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Unrealistic Expectations

August 6, 2012

Occasionally people want to know what I do. It’s an awful question, and it’s one I will never ask of you. Because for a long long time I’ve held that people have a broader identity than the jobs they hold. But far too often we define both ourselves and others by their work.

Starting this blog was in part a response to needing to answer that question.

Now, I can say with a semi-straight face that I’m a writer. And while I do receive actual checks and other forms of compensation for my work, writing would not seem to be a sustainable long-term path for me. Who knows, things can change. Maybe I can find some way to make more money doing this.

In truth I’ve yet to fully triangulate my location between being a stay-at-home dad, an unemployed marketing guy, and an aspiring tastemaker. But realistically if the right opportunity came my way, I’d jump back into the labor pool and cross my name off the nefarious list of the long-term unemployed who are no longer looking for a job.

So no, I’m not actively looking, but I did happen to stumble upon something notable. It’s a food marketing job, and it’s for one of the better restaurant groups in the region. But it’s not for me. Actually, it’s not for anyone. Because they are looking for someone who doesn’t exist.

Now I understand it’s a down economy. Maybe that’s what the DZ Restaurant Group was thinking when they were writing the requirements of this position. And perhaps they will find the person they are looking for. But they have posted the same ad eleven times on Craigslist since June 29.

Marketing communication happens to be my area of expertise. I spent 12 years in San Francisco working for some top advertising agencies, and when I left I was managing a team of fourteen people on the Saturn cars account. My title was something like Director of Communication Strategy. Before the agency days I worked in-house at a Federated department store in their advertising production department.

But back to our story. The requirements of the job start off simply enough.

“Candidate must possess the ability to design, implement and facilitate marketing plans, manage marketing campaigns and fiscal accountability.”

They need somebody who can do it all. They don’t need a marketing strategist who lives in their ivory tower. They need someone who can think up a great plan, put it in action, manage its moving pieces, and make sure it all comes in to budget. That’s totally fair.

Personally, I find this next part of the job description to be vexing, but I also understand that it isn’t unusual in Capital Region marketing circles: “Design-implement and produce all internal print material.”

It’s not that I don’t have a good eye, or that I can’t fake my way through Photoshop, but that I have great respect for designers. Print design and marketing strategy are two completely different disciplines. But like I said, it’s a down economy. Surely you can find a business-savvy designer or a design-savvy marketer if you put your mind to it.

The same goes for the next line, “conduct effective marketing meetings.” Where I came from you are now up to seven full-time positions. A marketing director, a marketing manager, a marketing coordinator, an art director, a graphic designer, a production manager, and an account manager. But still, a business-savvy designer or a design-savvy marketer who can forge compromises between competing interests isn’t completely off the charts.

Except that’s not all. The candidate also must “create and maintain website and website content.”

They said create. So it’s not enough to be a designer who is a skilled marketer and masterful at conducting meetings, but they also have to build websites befitting some of the better restaurants in the area. And continually update them.

This last step I’m convinced took it into the realm of fantasy. What follows next takes it beyond and makes the whole thing sound like a farce:

“Seeking a candidate who has media relations, local and national, social media and content development skills.”

Because not only does this job include marketing, design, production, management, and web design, but it also includes PR and social media. Plus they want this person to have national connections, which don’t come easy.

So, really, they are looking for a PR executive who can get them into Food & Wine, build their websites, design their ads, wrangle a diverse group of managers, create strategic marketing plans, execute marketing events, and manage their restaurants’ social media platforms.

Yeah. Good luck.

So? What do they call this person? What, pray tell, is the job title for this all-inclusive position that combines more than half-a-dozen unique and challenging disciplines? That’s the punchline.

Marketing Coordinator.

And while the DZ Restaurant Group didn’t post a salary range for the job, nobody spends $80,000 on a “Marketing Coordinator.” Given the scope of work laid out in the ad, even in a down economy, that figure sounds like a bargain.

So I wish DZ Restaurants all the luck in the world. I truly understand that a small restaurant group can’t afford to hire six marketing and PR people to fulfill their needs. I do. But still, what they are seeking is beyond the pale. Maybe they’ll find their ideal candidate one day.

I can’t wait to meet ’em.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 10:08 am

    I had a DZ Marketing Coordinator in a workshop I did on social media a couple years ago. Bright young lady… had no idea she had all the qualifications described above. She must have started her marketing education in the cradle.

    Seriously though, all the references to hands-on responsibilities suggests they’re hiring a fairly junior person and are hoping that person has maybe 10% of the other qualifications. And I doubt they’re paying anything close to $80,000.

    The foodservice industry makes much more sense than this (getting us both back on topic) because there’s a clear development path. You don’t become a sous chef before you’ve mastered the cold kitchen. And once you do that, you’re no longer chopping carrots because there’s somebody junior doing that for you. In fact, DZ could probably learn something by taking a look into its own kitchens.

  2. PensiveEngineer permalink
    August 6, 2012 11:56 am

    This is what happens when you let people with MBAs and zero real world industry experience run the company. I’ve seen this sort of thing every place I’ve been in my 10 yr career and it’s always some fresh out of grad school manager who never spent a day on the bottom rung of the ladder. And we as a collective nation wonder why our corporations can’t compete in a global economy?

  3. August 6, 2012 12:01 pm

    I’m currently looking for a job and I’ve had a lot of experience with this sort of situation. Even though the actuarial field is a bit different than food marketing, I think the overtones of what you describe here are still very relevant. With a higher unemployment rate overall, the demand for labor (employers) have more options to consume from, i.e. hiring someone.

    This causes two distinct problems for both the consumer and the producer of labor (potential employees). The producers have to deal with more competition than they have experienced in the past. This leads to a longer “waiting time” until eventual employment. The consumer of labor also has a problem too. With more people applying to the same position, they have to find a more efficient way to select a candidate than they had used in the past.

    I think this is where I finally say something relevant to your post. After a few interviews, I have been told that some people in HR sift through 200+ resumes and cover letters for each position, before even sending any to the hiring manager. This takes a lot of time and money. Which is why I believe the employers in the 21st century have adopted two hiring practices that potentially hurt them, but also save them a lot of time and money.

    First, applying to jobs via the internet has become an accepted practice to filter applications. People input their information, and then the application will be removed or added to the queue, depending on what you entered. (A recent article I read explained that a CFO applied to a job within his own department and his application was passed over by the computer application before ever getting to HR.)

    Secondly, and more to the point of your post, employers ask for more skills, experience, etc. now because they can. That doesn’t mean that every viable candidate will have every skill as described, but it does weed out the people that don’t think they are up to the job, and the people who aren’t qualified at all as well. I think using a list of robust requirements makes it easier to see who really wants the job, and who is really qualified at the same time. I’d naturally assume that this also lowers the need for the filtering job done by the computer applications and by HR, thereby maximizing their hiring efforts in an efficient way.

  4. August 6, 2012 12:08 pm

    Not knowing marketing like you, but knowing some of the other things they’re looking for, it sounds like three positions: a marketing manager-type, an online strategist/print designer/Web designer (sounds like some of my job duties, not totally unreasonable for one position) and a PR person in the middle.

    • August 6, 2012 8:29 pm

      That was my thought as well. I’m speaking not as someone who knows marketing, but as someone who works in HR and writes and designs job specs for a living. 3 positions. 3 positions that are a HUGE responsibility, but 3 positions could do this. More would be better, but as we’ve discussed, down economy.

      However, your assessment of this is definitely a problem. The fact that it is posted on Craigslist does not give me much hope as to who they tasked with writing this job description.

      To me, it sounds like a young, motivated self-starter who may not have a ton of experience but has a couple of good internships under his/her belt could potentially thrive in this type of position, given he/she has the right mentor. Recent college grads come cheap right now, and if they’re young and hungry (and many of them are, believe me), they’ll put in the hours needed to succeed. Because, like you said, this is a job for more than one person, ideally.

  5. August 6, 2012 12:45 pm

    It’s definitely annoying when jobs list ‘requirements’ that should be completely different positions. I think this happens with a lot of jobs upstate. In the city, it’s easy to find listings for, say, a User Interface Designer – one specialized part of a team developing applications or websites. But up here, an ad for the same position would ‘require’ the person to know front + back end coding, design, database work, experience with 3D, animation, video, and maybe dog grooming just in case. Like BMF mentioned, I don’t think those additional skills are actual requirements, but included to cast a larger net for potential applicants.

  6. caravan70 permalink
    August 6, 2012 1:45 pm

    Daniel, I think you’re sort of tilting at windmills here. You’re simply not going to find marketing professionals of that caliber in this <1M metro. I don't work in that field – I do financial consulting – but I do know that Goodby, Silverstein is one of the most respected agencies around. You're not going to find agencies of that caliber advertising on the Albany Craigslist for help.

    My girlfriend and I are moving back to Northern California when our lease is up early next year. I'll have fond memories of the Capital Region, but I know my opportunities will be much greater, and I really miss the area. I know you've mentioned that you own a house here, but you might consider getting out and getting back to where the skies are blue every day. You only get one life, and it's best to make the most of it, I've been thinking.

    • August 12, 2012 1:25 am

      Best of luck with your move. The Profussor does have his wife’s career to consider, though.

  7. August 6, 2012 5:35 pm

    It makes me laugh how unqualified I am for almost any job in the private sector. I would have to brush up on my “facilitating” and “coordinating” skills.

  8. Kelly permalink
    August 12, 2012 1:44 am

    To be honest, your post sounds like a whine about the good old days and how things used to be – and I say this as someone who grew up/lived and worked in the Bay Area: I never had a single job (in the tech industry) where I did solely what my job title indicated I was hired to do, and neither did any of my friends. Perhaps you simply were not exposed to the dotcom mentality when you were at Saturn, but being capable of doing multiple related skillsets and jobs connected to your position was the default expectation in my part of the Bay Area – and that attitude has certainly spread out to the rest of the country by now.

    Even today, my job requires that I do a variety of different things, and often act as the point person for multiple departments.

    The things you are critiquing in your post require the most literal AND liberal interpretation of the job requirements. For example, “design, implement and produce” can just as easily read as envisioning and supervising a print marketing campaign as it does DO IT ALL YOURSELF!!! You opted to read into the advert the latter, where I see the former; who’s right? (My money is on the person currently employed outside her home, but I am biased.)

    You should be grateful you live in an area of the country where it’s possible to live on one salary, rather than complain that the job market has moved on and it’s big and scary and strange, now.

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