Marketing & Creative Jobs, Part 2: The Day-to-Day of Creative Contracting

Creative workers in a bright office

Picture this: A marketing manager at one of the biggest banks in North America is sporting blue hair and wearing jeans and a T-shirt to his office, where the other managers are all in business attire. Meanwhile, at a white-shoe New York investment firm, there’s a manager rocking rainbow-striped hair.

“It’s the funniest thing to see when he’s walking side-by-side next to someone who’s in a suit and tie,” says Lucy Tran, an Aerotek recruiting manager for marketing and creative staffing.

She deals with these rainbow-haired supervising managers routinely. That’s because Tran recruits creative types like web designers and content strategists to work for Fortune 500 companies in San Francisco. Many of these companies have made cultural shifts — in everything from dress codes to social outings — to attract creative talent.

The moral of the story: In the world of marketing, you can wear your hair however you like — as long as you get the job done.

In Part 1 of this story, we assessed the overall state of where we’re seeing growth in the marketing industry. (The upshot: It’s booming.) Here in Part 2, we’re looking at the day-to-day. Tran offered us her perspective, as did Ala Jamison, an Aerotek business development manager in New York City.

When you’re placing a creative professional, how important is time management?

“For the teams that I work with, time management is a non-negotiable thing,” Jamison said. “They’ve had to let people go because they just couldn’t keep up with the pace.”

Tran agreed that poor time management by staffers can be a deal breaker for employers. “A lot of the projects that they’re working on require so much manpower that they’re delaying the whole process” if they don’t finish their work on time, she said.

It’s not uncommon for people in marketing to get laid off at one time or another. Will that be a problem when looking for a new job?

Based on Tran’s experience, it shouldn’t be an issue. “I’ve never actually come across layoff gaps as a roadblock for future employers,” she said.

She stressed that job candidates should be open and honest about what happened, and that it’s no secret that layoffs are common in the industry.

“It’s not in anyone’s control?” she said. “We’ve never had managers push back on that.”

How important is your portfolio, and what are employers looking for?

“It’s the single most important thing,” Tran said. “That’s the first thing that catches someone’s eye.”

Beyond having an updated portfolio with high-quality design or writing samples, what constitutes the best portfolio can vary by employer.

“It depends what the managers are looking for, to be honest,” Jamison said. “I have had my team ask candidates to go back and tailor their portfolio around what a specific employer is looking for.”

It’s absolutely crucial to update your portfolio. Too many people don’t.

“What I’m typically looking for is: Are their designs relevant, are they modern, or are they more formatted for something that would have been good five years ago?” Jamison said. “We run into that at times. We have people who say they’ve been designing for 10, 15 years, but they never updated their portfolio to reflect what the current market needs.”

How can senior designers stay relevant and up to date on the latest technologies?

Jamison offered the example of a web designer she knows who’s been in the industry for 20-plus years — almost as long as web designing has existed, as a matter of fact.

“He’s probably the most senior designer that we’ve placed,” she said. “What was attractive to the manager who brought him onto the team was that he’d actually been doing a lot of contracts, which got him exposure to different aspects of design. So working on different contracts really helped him out.”

And how did this veteran designer stay up-to-date? Simply by taking some coursework now and then.

“Nothing crazy,” Jamison said, “but he wanted to make sure he was staying relevant to what the market was demanding, and I feel confident that’s why he’s in a VP position now.”

Can you help freelancers get into contract work?

Yes! We’ve got plenty of experience helping people transition from freelancing into contract staffing positions.

“I always love working with freelancers because they have diverse portfolios of different clients they’ve worked with,” Tran said. She regularly works with freelancers who are trying to get back to the stability of full-time work.

“I don't think I’ve ever had a manager ever say no to a freelancer,” Tran added, as long as they have the relevant skills.

Why would a freelancer consider working with a staffing agency?

The biggest factor is benefits. As independent contractors, freelancers have to cover the full cost of their own health insurance. It can be painfully expensive.

Working for clients through a reputable firm like Aerotek gives you access to comprehensive health benefits and other perks like corporate discounts.