In order to get what can loosely be called a 'web strategy job' in Australia I did quite a bit of research and analysis on how different companies hire for that position and I thought it might be useful to share what I've learnt. This serves two purposes:
- Others who are looking for jobs in the same area might find my analysis useful.
- Those who know more about this area than I do can improve my understanding of it.
Here's hoping this blog post accomplishes a bit of both.
What Do You Mean by 'Web Strategy Job'?
So what exactly does a 'web strategist' do? Well, it depends on the industry and company that job is in. In general, though, a web strategist is someone who takes care of everything a company does online. This includes:
- managing the company's online presence (website, intranet, social media presence, etc.)
- figuring out what the company should be doing in the online space over the next few years; i.e. creating a web strategy and making sure it is aligned with the company's business, marketing, and communications strategies
- implementing that strategy
This job can be in different departments and at different levels of seniority within a particular company. To explain this further I have come up with the How Companies Build Their Online Presence
table (below). The columns on this table represent company size and the rows divide companies into those that consider their online presence to be strategic and those that don't (yes, this is an artificial, binary division while, in reality, there is a range here). 
The text in the cells describes the solutions that these companies implement in order to build and maintain their online presence (yes, I am generalizing here). The jobs that I spent the last few months looking for are the manager-level web strategist/online manager positions described or implied in the green coloured cells.
Interestingly, over the last year, I have worked in companies in all three of those green-coloured areas:
- Shell is a very large company that uses its online presence strategically (both internally and externally)
- Melbourne Business School is a medium-sized company that uses of its online presence strategically (and increasingly so)
- Linfox is a large company that doesn't use its website strategically but makes very good use of its intranet
sits in the strategic row and is a large company.
Where the Web Strategist Fits in All This
As mentioned earlier, the web strategist jobs in those green-shaded boxes exist at different levels within different companies. That is why, over the last few months, I applied for jobs that spanned a range of tasks, skills, and seniority levels. In some small companies, for example, the primary driver of the web strategy is the specialist consultant hired on a 3-6 month contract. In some larger ones, the strategy is driven by a small group of people who are, in turn, led by the web/online manager.
There are pros and cons to being in each of those positions. For example, a short-term specialist-level consultant may not have the time, influence, or opportunity to have a major impact on a company's overall web strategy. That said, this consultant sits outside the internal politics of that company and can be more blunt and direct about what that company needs to do without having to worry too much about what people think of him. A full-time online manager in a large company, meanwhile, many find corporate inertia working against her for the first six months but, once things get moving, will benefit from it. And because this manager knows the inner working of the company, she may get things done more quickly and more effectively.
The sweet spot for me was to get a middle management position in a good-sized company that made good, strategic use of its online space. There is huge potential (and lots of fun to be had) in this role because companies in this position are often quick to move and are willing to make a real impact online. Fortunately for me, this is exactly where Melbourne Water sits.
What About the State of the Job Market?
Of course, all this analysis is useless if it doesn't help you get a job - particularly if no one is hiring for the position you really want to get. Because of that, I was also looking for less-than-perfect jobs or jobs on the periphery of where I wanted to be. The idea was that I would work towards the role I really wanted.
Speaking more generally: One good thing about this type of job is that every organization needs a website regardless of how the economy is doing (and Australia's isn't doing that badly). As a result, web strategists, website managers, and specialist online consultants are still getting hired. And though there are very few perfect jobs out there (and many companies are hiring less senior people to do the same job that more senior people were doing last year) I did come across a whole bunch that were great places to start. Read my previous blog post
for more on that.
So that is a summary of what I have learnt about web strategist jobs in Australia over the last couple of years. I encourage you to do your own research on this topic. To do that, I recommend the following three things:
- Subscribe to online job feeds from Seek, MyCareer, CareerOne, and SixFigures. This will teach you a great deal about the state of the job market and will help you adopt the lingo that hiring managers and recruitment firms use to match candidates to open positions.
- Talk to people who are in the industry and find out more from them. This is particularly useful if you are targeting a narrower segment in the market (e.g. web strategy jobs in the education sector). Also read their blogs, interact with them online, and get in touch with them through LinkedIn or your own networks (then meet up with them for a coffee or something).
- Talk to recruitment agents who recruit in this area. I mentioned three firms and three recruitment agents in my previous post but there are many others - you just need to find the ones that work best with you.
And when you learn stuff, blog about it so all of us can learn from your experiences.
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 The words 'strategy' and 'strategic' are used very loosely in everyday speech while, in actual fact, they mean something very specific. Let me clarify that here: when you say something is 'strategic' you necessarily mean that it is relative to your competitors. Take your website's 'Contact Us' page. If, along with your office address, you were to give your office's Melways Map reference, this would not be considered 'strategic' because this is common practice. If, instead, you embedded a Google map that showed your office's location exactly (assuming, of course, that your customers found this useful and that it helped your business) this would be a 'strategic' move since few companies tend to do that and this gives you an advantage over your competitors. Note, however, that if you had decided to include that Google map without considering your competition, it would simply have been a 'plan'. A 'strategy', on the other hand, is action taken specifically with your competition in mind (i.e. in order to gain an advantage over them).