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Posted: August 20, 2013

Like it or not—your job is changing

Time to wear five hats at once

Esty Atlas

Labor force experts predict talent shortages in health care, education, science, technology, engineering, and math.  Not as widely reported, however, are the changes for those of us in marketing, advertising, media, and the public relations professions working with companies to help keep them afloat in this quickly changing landscape. 

When I got into the business nearly three decades ago, a news writer was a news writer.  However, a creative services writer was also a producer.  A photojournalist might occasionally edit his or her footage after the reporter logged the footage or a script was handed with accompanying videotapes to a separate editor before the news producer saw the finished story.  Sometimes, the news producer just went off of the written script based on a brief verbal discussion.  In those days, people typically specialized in one or two closely related roles, but there were more distinct lines of separation.

Marketing was more detached from PR or advertising.  It was closely aligned to research and number crunching demos; whereas advertising was where the crazy and fun folks brainstormed the latest ad campaign.  Rarely did the two meet because marketers worked with their sales people to secure the media buy, not creative people who thought up and executed the brand strategy.  

Enter technology and cost-cutting.

Go buy yourself four or five new hats because you’re going to wear them all – if you aren’t already doing so. Today, a TV photojournalist is much more desirable if he or she can also serve as an on-air reporter, writer, editor and producer.  Five jobs rolled into one.  Don’t get too excited, the salary difference will be minimal.  The same is becoming more the norm in multiple industries.  A quick glance at current job postings in my industry and desired qualifications indicates a growing need for people who are not only skilled in the requisite qualifications of a public relations type position, you’d also better know how to optimize social media, digital media, not-yet developed media, and have the scoop on which tech tools can help your clients attract new customers, all the while managing the traditional media and reputation management practices that used to be solo specializations unto their own. 

By the way, it wouldn’t hurt if you had a Master’s degree and were bi-lingual to boot, all for the discounted privilege of today’s marketplace wanting younger, cheaper, and available 24/7.  

Bottom line: People 40+ worry they may not have a competitive edge anymore over younger employees.  But if you’re in the people business, high tech skills alone won’t really matter if you haven’t mastered an in-depth understanding of human psychology.  We’re all too busy, distracted by endless texts and emails, with an attention span, at best, at a nanosecond pace.  Your challenge: to create interest for your client’s products, or establish trust and a positive image in a business’s leadership that’s dependent on paying customers and invested stakeholders to be successful.  People are still people.

Questions to ask yourself: what skills should you be acquiring, and how long before those, too, become irrelevant? Do you need to completely reinvent yourself or just a little? Where are these tsunami waves of change taking us, swimming harder and faster to try and keep from drowning?   And by whom are your skills valued?

Here’s an interesting reality:  During the recent recession of the past few years, female leaders retained their jobs at higher numbers than their male counterparts.   You read that right, females were more successful.  WHY? President and CEO of the Employment Resource Group, Sharon Hulce said, “It was often because the women were amazing mentors.  They were looked at as that person who could give phenomenal advice.”  Mentoring pays off.  Not everyone comes to the role naturally, but there will always be opportunities to help people, which can influence your own marketability.  Hulce added, “The relationships you have will play a critical role in your success throughout your career.”  Lest we should forget, the up and coming generation will be hiring managers in ten years’ time.   Leadership teams and client service managers are skewing much younger.  The senior decision-maker may be all of 28.

So learn new skills that are relevant, yes, but also remember to leverage the PR or marketing or advertising, or whatever-it-is combination of experience you already have – not just with colleagues, but with clients as well.  Be creative.  Become a role model.   Develop real relationships.  That person gets it.

Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: estycreative@yahoo.com or www.estycreative.com

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