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Are marketers ties to industry restricting flow of talent?

Author - Sarah Stewart - MRKTSEARCH

All me, no ChatGPT. 

In the UK there are estimated to be approximately 225,000 people working in Marketing, of 33.17 million, that’s just 0.7% of the whole working population or 1 in 1400. A noisy enough bunch for their relatively small numbers! 💪

Marketing is a field that's always changing, each day brings new challenges and opportunities. It’s this variety that draws many to the profession. 

Working across different industries is appealing to many marketers. It provides an opportunity to experiment with the application of learned knowledge, engage different demographics and markets, and experience the difference in engagement. Exposure to different sectors is brilliant for rounding experience and equipping marketers with different viewpoints to enhance output. However, moving from one industry to another isn't easy.

In the UK and Ireland some of the key industries marketers in include services, technology, retail, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing. Each has its own set of rules, customer expectations, trends, terminology, and ways of doing things. 

It's not who you know

To be effective marketers must not only understand how each department within their business functions, they must also immerse themselves in their sector, learn a lot of industry specific information, understand what competitors are doing AND how the market is operating. It's easy to understand why starting afresh in a new sector can be daunting.

Businesses are also reluctant to appoint from outside of their sectors when it comes to recruiting marketing professionals. If faced with two people offering the same depth of expertise, the same apparent skill base and the only clear differentiator being that one is from the same industry and one isn’t - it’s only the real renegade thinkers amongst us who’d choose the industry outsider. 

A Diminishing Talent Pool 

So, not only are marketers available in relatively small numbers, but they’re also somewhat cordoned off in the market with invisible ties to their own industry.

I think we can all think of a friend who works outside of our own sector who, whilst having no experience whatsoever within the profession, you could point to and know that they have what it takes to work well doing what you do and that they’d enjoy it. Surely inside the same profession there's talent being overlooked.

So how can employers reach those outside their industry talent pool? Is it possible to tweak recruitment processes to attract those stars, and bring fresh ideas and approaches to sectors?

Hidden Value

The bottom line is that when it comes to switching industries it simply boils down to the probability of adding value. There are of course many factors that are important in an effective colleague or employee.

In a recent report at the end of 2023, Korn Ferry (international executive search firm) highlighted that employers were beginning to place real emphasis on soft skills becoming just as important in their hires, if not more so.  The areas in particular included: 

  • Communication

  • Empathy

  • Collaboration

  • Adaptability

  • Critical Thinking

The recruitment and HR industry has discussed the importance of these soft skills for many years, yet, when it comes down to measuring them it seems that the main tools are psychometric testing - a little formal. It may be time that we started to consider measurement of these traits in a more regular and accessible way. 

The two key connection points in hiring: 

  • The Job Description

  • The CV

There are ways that companies and job seekers can more accurately define exactly what they are looking for and bring to the table.

Take “Communication” as an example: 

When it comes to recruitment, we’re all broadly familiar with communication being referred to in the following way: 


Employer: “Must possess strong communication skills, verbal and written”

Job Seeker: I have “strong verbal and written communication skills” 

Giving consideration to the purpose of this requirement may lead to a better expansion:


“we value people who have experience in communicating with different stakeholders and team members, understand their respective roles and can adapt their communication style and type for greatest effect”

Job Seeker: 

“I have worked in environments where the management style was such that it was important to be able to make yourself heard and I developed a variety of communication skills  to get the best from all internal and external stakeholders”.

Giving consideration to the purpose and the reason will define further still, appealing to the right people and allowing unsuitable seekers to deselect themselves.


“Our business moves quickly, and whilst we would love to offer a perfect structure for communications we aren’t at that stage, so we appoint people based on our assessment of their ability to use initiative and maturity to communicate the information they need to, in the best possible way, to ensure that our business goals are met. 

Typically, you can expect to engage with software developers, external agencies, teams of creatives, clients on site and in pitch situations - some of our team work remotely, some on 4 day weeks and being able to integrate with all is of a huge benefit to the business."

Job Seeker: 

"I have worked in small independently owned businesses and for major internationals where communication requirements varied. I take pride in understanding the requirements of all stakeholders I interact with as best as possible, to align my objectives as seamlessly as possible. I have developed a few methods which work with my personal style to ensure communications are never a barrier to my success in my role." 

The final example  gives a much more realistic picture of what’s required and the skills an individual possesses to rise to this, and in a sea of sameness in CV’s and job adverts, is much more interesting!

Taking this small step can open doors for greater understanding and potentially accessing a wider talent pool and opportunities outside of a given sector. It’s important to keep in mind that when adding context to soft skills that it’s imperative to be as to the point as possible. Facts and figures, direct and solid reasons -  avoid a ‘double fluff’ scenario at all costs!

From a job seekers perspective the following considerations may also be helpful.

Demonstrate genuine interest

Demonstrating genuine interest in moving sectors won't go unnoticed.

Take two people from the hospitality sector with exactly the same depth of experience applying to an FMCG role - one CV details all of the responsibilities of their role and assumes the hiring manager will fill in the blanks.

The latter, gives a cover letter explaining their understanding of the demanding requirements of the FMCG sector, and how there have been synergies with their experiences in relation to Brand Development, Trend Forecasting or Analytics, for example. 

Hiring by it's nature happens when time is short, being clear in communications is always beneficial during this time.

Use your Networks

Find people who work in the industry that you know, or who have made the switch. LinkedIn is great for distilling down on education, industry and work connections - asking for a quick call to see if there are any pointers or if you can be referred in to can work wonders, be sure to choose wisely and pick just a couple of questions that will make a make a difference.

Do your research

Ensure that you not only align your skills to the industry that you’re hoping to move to, but that you understand what the current factors are affecting this industry. No one wants to go in all guns blazing about a strategy or idea to find out it's out of touch.

In Summary 

With over 50% of marketers reporting a restructure in their team in 2023 (Marketing Week Survey), Employers will find real value in those demonstrating Change Intelligence (CQ), largely the soft skills mentioned above. 

For marketers looking to transition industries, showcasing these skills alongside a genuine interest and understanding of their target sector can be a game-changer and act to position them as a formidable opponent to those with a deep understanding of a sector, but lacking in contributing, ideating, remaining calm under pressure and creating harmonious working relationships.

By emphasising these competencies, job seekers can demonstrate their potential to contribute to a business's success, even when moving into unfamiliar territory.

If you are an Employer or Marketer who could benefit from a greater depth of detail in your job advertising or C.V please feel free to get in touch with me



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