you. Personally, about 10 years ago when I was still working in Dubai in an advertising department, going through an absolute economic boom, I didn't have to do a pitch for about four years because that's how busy we were. And as a result of that, my public speaking skills really took a dip, and to the point where I had really bad nerves before I was going to go into any sort of meeting because of the amount of...the lack of practice I was getting.

[00:03:16] So for me, I'd like to start with that example. I sought out the local Toastmasters club and became an active member, and spent five years practicing my communication. Now what I didn't know was Toastmasters was a fantastic leadership development skill, and I've no doubt today, Will, that starting that journey over 10 years ago, led me to doing the career pivot that I did five years ago into a career now I can truly say I love. So for me, it is collective awareness and then owning it and taking responsibility for the skills that you need to develop.

[00:03:55] Will: Yeah, you really proactively took hold of that and, you know, did something about it. That's great. Paul, how do you think job seekers can refine and upskill in the soft skill areas?

[00:04:07] Paul: Well, I think the critical issue here is to identify, you know, who you are anyway. So soft skills is an interesting phrase. I prefer the word ‘competencies.’ And so if your hard skills are that you've got, you know, five years in digital marketing using XYZ tools or software programs, that's fine. But, for me, soft skills are competencies, and if you are currently employed, then I'm a great believer in asking your employer for an appraisal. And the reason for that is an appraisal should be something that is about...it's all about you, and it's all about where you are at the moment in your organization. It forces them anyways, the employer, to start thinking, "Well, what are we going to do with this person? So where can they go? "

[00:05:06] It has to be or should be evidence-based, and should also cover areas that you need to develop. And so to work with your employer and your hiring manager to understand areas that they feel, because they've witnessed it and evidenced the areas you need to develop, it should show up areas, things that you need to work on. So whether it's leadership, or problem solving, or critical thinking, or team working, or negotiation skills, whatever they may be. And it's also incumbent on, therefore, the employer and yourself to say, "Well, what training and development am I going to get for that?" So if you're currently working, that's actually something you can do straight away to help yourself and know by engaging with that, and being proactive about it, you are already upskilling in areas where your hiring manager has already identified you need to develop.

[00:06:03] Now, obviously, if you're not working, that's more difficult because you haven't got a current employer, but it doesn't mean you didn't have a previous employer. So I would go back to the previous appraisal you had and say, "What was it that I had to be working on?" And then you need to do a degree of self-help. I mean, there's a ton of stuff out there on YouTube and elsewhere that you can just go and listen to other people's experiences and what they suggest you do, and all the rest of it, to say, "Okay, that's what I need to do."

[00:06:28] So, again, if you aren't working at the moment, then maybe say, "Well, how can I develop those skills, or is there a charity I can go and work for and develop those skills?" And a lot of these things, when you're developing soft skills or these competencies, are things that move us out of certain comfort zones...and it's usually seen to be out of our comfort zone because we haven't done it before or we haven't had the experience of doing it. So probably, like, you know, learning to ski, you know. So if you just take them out to the top of the mountain, tell them to put some skis on, and say, "Well, off you go down the hill," you'll be outside your comfort zone, I can tell you. But if on the other hand, you'd invested in some lessons, you would love it. You get up top, and off you go.

[00:07:14] So there's certain things you can do for yourself, and even if you have an employer and that employer is helping you develop those skills, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing stuff for yourself because there's nothing an employer wants to hear more than when you're having a regular meeting with the hiring manager, joining that program, and also, by the way, I'm doing this.

[00:07:38] Morgan: And could I develop on Paul's brilliant point there?

[00:07:40] Will: Oh, yeah.

[00:07:40] Morgan: Because I think it's really important because you touched on an area that will start you on that journey, and absolutely asking your current or previous employer for it. But there's another great exercise that you can do for free, and it will build on that data, if you're lucky enough to get the appraisal. And that's quite simply, if you took a weekend and simply took out a blank piece of paper and did a SWOT analysis, old school SWOT analysis on yourself and put down your top 10 strengths, your top 10 weaknesses, same for opportunities and threats. But then the trick here is to ask a loved one, and that's the tough one, ask a loved one to do the same, and that will push them outside their comfort zone, too. And then hopefully in your career there's been one person that you worked with that you really respect, that you looked up to, maybe they mentored you, it doesn't have to be recent, and ask them to do the same because if you can pull together those three pieces of really good data on yourself, a pattern of what your core strengths are. And as I can attest to, when you can work, spend over 90% of your time working to your strengths, your day job and your life in general is just going to improve.

[00:09:03] You can then take, when you identify say your top four or five strengths that are commonalities in those three SWOT analyses, and really build on them for your next interview. So back to the competency area that Paul spoke about, so if you can think that one of your key strengths is that you're a great communicator, is that you engage people, is that you make things happen and you're commercially minded, it actually leads to a breadcrumb trail of when you've really displayed those strengths in your career. And rather than giving the stock answer, or the staid star answer to the competency question, you can then story-tell with passion in your next job interview or in your next promotion what your strengths are.

[00:09:49] Paul: That's a great point Morgan makes, Will. I mean, first of all, by doing a SWOT analysis and asking a loved one or a previous mentor on that, you are displaying a number of competencies or soft skills already, one of which is accepting criticism. And so I think that's important, but also I would actually take that into an interview because self-awareness and that type of thing is highly valued. And so sharing that information, one, and I think just building it even further is to start considering those different types of competencies and the examples that you could share with an employer that can be evidence-based. So two things. Number one, think of the examples, whether it's around communication, self-awareness, resilience, negotiation, whatever, time management, whatever it is, okay, and build it right. Okay, that's a really good example.

[00:10:46] But that's what you are saying, and even if someone has probed and they're satisfied that they trust you to do that, who can they reference? Who can make sure it's evidence-based? Who can you trust to have that conversation to say, well, speak to one of my colleagues at the time, Jill. She'll reference. She's happy to take the call, I’ve already spoken to her. And that is super powerful when you're looking for a job because, you know, you’re saying "Don't take my word for it, take someone else's."

[00:11:14] Will: It really is. It's about, you know…developing these soft skills is obviously really important, but being able to demonstrate them, I think people really struggle with that, being able to demonstrate soft skills at interview or in a job application. I mean, are LinkedIn recommendations and things like that, you know, more publicly visible things? Are they worthwhile as well?

[00:11:36] Paul: I don't think ones from colleagues are particularly as strong. Not as strong as ones from clients. So if you've been working in digital marketing, working on a campaign, and the client has said, "It was a delight to work with Asif. He showed great analytical skills that helped us through the project." Fantastic. That's brilliant. That's what an ideal reference says. I would definitely do that. In fact, I would suggest that's something you build up all the time. It loses a bit of currency if it's like a “Working with the client was lovely too,” type of thing, it becomes a bit of a to-do. But it certainly is helpful.

[00:12:16] Morgan: Yeah, and I think, Will, just to your point there, LinkedIn testimonials kind of have died a death. They were very popular when LinkedIn first burst on to the scene. To Paul's point about references, a practice we would share with our candidates is to actually provide us with that, what we called the reverse reference. So in the old broken model of recruitment, you do the reference right at the end. And to Paul's point, those references should be offered at the start, especially when we're hiring highly, highly specialized or skilled or senior roles, we'll actually say to our candidates, "Okay, look, I actually want to get this reference now. I want to hear what they have said." And the power of an informal reference that's been…someone has taken the time to write, and it's very quick to realize if they're being genuine or not. And I've, personally, been able to share that reference during the recruitment process, and it's really added to the person's character during that process and helped them get the job.

[00:13:24] Will: That's a fantastic point. That's a really, really good bit of advice, yeah.

[00:13:27] Paul: I think the strength of that type of reference is that it is clearly a relationship between two people built on trust, that someone is willing to talk. I'm a great believer in a verbal reference because you want to be able to probe on the answers.

[00:13:43] Will: So that's just really good. So just moving, shifting slightly from pure soft skills or competencies into attitudes and values-based hiring, I just want to talk to you both about that because I know that you’ve both got, you know, lots to say about that. So we know that soft skills are important when, you know, set against technical skill and knowledge, but how important is work attitude, work ethic, when set against those more traditional criteria for hiring? Morgan, I'd love to hear from you.

[00:14:19] Morgan: Attitude has really, really brilliantly shown up since the pandemic, since we've all had to work from home. Just think about it now when you're hiring, you know. You're hiring someone you'll never have met, trust them, and to work from their home with all your sensitive information. So that's just a game changer in terms of never met them. Of course, references are done and due diligence. But what I have seen, which has been so beautiful, actually, is the number of people that we've helped to get hired through the pandemic. The number one trait for the ones that have been successful in getting the job...I started analyzing this because it really started to show up. Maybe it was just the self-discovery journey I was going on, but what I could see is this growth mindset attitude that was showing up, and what I mean by that is when people could take criticism, could take the feedback that I might have been giving them about how they didn't do in interviews, and then pivot on that, and then bring that into the next stage.

[00:15:25] I had one person before her first round had, without asking, done an audit on the business, and it was so succinct. It was so amazing. Guess what? She got the job over about...you know, we’re talking about over 300 people applying. That's why that individual got that job. But then if you flip it on the other side, you know, I know the famous Ray Dalio has been speaking about it for years in his book "Principles" about, you know, hiring for attitude. And, like, skills and abilities, in his book, are table stakes. So people going for jobs should have the skills and abilities. The differentiator, though, is the attitude, and we're coming into a new year, 2021. We've got a vaccine on the way. More and more people are going to have be in tune with their attitude, and be in tune with if this is a great opportunity. And let the interviewer know. Like, I think the big mistake we tend to make, and it's fair because we are nervous in these interview situations, but we forget to explain how grateful and how interesting, how much we've learned, how much we've actually got excited by this opportunity. It's those little differences, now that we're not meeting face-to-face, can make all the difference in you standing out in an interview.

[00:16:51] Will: So you need to be more explicit about those things because it might not come across, you know, in more subtle ways. You actually have to say, "I'm really excited about this interview. This is great. I'm so glad you gave me the interview. Like, I just really want this job, you know, and I just want to chat to you about it." You know, and just be really explicit about it. Is that what you're saying?

[00:17:08] Morgan: So think of it like this, Will. We could...yesterday, I filled my client's diary up with six interviews tomorrow, back-to-back. I don't think that's the right approach, but he's the CEO, that's what he wanted to do. So imagine your interviewee number five, and you're the one coming on with that level of good attitude, gratitude. Of course, you've done your homework. Of course, you've got the skills and abilities. But the difference that you can display in your behaviors can and will be the difference in you progressing in that process.

[00:17:40] Will: Because we worry about looking desperate. You know, we worry about seeming too keen or seeming like this job might be a bit above us, that's why we're so excited, you know, and we really should be kind of playing it all cool like we normally would, but...

[00:17:53] Morgan: No. I think, Will, if you think of it like this in terms of balance. If you've done the work for your interview, if you've really prepared, if you've gone beyond the extra mile, that should ooze out of you anyway. So it wouldn't be that your voice goes up when you talk about how excited you are. It should be just coming from you naturally that because if you...The start of a job search is, it starts weeks before that first interview, and if you've shown the right attitude the whole way through that process, you're going to be at an advantage to those that are just showing up on the day.

[00:18:28] Will: Yeah. Paul, what do you think about values and how much that matters to employers and employees when matching, you know, on their date that is the interview?

[00:18:42] Paul: Well, controversially, I think it probably matters more to employees than it does to employers. Employers like ticking boxes to say they believe in something when really you find little evidence of it throughout the organization. So I think it matters more to employees, things like values, but I think also that is, and again, if you are not working, you're going to be far less bothered about the values, and much more bothered about getting the job. If you are working and looking to change jobs, then that's something that can be on your list of things that's important to you. You know, 54% of women will look at...see if the company's got a diversity and inclusion policy before they consider joining a company, and 45% of men. So that's nearly 50/50 already, and this has only come in to our sort of…across our sort of emotional intelligence thinking in the last several years.

[00:19:45] Will: But that's a trend in business anyway. I mean, that's, you know, when people ask me what is the biggest trend you've seen in brand, in marketing in recent years, I say purpose. Purpose and values, more broadly. You know, consumers are so much more aware of where they're spending money, where they're putting money. I mean, yes, it's a privileged concern admittedly, but it's one that is…has grown into the mainstream, and people are curious about what kind of businesses am I sponsoring with my disposable income. And so I think surely that that is translated into the recruitment market, right, where people are becoming more interested in where they're spending their time and what they're contributing to, are they being part of the problem or part of the solution.

[00:20:29] Paul: I think it's worth people, who are considering moving role, just having a blank sheet of paper and saying, "What is it I'm looking for?" Because there's a whole basket of things. At any one time, one could be more important than the other, or a number reach the top of your list of importance, and actually, that's now changed slightly. So it could be, you know, so the amount of times people say to me, "Well, the first thing I think about is the money." Quite frankly, in my experience, that's the last thing people actually think about, but it might be one of the first things that’s on their list to start with.

[00:21:01] So what job am I actually...you know, what am I actually doing is pretty important, because that's what you're going to be doing every day when it’s light. So what job am I doing? Who am I doing it for corporation-wise? Who am I doing it for line-manager-wise? Who am I reporting in to? Who am I doing it with, team-wise? What's the working environment? By god, that's changed now. So, in my office, am I working from home? What's the location? Am I expected to go to the office now, or can I work from home? What’s my sort of commuting stuff going to be? And what's the training and development going to be like? What are the career options going to be like? What's the salary on offer for this role? What are the benefits that may go with it?

[00:21:44] I will just say one tip for employees when it comes to values, is that the values...bear in mind this...we're talking about just, you know, the marketing communications field. So, therefore, there should be an awful lot of clues for employees or people looking for a role. So it should run through the communications of a business what those values are, and it should run through all the job descriptions, the job ads, and everything the same. So people should just sit there and start circling these words that are coming up on a regular basis in all three. That will help them identify that's the values they're looking for. So, therefore, how can I demonstrate that in an interview?

[00:22:24] Morgan: And, Paul, just to build on that, too, if I may, like it's a cliché, but values in a business are generally only as good as the behaviors of the...especially the leadership team, and no better time than COVID to see how different businesses have reacted. I mean, Tesco in the U.K. were the first retailer to provide a...I think it was a 10% uplift to all their retail staff. To me, that's massive, and it made a massive difference where I shopped in my area, which was a Tesco, because it felt, wow, they've reacted really quickly. That must have been a decision by the CEO to pay extra 10%.

[00:23:09] So, to me, I would be very wary saying to job seekers on the values that might be on a website, like, that can be a whole smokescreen. Just look at how they've actually performed, how have they…and again, there are so many platforms now to go and find out how their leaders really react because, for me, there's going to be one major...alongside technology, the biggest competitive advantage businesses are going to have going into 2021 is their people. And if you can line up, in terms of really good hiring – I have a number of clients that have been doing this for a number of years, and it's no surprise that they have the most advanced eCommerce ecosystems in Ireland right now because the values they put on their job specs is exactly what they hire for. They have trained me to look for those values when I'm recruiting their people, and they will not hire the best people just because they're the best people. They will say no to those people because what they do is do the right level of chemistry to ensure values are aligned.

[00:24:19] So, to me, it has been bubbling for some time, but I think that the key business differentiator going into 2021 will be businesses that really enable their people by letting them live their values in sync with theirs.

[00:24:36] Will: Hello, a quick reminder from me that if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars and case studies, to tool kits and more real-life insights from the world of digital marketing. Head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com/aheadofthegame, sign up for free. Now back to the podcast.

[00:24:59] So one thing I wanted to talk to you guys about that’s of particular interest to me, is, you know, when we go about embedding ourselves in a business, so we get a job, and we go about, you know, becoming part of that business is this idea of imposter syndrome. And I think that, you know, we talked about diversity and inclusion, and I think that certainly anybody who in any way feels like they're coming from the outside suffers from this. And we know that, you know, women suffer from it more than men, and people who are part of any sort of kind of minority or in any way different. I mean, I suffered from it personally. Just, you know, because I'm northern, like I'm from northern England and from a small town, and I moved to London, I didn't feel like I belonged in the media world. I didn't feel like I had the membership card, you know.

[00:25:46] And I can still remember distinctly the time when I kind of looked up from my desk, and I sort of realized, you know, everybody's winging it. Everybody's just appropriating language from other people. Everybody just copying everybody else to try and look like they fit in. But no one's really got a clue what they're doing, and everybody's learning on the fly, and every day is a school day, as the saying goes. You know, we're all just kind of learning as we go, right. And so I'd love to hear your tips for our listeners, and I know that a lot of our listeners will, you know, be suffering from this impostor syndrome. How can people get over that? How can people gain more confidence in their work in digital marketing?

[00:26:33] Morgan: It's really common actually, Will, and it's worrying the amount of people that will confide in me before they start a job. I will normally have that cup of coffee before that person starts, and it's remarkable how many people tell me, "Oh, well, I'm really scared now as to what the next steps are." The advice I give every time is the same, and I talk them through, firstly, the metrics, you know. They have gone through a really robust recruitment process to get that job. It could have started with 100 people, funneled all the way down to them.

[00:27:14] The next thing, though, which is, I think, is more important, is for them to understand that they wouldn't have been offered the job if the employer didn't believe that they could do the job, and that's the point of, like, where really good emotional intelligence should kick in. And that's the point where, for example, if someone is starting, it's their first move ever into a big advertising agency, and he did ask me. He said, "Morgan, how will I make that shift?" And simply, I spoke to the hiring manager, explained the candidate was having these little doubts, which are natural. As you said, "We're all human." And now they've done a couple of Zoom calls, and in his six-week notice period, he's got all these different reading materials and all these different expectations have been set.

[00:28:05] So it was, back to the point, is we all suffer from it. You know, we wouldn't be human if we didn't suffer from it. But sharing it is a really good thing. And then actually, celebrating the fact and trusting in the process that you've just been through, that you were selected from potentially 100 people to get this job should help you to turn off that little voice inside your head.

[00:28:30] Will: Indeed. I think we actually had a guest on one of our earlier episodes, Kevin Reid, who's a personal coach, and he referred to self-limiting beliefs, and it's just one of those, isn't it? Paul, what advice would you have to listeners who feel like they might be under the illusion of impostor syndrome?

[00:28:49] Paul: Well, I think we've all been there. I remember when we first set up…we do a fair amount of graduate recruitment, first with the Graduate Recruitment Company, as it was then called, before we put it into Aspire. And we were invited by Oracle to go and pitch for their business, which was to recruit, like, a couple of hundred graduates to their program. I'm going way back. I'm literally talking in the early '90s. And so I went into the room. We had a proposal and presentation, but I'm not even sure PowerPoint existed then. And there was a whole panel of people sitting around this room, and everybody started firing questions. One of the first questions asked was that, "So how do you...what's your competency framework for assessment?" And I remember going, "I don't understand the words you're using here." And so trying to wing it and feeling straight away that I was very uncomfortable...I actually just came clean and said, “Look, so I think what you're asking from us is a little bit too early in our stage of development as a business,” and we saved them some time by deciding that we should get out of there.

[00:29:54] But I think for people who have been chosen for a job, first of all, you should go back to that moment when they offered you the job and just revisit it. Did you feel elated or did you feel nervous? And so if you feel elated, then that's your core chemistry, your body going bonzo, I've got what it is that I was looking for. If it's nervous, then clearly there is something afoot within your own psychology about taking the job. There's a couple of things to look at. First of all, I would want to know what your employer's onboarding process is. So how are people onboarded into the business, A? But, B, I would certainly want to speak to the hiring manager and people involved in the selection process and say, right, "Can you just talk me through? I'm really delighted to have been chosen." This is after joining. "I'm really pleased to have been chosen. Can you tell me the reasons why I was chosen? And can you also talk me through the areas you feel I still need to develop?" Because you may be thinking that you're having to tick all the boxes because you've been appointed to the role when actually they identified that you ticked a lot of the boxes, but there were some areas that you still need to develop.

[00:31:11] Will: That's a really good point, actually. It's quite hard to have the guts to do that, to ask that when you've just been given the job, isn't it, you know? Like where do you think I need to develop? But it's a really good point. You won’t haven't ticked every single box probably.

[00:31:24] Paul: We have to remember, in the mind of the hiring manager, the day you joined, they are over the moon. This is a problem that you have just solved walking through the door. They're delighted. They're just…onboarding is like a honeymoon, you know. And so this is the time to do it. These people are willing to help and support and all the rest of it. So that's one thing. And then the other thing is to see, within onboarding, is there a mentorship type of program in the business? Can you ask for a mentor to someone? And so when you have your darker thoughts, your concerns, your lack of confidence moments, there is someone to actually go and talk to. They don't need to be a coach, just really someone you can talk to.

[00:32:05] So I think from our perspective, I mean, I remember several years ago, there was a candidate who we had up for a job, and they weren't on the huge salary where they were. They were on something like 35k, and the brief for the role was 40 to 50k. And when the company offered them the job, they offered them the top end, 50k, which was like a 15,000 pound pay rise or whatever it was from where the person was, and they very nearly turned it down because they thought, what do they think they're hiring? And they were really concerned. What do they think they're hiring? And the only difference was to explain to them, actually no, different market sectors – I don't know, your listeners might not know about this – but within digital marketing, in fact, in so many different careers, you can have the same job title with the same responsibilities paid completely different salaries, because one particular market sector is far more profitable or whatever, and just pays more money in that area. And so actually, it was just a matter of they were moving a slightly different sector where they have bigger budgets for salaries, and that's what they paid for that level of job. Anyway, they took it and were very happy.

[00:33:12] Will: Yeah. Absolutely. Now, that's a really good way to think about, you know, that because, I mean, the fact of the matter is, I don't know about your experience, my experience is that onboarding process is all too often either absent or not particularly sufficient, but that's another story for another time.

[00:33:28] Paul: Well, it's very tricky when people are working from home. And again, what we...on top of the virtual interviewing guide, we also then created…someone created a virtual onboarding guide for companies to say, right, "Okay, people are working from home, these are all the things you're going to have to think of." You know, what's their workspace like? Have they got a safe working space? There is a responsibility from the employer to make sure there’s a safe working space. It went through all the training, onboarding, who are the people they’re going to meet. You know, the first time they're meeting people on Zoom. In fact, our own sales director joined in March literally as lockdown happened, and he took over, and he didn't meet anyone until the end of lockdown in July.

[00:34:05] Will: Yeah. And we took that, ticking those boxes during the recruitment process. And actually what I think…what I'm seeing is people being, for some reason, potentially to do with 2020, but being knocked off their perch in the middle of a career or later in a career, and then going out into the job marketplace and finding, actually, they ticked too many boxes, and they're over-qualified. Do you think being over-qualified is a myth? Is that a real thing? Morgan, what do you think about that?

[00:34:33] Morgan: It's a great question. Unfortunately, there's another way you could phrase it; that ageism can, unfortunately, impact in the recruitment cycle. It's a fact, I'm sad to report. However, if we go back to the principle of controlling what you can control, so you will have had a great achievement-driven career, but potentially now there's certain skills and roles that you might be looking to apply for that you are not developed enough in. If you could embrace learning, and then being able to showcase…and back to an earlier point, about 15 minutes a day in terms of committing to learning, if you can pick an area that's in demand right now, that you could stack on to your skills.

[00:35:33] So let's take digital analytics, for example, because we know there's some super storytelling marketeers out there with, you know, 20-plus experience. I personally know of quite a few who pivoted five, even 10 years ago, and learned everything they could about the eCommerce funnel. And one client of mine now, as a side hustle, gives education programs around eCommerce around the world. And he didn't have any of those skills 10 or 15 years ago. But what he did do well is he invested in them because I know how tough it is when you're looking to do a career change. I did one myself just over five and a half years ago. And you do get put into certain boxes. You know, I had an 18-year career in advertising. At the time, I was trying to get into marketing departments, and I wasn't even getting interviews, you know.

[00:36:37] And that's the reality for a lot of people in ad agencies still to this day. But if you can then realize that it's, again, your responsibility to go back, to upskill, to look at the job specs, to look at the areas of skills that are in demand right now, and start learning about them. I mean, there are so many great courses, long and short form, that you can do. And then, effectively, you're taking back control.

[00:37:01] Will: So, Paul, tell any listeners who feel like they have the problem of being perceived as over-qualified, what can they do on a very, kind of, tactical level to overcome that in their job search or their career change?

[00:37:17] Paul: The practical steps that people can take are to really get on the front foot with it, which is, right, let's say it's job ads you're seeing and you're applying for job ads. So the first thing to do is what anyone to do with job ads, really identify what is this...who is the company? What are they doing? What are they looking for? Circle all the relevant words that come up around competencies and values and behaviors and that type of stuff, try to look into the websites and deep dive into where this has come up.

[00:37:50] Try and work out who are the hiring managers? How can I link up with them on LinkedIn? How can I start supporting my application with other marketing and branding that can be examples of the work I've done? Because actually, it's your...what have you achieved...if I'm an employer, what have you done that I can then take on and enhance and take on further? I think there is also a complete prejudice, and Morgan was relating to this quite rightly, which is if you're an older person, you're sort of not learning anymore. So we sort of ran out of the ability to learn. Well, how many of our grannies and grandpas do we know who are online and suddenly on Zoom? Okay, the Queen was on Zoom this week. You know, she's in her 90s.

[00:38:36] So clearly, people can learn and develop. And I think that's absolutely right, to demonstrate that's what people are doing. I think the deep psychological issue is younger managers feeling, "How will I go about managing someone who could be my father's age or something?" And it's this psychological problem they’ve got, but that is their problem. That's not your problem. It's your problem as in you don’t want it to stop you getting the job, but don't let it get in the way of applying, having a strategy to apply. Have a plan. Execute that plan. And don't give up. Keep at it.

[00:39:16] By the way, when you've been told you're a no, don't accept it. Do not accept the rejection. Go back again, ask for reasons why, why am I a no? Okay? Lay out more reasons why you're right for the role, okay, in a non-aggressive, very passive way, send more examples, and keep at them. You don't know what's going on in that interview process. You don't know that they've seen a bunch of people that are not quite right. You don't know the person they’ve just offered the job to just turned it down. And hey, you are still there. You are still knocking on the door. Well, that's the attitude I want.

[00:39:48] Will: That's very true, that. And actually talking about that strategy of going after that job that you've decided that you really want. Our time has come up, but one last thing I'd like to ask you both, just to end on, is I'd love you to give me your three tips. Morgan, I'll start with you. What would be your three takeaways for someone making themselves more employable in 2021?

[00:40:15] Morgan: We’re at the start of a year, 2021, so the first thing you’ve got to do is set goals for yourself. When was the last time at the start of the year that you have set yourself some really good career goals? Okay? By setting the goals, and it's been proven, writing them down is a proven strategy to making them happen. But this is where everyone fails. More than 90% of people by the time January swings around to February, have forgotten about them because they haven't written them down. But the second thing is so important: find an accountability partner. And it's easy. I have got three of them in my life. I look for people, and this is back to the impostor syndrome, I look for people that are three to five years ahead of me in my career, that I really admire, and I reach out to them, and I get time with them to talk to them. Three such people are now, I'm accountable to them. So every month, I send them progress and where my goals are. And that has rocket-fueled my own career. So I'll give you...if you can set goals, write them down, and find an accountability partner to make your goals accountable to, I can guarantee you, into 2021, you'll start achieving those amazing goals you set.

[00:41:28] Will: That's great. Cheers, Morgan. Very good advice. Paul, what would be your three short bullet tips, takeaways, for our listeners?

[00:41:38] Paul: Very simply, identify what it is you want to do. Secondly, set a timetable to achieve that. So, a deadline. And thirdly, then create a plan for how you're going to do it.

[00:41:53] Will: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Simple, but so many of us neglect to actually sit down and do that, don't we, and...

[00:42:01] Paul: Well, there's a lot of words around those three bullet points, but those are the three bullet points.

[00:42:05] Will: Yeah, I think it can be transformational, as you've said. Well, we've run out of time. Thanks so much guys. Thanks for your insights and hearing your perspective on that. I think there's so much useful stuff in there for our listeners. I appreciate your time, and yeah, thanks again. It's been great to chat to you.

[00:42:22] Paul: I’ll see you Will, thanks.

[00:42:23] Morgan: Thank you. Thank you, Will.

[00:42:25] Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.


Morgan Cummins

After an 18-year career in advertising, Morgan transferred his skills and knowledge of this industry into Recruitment and Career Coaching.
Now into his 5th year of new this journey he is a Director of Recruitment & Coaching at TalentHub where he specializes in helping people rediscover their peak performance in their career.

Where can you reach Morgan:

Check out www.talenthub.ie  or mail him at morgan@Talenthub.ie

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