Juniors on a fast track to seniority

Talent Spotting: Organisations on tight budgets are increasingly giving greater responsibility to staff with less experience, says VMA Group CEO Julia Meighan.

Julia Meighan: VMA Group

The comms landscape is evolving and role requirements are changing with it. In a fast-paced environment, where budgets are increasingly strained despite the growing optimism in the market, businesses are expecting more from their comms employees.

Organisations are, of course, aware of the need for expert skills in order to remain competitive, but do not necessarily have the budget to hire senior established people into their comms teams. This has led to an interesting trend during the past 18 months.

We are increasingly noticing companies becoming less risk- averse and giving greater responsibility to individuals with less experience – replacing a director with a head of department, for example, is becoming commonplace.

Businesses looking to cut costs are now investing more in attracting entry- to mid-level talent, who are then earmarked for future senior positions. For candidates entering the PR and comms jobs market, now is a genuinely exciting time to really develop their careers. With organisations competing aggressively for talent, but with continued pressure on budgets, less senior candidates are increasingly in demand.

Candidates who are willing to pitch in and learn necessary skills will flourish

Lucy Cairncross, head of VMA Direct, the arm of VMA Group that works solely with entry- to mid-level talent, explains: "Everyone is on the lookout for the brightest, freshest and best talent and resourcing managers are under pressure to find tomorrow's superstars quickly and on a budget. This has increased the opportunities for junior to mid-level staff within the PR and comms arena to really make their mark."

The implication of this shift in candidate level and expectations of experience is an increased pressure on individuals. As more is expected of employees and responsibility is handed down the ranks, staff at junior level will need to not only adapt and learn quickly, but also be resilient enough to handle these high expectations.

It is often said that having a thick skin is a prerequisite for a successful comms professional and this has never been truer than now.

Of course for many this is an ideal situation – candidates who are willing to pitch in and learn the necessary skills as soon as possible, often by using their own initiative rather than any company-sponsored training scheme, will flourish in this environment.

In addition to these changes in expectations, it is important to take heed of this new approach to personal development. With more junior professionals being integrated into organisations at higher levels, individuals will need to go through these periods of training very quickly in order to ensure they are delivering against expectations of the role.

Without the relevant mentoring processes or personal development programmes in place, the industry as a whole has to be ever more aware of potentially large skills gaps in the next generation of comms business leaders.

As organisations seek competitive advantage, they are now looking more to the people they employ. With the market swamped with young comms professionals, and an increasing need for companies to find the right people, there is an obvious requirement for comms recruiters to also adapt.

It is an exciting time for the comms industry as a whole and intriguing to be right at the centre of the changes.

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