Rachel, help me put a title to what I do
A planner has been the acting media director
September 29, 2005
I was hired at a small agency to be a media assistant, essentially a planner/buyer. I had no media experience outside of college and was excited that I would have a dedicated media director from whom I could learn and gain experience. Unbeknownst to the agency, the media director was planning on leaving the agency in a week for another job. When he left, I was moved into the role of media director, with only one week of media training from the director. I have been in the role of media director for almost one year and management has stated that they have no intention of hiring a director because I’m doing fine. I, however, would like to move on to a larger agency where I can gain more formal experience. I have been self-teaching since the former media director left. How can I properly convey to a potential employer that despite having the title of planner/buyer assistant, I worked at a director’s level? And what kind of job am I qualified for?–Too Many Titles
Dear Too Many Titles,
You are facing a delicate situation but not an impossible one. In fact, if you play it right you may find you have an edge over those with more traditional career paths.
But you will have to manage your expectations and be reasonable. You cannot expect to step into the media director’s shoes at a larger agency just because you held that position at a small one, especially with little formal training and only a year in the job. It could take years of experience at some of the better agencies to get promoted to this level.
Your main problem may be establishing your own priorities. Some smaller agencies pay very well, and they might hire you as a director after you’ve gained more experience. But these agencies may not offer you the opportunity to develop your skills in the same way you would at a larger agency. So you likely will have to decide between money now and career development over the long haul.
Barbara Rodgers, senior vice president and director of media planning at GSD&M in Austin, says she frequently runs across situations in which applicants must struggle with the challenge of conveying that their actual job carried more responsibility than their title suggests.
The key is the cover letter. “Indicate in your cover letter that when the media director left you were given his responsibilities,” Rodgers advises. “Then list those responsibilities, succinctly.”
Don’t include your media plans. Do mention the kind of clients you handled, what media research tools you used (very important), how many people you supervised and at what level. Talk about the scope of your work. Note the size of your agency and the sorts of clients you worked with and their size.
Another key will be the interview. This is when you can really explain your situation.
Michel Lozen, media director at McGarrah/Jessee in Austin, says that most prospective employers are more concerned about your actual experience than your job title.
“When interviewing, focus on the fact that you had to jump in and learn by doing, with little or no supervision, and that you have done so successfully for over a year,” Lozen says. “You seem to be self-motivated, eager to learn and possess a willingness to assume responsibility, all of which make you an attractive hire.
“Most likely, you won’t be hired as a media director at a larger agency. However, accepting an entry-level position may offer you the opportunity you seek, which is to take your skills to the next level.”
If you are careful, honest and thorough, this is a situation you can handle. Just be sure that the person you are most honest with is yourself. Decide what you really want and pursue it. Once employers see how far you have come on your own initiative, they will be impressed.
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