A Shift in Job Preferences

I've spent the last few months trying to pull together three things in order to get myself a good, fulfilling job:

  • An idea of the kind the job I want to do once I complete my MBA
  • A list of jobs that I can do; based on my education, experience, and abilities
  • A list of jobs that are available in the market, specifically in Melbourne

And the last few days -- the Easter break here in Australia -- have helped me get a better handle on things. Here's an overview of where I am right now.

What I Want to Do

Over the last few months, as I've learnt more about myself and have acquired industry knowledge, the set of jobs I want to do has changed. Well, technically, my job preference order has changed to:

  1. Marketing and communications -- either for a web-related project, product, or services company or for a company with a significant online presence (either internal or external)
  2. Consulting (internal or external) --  general technology consulting but preferably focused on web portals and intranets
  3. Business and project management -- focused on web-related projects, products, or services

Originally, my marketing and communications preference was at #3 -- with consulting at #1 and management at #2 -- so this is a pretty major shift.

What I Can Do

There are two reasons for this shift. First, I am in a reasonably unique position in the job market because I possess technical know-how, business know-how, and marketing know-how and, importantly, I have demonstrable experience and expertise in each. [I don't mean to blow my own horn here by talking about how great or unique I am, but the fact is that there aren't many people with this particular skill set in the market these days. My being where I am now is actually a case of carefully thought-out career moves and a bit of luck.]

Now this skill set is good because, except for the most narrowly-defined project management roles (for example), most senior-ish roles require you to be proficient in each of those three key areas. What this means is that I can quite easily aim beyond the regular business analyst (BA), project manager (PM), or consultant roles that I would have gone for had I, for example, done a MS in computer sciences instead of an MBA.

The second reason for this shift is that, basically, I realized that by looking at BA or regular PM and consulting roles, I was aiming too low. I came to this realization after looking at countless job ads and thinking to myself "sure, I can do that job quite easily...after all, I was doing the same thing two years ago." 

The only jobs that got me really excited were the ones with a bit of challenge: the ones that gave me an opportunity to learn and grow and to fully apply myself. And the thing is, with the exception of a few brilliant consulting/PM/BA roles, most of the jobs I found both fun and challenging came from the marketing and communications side.

Which actually makes a lot of sense.

Where I Want to Be

Loosely put, my medium-term career objective is to be someone in a senior management position who liaises effectively between the business, technology, and marketing sides of a company and strategically carries things forward by effectively leveraging each of those functions and departments. In plain English: I want to be the senior manager guy who speaks and understands tech, business, and marketing and can get the three departments to work together to kick some ass.

Now the thing is: I have experience in technology, business, and marketing but, increasingly, for web-related products or services the key skill for a senior manager to have is that of marketing; particularly marketing that involves social media and community-building.

See, no matter how good a project or service you have (the tech side) or how well thought out your strategy is (the business side) if you don't get your market positioning, integrated marketing communications, and community-building right (the marketing side) you don't get very far. And this is particularly true for web-related products and services. This is why forward-thinking companies are looking to hire people in two specific roles: the Social Media Strategist and the Community Manager (as explained by Forrester Reseach's Jeremiah Owyang). That, for me, is really where the challenge and opportunity lies.

It also helps that, while you can find plenty of people to work on the tech and business side (either that or you outsource development or hire a consultant), the talent pool for social media people is quite small.

But, there's a problem: the reason for that small talent pool and the reason I specifically said forward-thinking companies is because there aren't many of those jobs out there, especially ones based in Melbourne.

What Jobs are Available

A handful of social media jobs are, of course, advertised -- I mentioned the Community Liaison role at Lonely Planet early on in my job search and there was an ad for an Online Content Manager posted today -- but the good ones are few and far between and I presume a lot of them remain in the hidden job market. Also, in most companies, community management and social media strategy tasks are still not seen as separate job positions but as responsibilities assigned to a marketing manager.

Increasingly, then, I've found myself looking through the marketing and communications sections of various job sites because that's where these jobs are listed (often 'under internal communications' or 'marketing communications'). But, again, there just aren't that many out there.

The Upshot

What does all of this mean for me? Well, now that I've narrowed down what it is that I really want to do, two things come to mind: 

First, I need to be very watchful for good social media jobs -- even more so than I was for regular biz/tech jobs -- mainly because (a) they're not always advertised as social media jobs and (b) most specialist social media job sites don't cover Australia (not that any Australian companies post jobs on the ones that do). Fortunately, here we have people like Laurel Papworth who blogs about the jobs that she hears of. Let's hope she keeps doing that and that the other Aussie social media bloggers that I read follow suit!

Second, I need to start talking to Australian social media people about the kinds of jobs that are available here. They, more than anyone else, will know what is happening and where the industry is going. I guess this blog post is a first step in that direction. I also have to keep on top of all Australia-based social media events, networks, and meetings -- and there are plenty of those around.

The best part: I've finally found an area that greatly interests and excites me, and though I know it won't be easy to find and get the job I want, I suspect I'm going to have a lot of fun doing it anyway.

As ever, I'll keep posting updates on this blog.

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FYI: Connie Bensen, the Community Manager for ACDSee, maintains an excellent community / social media resource listing on her blog. If you want to know more about everything I've just talked about, take a look at that site. Also be sure to check out Jeremiah Owyang's web strategist blog.