The summer of 2018 is in full swing and recent graduates are knocking on doors of agencies and marketing departments looking to put their newly minted skills into action. After 20 years at the helm of my own agency, I have seen a dramatic evolution in terms of the expertise needed to provide successful and efficient solutions for our clients.
In the not too distant past I typically interviewed candidates who possessed, if not yet battle tested, degrees in Graphic Design or Marketing/Communication. Today’s job seekers are more likely to have degrees that address specific areas of specialization in the consumer journey, from emerging media designers to attribution analytics and all the touchpoints in between. Even the names of degrees are reflective of the interconnectedness between design and communication. What were once degrees in Fine Arts or Graphic Design are now Integrative Design (Carnegie Mellon), Communications Design (Pratt, my alma mater!), and Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Clarkson University). While educational opportunities continue to evolve to meet the rapidly changing landscape, what hasn’t changed is the need for well-developed soft skills. We live in a connected, 24/7 global world, yet ironically, a by-product of this connectivity can be a decrease in personal interactions, especially among Millennials, who have grown up digital. Let’s face it, Marketing is all about engagement, so what are the traits, beyond formal education that make a good employee?
In discussing this with other agency owners and senior marketing professionals, a consistent theme is the importance of attitude and attributes. From Zoe Dunn, Co-Founder and Principal at Hale Advisors, ““I am always looking for a cultural fit: bright, ambitious, self-starter, creative thinker. I like problem solvers, who can come up with several ways to tackle a task….I think schools prepare them better now than in the past, forcing them to cultivate those critical thinking skills that will set them apart. And they will need them - it’s a crowded field.” According to Jill Ocasio-Cooper, VP Associate Creative Director at H4B Catapult, “Can they think conceptually, take risks, and think BIG? No longer do we design with a specific medium in mind. Clients want to see big ideas first, then how that idea translates across multiple audiences and platforms and how they integrate with one another. Art directors aren’t just there to make things pretty. They are there to make things smarter, and simpler, and strategically sound. Sharon Jautz, Senior HR Business Partner at WGSN shares, “As an entry level, recent grad candidate, this is what you can bring to the table: a curiosity, eagerness, willingness to learn.”
Bringing on any new employee is an investment of time and resources. This is particularly true for those who are new to the workforce. According to a CareerBuilder survey, employers expect 45% of their newly hired college grads would remain with the company for under two years. That can be a daunting statistic for an employer, which is what makes it important to seek out candidates who have not only a particular educational background or technical skill set, but candidates who will be a good fit for the organization’s culture and have the skills, tangible and intangible to help the company meet its strategic goals. Getting the right fit of skills and personality traits benefits the employer, the employee and the client! Employees who embrace the company culture, produce good work and are professionally satisfied are much more likely to stay in a position.
As marketers, we know there will always be new ways to tell a story, deliver a message, and engage with an audience; embracing innovation and change are essential for growth. It is the human element, however, that creates the foundation of the organization and it is the strength of that foundation that enables an organization to embrace change to stretch and grow. In much the same way as a successful ad delivers a message that resonates with its intended audience, an interview with a candidate should do the same. A resume will open the door, but well developed soft skills elevate a candidate and get the handshake to seal the deal.