Friday, September 18, 2009

The Employment Picture for Direct & Event Marketers

Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC released results of a job search survey they conducted last week, focused on the direct marketing industry, with results which were very telling. I found the results insightful first of all because, of course, the Events Marketing community is a subset of this group. And secondly, because … well … participants in the survey were, like me, people in the Events Marketing industry looking for employment in a very challenging industry and economy. (I’m one of the 9.7% of the workforce in seeking employment.)

You can read the details of the survey results here – detailing length of time direct marketers are out of work, as well as details parsed by salary. Two points jump out at me:
  • Survey results showed direct markers duration of unemployment as longer – almost double – the national median as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison (survey responses to federal statistics), but certainly shows the tenure of unemployment for event marketing professionals is longer than the national average. And the national average is, of course, too long as a whole.
  • 50% of the responders have been looking for work for seven months are longer. This, obviously, is an alarmingly large percentage (the survey did not include national averages as a benchmark.) The only silver lining is that “only” 20% of the respondents had been looking for work between 1-3 months – which, to take a leap of faith, could imply a lower # of layoffs over the past three month period. (The report also notes that unemployment may be “bottoming out.”)
In short, the employment picture for direct marketing professionals is more challenged than in other professions. And, of course, it’s challenged all over. Which begs the question “what’s an Event Marketing professional to do?” Trust me, unemployment is no fun, and I also have empathy for people fortunate enough to be employed, as I’ve certainly heard stories of individuals doing multiple jobs to compensate for lack of staffing.

While I wish I had a magic wand (I would have selfishly pointed it to myself if I did!), lacking that, a few thoughts and suggestions to Event Marketers on both side of the employment fence – ones that have kept me sane at times throughout this process:
  • Positive attitude: I am a firm believer in the importance of this. Karma carries, both internally and externally. Go to a job interview resentful that you’ve been out of work for seven months, and it will show. Let the situation eat at you and it will negatively impact the effectiveness of your search. The same obviously goes for attitude at work. When you feel negative clouds building, take a break – go for a walk, a cup of coffee, clear your head and get back to being positive.
  • Keep yourself relevant: The landscape for event marketing is changing – if you’re unemployed, take the time to learn about new initiatives in Social Media and think about how you’d implement that into a multichannel strategy. If you’re employed, make the time to do the same. Learning something new is a “feel good” activity, and it adds value to you as a commodity. Hubspot, by way of example, offers Inbound Marketing University certification (which I completed in August), with a new round of testing taking place the end of October, and would suggest exploring.
  • Networking: I’ve found my last two jobs through networking, and suspect, the end of the day, I’ll land somewhere this time because of it as well. And – as I keep learning – keeping your network fresh while you’re employed is important. You don’t want to spend time dusting off old names if you ever need them in a hurry!
With regards to networking, I’ve had discussions questioning the value of this in these tough economic times. And if you’re employed, I’m guessing you’ve fielded a number of calls. But I’d heard (and unfortunately don’t have a source) that, on average, a large job board posting receives 800 applications. So quick math: even if the job is perfect for you, it’s probably perfect for 10% of the others. Putting you up against 80 people who are (hate to say it) on par with you, from which the employer will choose maybe 10 candidates to have an initial round of interviews with. If these assumptions seem reasonable, that leaves you a 1.25% chance of getting called in for a job board interview for a job you’re perfectly qualified for. Given those numbers, I again suggest the networking route.

I again do wish I had the magic wand to wave – but lacking that do hope the above provides some thoughts and encouragement. The landscape is not one we created … but need to be diligent in improving our situations.

Good luck!



  1. John,

    Great post! I was just having a conversation on this topic, and finding ways to help the unemployed or those that are ready to make a move, build their career portfolio. Build confidence. And build networks. We were discussing the benefits of "career tools" and what people are actually willing to invest in themselves to better prepare. I can tell you that spending $700 to have a resume rewritten, would not be my kind of investment! Especially considering the stats you published!

    Magic wand huh?


  2. Thanks - wish the numbers could be better but it's a challenging environment to use a euphamism. And you're right on the $700 resume re-write (if you've really seen that price point that's borderline insanity!) As you note, networks and confidence (quite the intangible) are key.

  3. Do you think that event marketers are at a disadvantage because of their multi-channel expertise? I had a friend ask me recently what my specialty was because, as part of the 9.7%, I am doing freelance work right now. I was trying to explain that I do SEO/SEM, email marketing, direct mail, advertising, social media, copywriting... I wonder if I would be more effective in my job search if I focused on one of those channels. I am based in Canada and the job market for event marketers is pretty much non-existent right now. With 7+ years in events, that's pretty discouraging!

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  5. Hi John,
    Great post and it really reveals directions I am taking in my career management.
    Really helpful to read it from others and thus sharing good piece of advice.