In times of downsizing and redundancies we asked Steve Lake his view on the job market, and more importantly what can be done now to secure an industry job in the future. Steve Lake is a veteran of the Stock Photography industry. He was responsible for recruitment at Pepper Stark in London where he developed a keen sense of the job market and its requirements.
There are some signs the market is starting to pick up but it’s still very flat. The general trend among larger libraries is to only replace roles that are business-critical and to spread workload amongst existing teams where possible; in smaller libraries the dreaded internship/work experience seems to be filling the gaps. Very few new roles are being created as libraries are looking to consolidate, not expand. With limited prospects for jobs right now there are a number of things people can do to secure a job in the future. If you can demonstrate that you have taken active steps to improve your qualities as a candidate during any enforced periods of unemployment – rather than just waiting for something to come up – that will always go down well.
Don’t be shy about making this obvious on your CV/application. More practical steps can be doing courses to improve key skills, particularly software skills and taking an active part in wider industry discussions/developments via blogs, forums etc – also helps keep you in the public eye. Don’t assume that leaving the industry for another job means you can’t get back in if that’s your ultimate aim. Certainly in areas such as sales & marketing, experience outside of pictures can be a real advantage – shows initiative and also allows you to come back into pictures with fresh per¬spectives.
When you do decide to come back in the industry there are a number of places to start looking. In the UK the vacancies page of the Bapla website remains by far the best central source for library job opportunities (and some wider industry jobs). It is one of the key elements of the service Bapla provides and has developed its reputation over time – it is free for members to advertise and almost all UK libraries are members so the number of industry jobs not appearing on Bapla is very small.
One exception may be the larger libraries – not so much Corbis who do advertise on Bapla but Getty tend not to. If you want to work for one of the big libraries it’s worth registering as a candidate on their online jobs pages. Getty, especially, has a very efficient HR department and do keep details of strong candidates even when they have nothing to offer straight away. You can obviously also apply direct for listed jobs on their sites but do bear in mind that they have an obligation to advertise these even when there’s a better than even chance that the job will be filled internally.
Finally, In the UK, the Guardian website remains the best general media/pictures job board and will throw up the occasional picture-related job outside of traditional libraries. If you have specific skills such as languages it’s worth keeping an eye on specialist sites like toplanguagejobs.co.uk – or for more creative roles (very few and far between over the past couple of years) sites like creativepool. And it never does any harm to upload your CV to Monster as many large libraries will have deals allowing them to search the database. We will deal with the CV in a separate article but I would always put in a cover letter even if it’s not specifically requested. If sending a CV by e-mail write the cover lette
r in the email you’re sending don’t attach it separately alongside the CV as that will make it much less likely to be read. Keep it short, it should be an extension of your personal profile on the CV not your life story. Don’t teach the employer to suck eggs. Your CV should explain why you would be good for the job, you don’t need to spell it out in words of one syllable in the letter. The letter should make the employer want to read the CV not make the CV irrelevant. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to preempt difficult questions or assume that an employer will see the same weaknesses in your CV as you do. By trying to explain them away you only end up draw¬ing attention to them. Exceptions to this would be situations where you maybe had to take time out of work to deal with personal issues like caring for an elderly relative. You can clear that up in a letter.
Don’t try to convince an employer that you’d be perfect for the job even though your CV doesn’t look right. The old…’although my career to date has all been in sales, I’ve always felt myself to be a very creative person and I take my own pictures so I would be perfect for the job of art director’…it never works. It just makes an employer think – ‘well, he obviously thinks this sounds like a great fun job which he could do because he’s interested in it but in fact he has no experience and probably doesn’t understand what the job entails’. If you want to go for a job that you’re not obviously qualified for you need to do something more imaginative to make them sit up and take notice and agree to see you. Even then it happens very rarely, especially in the current climate when employers are likely to be risk-averse.