Recent conversation with a well respected General Manager and News Director was eye opening and direct. As we talked about insights and trends in the industry, the conversation led to the challenges faced by mid-career professionals attempting to either move up market or even getting a favorable contract renewal. As traditional channels are shrinking, even disappearing, so have opportunities. We both agreed that the people strategies ruling the business for nearly 50 years needs to change. Cheese has been moved. Paradigms shifted.
I shared my thoughts around the proliferation of digital platforms and increased visibility of the marketplace. He said "yeah, definitely impacting the business but it's not had much effect on hiring strategies. Today we continue to hire young, hot, and cheap". There, he said it. Everyone knows it, although certainly never written or openly talked about, it's still pervasive as the industry continues to change as a result of digital disruption.
If hiring practices continue to be young, hot, and cheap, never has been your personal brand been more important to your career. Unless of course you are young, hot, and work cheap then you don't need a brand. They tell you that you're talented, that you have a great future ahead. It's exactly what you want to hear. They make you an offer, you are flattered of course. You simply sell out, accept a role that in reality is only 10-15% over minimum wage. Hopefully you haven't let someone convince you that you needed to have an agent to represent 'young, hot, and cheap' because there goes another 8% of your lifetime contract value.
Think for a moment about how crowded the industry space is in which you work today. How many around you are waiting for your to fail, or even stumble just for a second so they can move ahead of you. Then think about the thousands of "young, hot, and cheap" recent graduates entering the market every single year.
How about this:
Mizzou J-School is about to graduate 600-700 seniors in May.
Medill has 350 grad students that can hardly wait to take your seat.
Columbia has ~ 1,000 applicants (and the Masters program is 70% female, sorry ladies, your competition will be fierce).
In a nutshell, there is more than 1,000 entering into your industry in the next 9 months that completely get it. They will build highly interactive social media networks literally overnight via YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. They will affiliate with your audience (25% of which are millennial) on ways that you don't today. How will you know who they are? They are the ones on their mobile phone "liking" and "retweeting" conversation with YOUR audience. They are brand builders by nature.
You can certainly set yourself apart from a recent college grad because you've worked on the skills and competencies in your personal toolbox. The greatest differentiators occur because of your experiences and these experiences should become the foundation of YOUR brand. The most prevalent strategy I see from young professionals in their 2nd or 3rd role is that in lieu of being differentiated by their experience, they compete directly with 'almost as young, almost as hot, and almost as cheap'.
Or worse, they hire an agent for the first time in their career who perpetuates this circle of life. Additionally, the agent/agency uses your name and likeness to advertise THEIR brand. They put YOUR name and image on their site and you have just diluted the brand you worked so hard to build. I just saw a social media profile of an on air talent that links to the AGENT'S web page. smh.
As broadcast, digital, and multimedia talent build career road maps and develop a personal branding strategy they will discover that the greatest challenge and the biggest rewards come through identifying what differentiates. It's only when you go through a brutally honest internal and external value proposition exercise do the attributes of your brand begin to emerge.
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services to underprivileged and under-served markets. Today as founder | CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile executives and media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House - St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.