5 smart career strategies for navigating today’s job market

Marketing and advertising talent is in demand. Here’s how to maximize your short-term opportunities without sabotaging your long-term career growth, from the career experts at Freeman+Leonard.


By all accounts (including ours), it’s a great time to be a marketer. An even better time, perhaps, to be a marketer on the move.

The labor shortage has received a lot of national media exposure, but it’s not the only factor driving skyrocketing salaries and opportunities for marketing and advertising professionals as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Remote work, cultural factors, a greater importance of marketing to the P&L and more have combined to create a unique environment for candidates in our field.

With demand for marketing talent now higher than ever (especially for certain roles), many employers have had to work harder than ever to attract and retain top talent.

While the moment is ripe with opportunity for marketers who want to advance their careers, that also means it can be easy to chase shiny objects that don’t serve your long-term goals.

Maximizing your prospects will require a strategic approach. Here’s what we’ve been advising our talent:

1. Be open to opportunities, but play a long game.

Many marketers and other creatives who still have job security after the past year may not feel particularly inclined to jump into the unknown. There’s perhaps nothing like the uncertainty of a global pandemic to have many of us clinging to stability and the “devil we know”!

But if you’re interested in growing your career over the long-term, it’s critical to remain open to new opportunities.

Especially now. With fewer candidates in the market, you might have a better shot at landing your dream job, perhaps even sooner than you thought.

Even if you’re happy where you are, you likely don’t plan to stay there forever, so think about what you really want out of your next opportunity in terms of the role itself. Remember that it’s often easier to progress in a new environment than to keep learning in the same one (even with new responsibilities).

Whether you stay or go, make choices today that fuel your long-term career growth, not just your short-term interests.

2. The market will change, so don’t wait around. Act quickly.

Nothing lasts forever. At some point, the hot market for your skill set will change.

This is why it’s so important that candidates be open to a conversation now. The current climate offers a lot of opportunity for career growth, but the market will eventually shift — it’s basic supply and demand.

You wouldn’t want to hesitate so long that demand dries up just as you’ve made up your mind to leave your current employer!

So be decisive and act quickly. Know what you want from your next opportunity, and be ready to grab it when offered.

3. Be wary of accepting a counteroffer from your current employer.

Employers are hungry for new talent who can help them grow or maintain momentum as the economy reopens. They’re also, of course, desperate to keep the employees they already have. Turnover is expensive, and so is hiring — even in the best of times.

So, it’s inevitable that we’d see a sharp increase in candidates receiving counteroffers from their current employers after announcing their departures.

But counteroffers rarely work out in the long-term. In fact, statistics from several national surveys show that as many as 50-80% of employees who accept counteroffers leave within six months anyway.

Keep in mind that if you’re open to making a move, you’re open for a reason. Accepting a counteroffer will serve only as a temporary bandage over the issues that led you to look in the first place.

If you’re on the fence about a counteroffer, consider also that changing companies is often one of the fastest ways to make bigger jumps on the career ladder, gain new responsibilities, and maximize your earnings potential.

4. Don’t accept an offer until you’re 100% sure you’ll take it.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with exploring all your options by interviewing with multiple companies, there is a right and a wrong way to communicate your intentions and move forward.

If you’re at the offer stage with more than one company and hoping to keep your options open a while longer, be honest about that when you receive your first offer. Most companies understand that the market is competitive and will be willing to wait a defined amount of time while you make a final decision. If you’ve expressed your genuine interest and show a sense of urgency, you won’t damage the relationship by asking for a little time.

A lot of time and work go into recruiting talent and drafting job offers, and often the onboarding process for a new hire begins far in advance of their start date. Sometimes companies will ask for a verbal acceptance before taking the time to draft the full offer. When that happens, it’s okay to accept the verbal offer with the stipulation that you need to weigh the full package. Then, if the offer doesn’t match your expectations, declining would be understandable.

But assuming you’ve seen the actual, formal offer and benefits, remember that your verbal acceptance is an acceptance. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t signed a contract or given notice. Changing your mind and declining after a verbal acceptance (or worse, after signing!) means burning a bridge, something you may regret later. Managers talk to one another and you never know how one poor decision might impact your future opportunities.

Indeed, protecting your reputation may be one of the smartest long-term career moves of all.

5. Don’t price yourself out of future career opportunities.

Just as the market will eventually shift as supply rises to meet demand, the skyrocketing salaries we see today will also level off. At some point, the market will cap.

And when that happens, those candidates who secured a salary much higher than they would have earned otherwise might find themselves unable to make a move, including up.

This is particularly true for junior talent, who we’ve seen offered insanely high salaries in this market for a lower level of experience. When you’re still gaining experience but already earn at the top of your range (or even above it), where do you go from there? You might find yourself stuck in that role for a while, with few opportunities for a lateral move financially.

It might seem counterintuitive, but keep these potential consequences in mind:

The market will change, so leave room for growth.

This is especially notable if you’re choosing between offers from multiple companies. If you’ll gain better experience at a company or agency offering a little less, the long-term payoff might be worthwhile.

Partner with a career expert who’s walked in your shoes.

Don’t go it alone. These are unusual times, so it helps to have a partner in the process. At Freeman+Leonard, we care about matching our talent with the right opportunities for their skills and long-term career ambitions — and that includes providing the advice you need to make smart decisions in any market.

But we’re more than just marketing matchmakers. Most of us actually were in the advertising and marketing world before landing at Freeman+Leonard.

The fact that we’ve walked in your shoes, or at least alongside them, has real positives for the talent we place.

When your recruiter truly understands what you do, you’re that much more likely to find an awesome fit — and in the process you’ll never feel like a number.

If you might be ready to explore what’s next, submit your résumé or portfolio at jobs.freemanleonard.com today.

Andrea Tipton is EVP, Marketing & Talent Solutions at Freeman+Leonard. She has over 25 years’ experience in advertising, marketing and promotions, including at agencies like Tracy Locke, DDB Dallas and The Integer Group.

Rachel Runnels is Director, Talent Solutions at Freeman+Leonard where she has been a top performer since 2008. Across her 13+ years’ experience in the recruiting field, she’s earned a strong reputation for finding uniquely qualified talent for some of the most difficult positions clients have sought to fill.

 Freeman+Leonard provides innovative, on-demand marketing and creative staffing solutions for companies and agencies.

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