By Laura Blatherwick
This spring, we had the chance to speak with three industry professionals and hear their thoughts on how the industry is changing right now and what students can be doing to keep up and stand out.
Jessica Fowler is the managing director at the Kind Group, a strategy and branding firm in Toronto. Trina Boos is the president of Boost Agents, a recruitment agency specializing in marketing, advertising, and creative recruitment, and founder of Ad Lounge, a community organization for creative industries. Doris Montanera is an instructor at Humber College and freelance writer and editor who has done work for the likes of Chatelaine, Elle Canada, and the National Post.
We asked all three the same questions about how their different industries are being affected, and how they’re adapting. Keep reading to hear their thoughts and advice during this time of change.
How are you staying creative?
Jessica: There are a couple of things I am doing to help keep me creative. Firstly, I’m doing more creative writing. I have attempted to journal and though I am not yet writing daily, I am writing more during COVID. Secondly, I am trying to learn new apps and video programs to help make my online classes more effective and engaging. Lastly, I have really awoken my inner child by doing some arts and crafts and making large signs to post on windows. I am talking glitter, stickers, markers and cut-outs!
Doris: Because I'm currently teaching four days a week, my creativity is focused on trying to create effective and engaging online classes.
Trina: I’m in the business of people, so I’m in meetings all day every day talking to leaders at various companies and keeping in the know on what’s happening in their businesses. It’s important to have these conversations, and to network as much as possible in this current environment. It helps to stay connected, but also helps to be in the know so that you can create an action plan on how you can offer value to those around you.
How has COVID-19 impacted the job market in your field?
Jessica: There is no doubt that COVID-19 has impacted the agency world. For me personally, working with small and medium sized professional service businesses, you could immediately sense that business owners were worried about spending money in such an uncertain time. Moreover, due to working from home and generating less new business, some of my clients cut hours. However, despite a few businesses having to scale back spending due to a decrease in revenue, the majority of my clients in fact have required more work from my team to ensure their business is able to effectively market online. Communicating with clients during these times and remaining top of mind with potential clients is still paramount to a company's new business development strategy and therefore, in my vertical and industry, I think business will continue as usual, albeit all online for now.
Doris: As a society, we're still limited in what we can do, so creating engaging content is more important than ever. There is so much potential for growth. John Krasinski's Some Good News is a great example of that. He started the YouTube episodes during lockdown to spread some positivity — and, I imagine, because he wasn't working and had some time. He's an actor, yet he keyed in to the mood of the moment and delivered feel-good news content that people were craving. It was so successful, CBS recently bought the idea and will be continuing the series.
Trina: We’re a recruitment agency specializing in marketing, digital and creative positions. With COVID-19, marketing budgets have been cut drastically. As a fall-out from that, hiring is impacted. Many of our clients have put positions on hold, with some waiting until the Fall to hire again, and some even waiting until 2021.
What should 2020 graduates do to stand out in the job market?
Jessica: I think it is so important during this time to show initiative. If you have time on your hands, volunteer, learn a new skill and network online. All three of these activities can help you meet people in your industry, give you work experience, and demonstrate that you are dedicated to your field. All of which will help you stand out in the job market.
Doris: For a job like content strategy, to stand out, do more to build your personal brand online. Mimic the job you want to do as best you can to show potential employers your skills. Build a fan base and get noticed for your information, insight or entertainment. Create a point of difference through your voice, perspective, original ideas, or thought leadership. And don't discount strategies like volunteering or interning. It's a foot in the door and an opportunity to show companies what you can do for them.
Trina: Pick a direction or two to take your career and spend all your time focusing on that craft. For example, if you’re interested in SEO then read about it, take courses and start a blog to properly optimize content for search engines so that you can start applying your learning. If you’re a marketer who is strong at content creation and you have a passion for writing, take a French class, get active on social media, write and publish content on LinkedIn, or launch a site that communicates your personal brand to the world. Take the time to expand on your learning, and try to develop a bit of an expertise straight out of school.