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Exactly how long does it take to secure an in-house corporate communications role?

11 Oct 2017

How long will it take a Head of Communications to find an in-house job?

There are some questions I get asked regularly and this is one of them.  It’s not an exact science and, dare I say, it’s about being in the right place at the right time – like many things in life. 

In my opinion, I would say for a Head of Corporate Communications with in-house experience looking for another senior level role, it could take as little as six months, but it’s more likely to take one to two years.  This surprises a lot of professionals, but if you think about it, there are not as many senior roles as there are mid- and junior level roles in comms teams.  Many in-house comms teams have a triangular structure with a few people at the top and more professionals padding out the layers underneath.  This means there are fewer roles to go around.  Furthermore, senior professionals are ‘sticky’, frequently staying in their roles longer than those they manage.  There is a vast number of Heads of Comms sitting in their roles for eight, nine, or ten years, which means that there isn’t the natural movement that you observe at other levels.  The desire for in-house roles is widespread, with up to 90% of professionals we speak to on a daily basis (in-house or agency experience) only showing interest in moving in-house.  The pull of agency life, in the majority of cases, has lost its appeal. 

And how long does it take for a Communications Manager to switch companies?

If you are a high performing Communications Manager, and have the skills and experience that will be considered a great fit for the brief, then it’s possible to move within six months, although I would say it’s more likely to take a year.   You may need to go to a few interviews during that time to find the right fit and to perfect your interview technique. 

Just how competitive is it when it comes to securing an in-house role?

Very competitive.  The lion’s share of the mandates we are retained to fill are in-house, and because we have a lovely client portfolio across financial services, professional services, property, energy and retail, we are lucky enough to handle some really exciting roles.  It’s our job to find what our clients want – and we can.  For example, if a client asks for a former journalist who has moved into comms, is great at thought-leadership, speaks German and has strong social media abilities, we will find at least five high performers for the shortlist.     

If you get selected for a shortlist, what should you do?

Getting selected for a shortlist is an achievement in itself, so do not waste the opportunity. Over- preparing for your interviews will give you confidence.  There is no room for complacency when aiming to secure a role.  Celebrate getting an interview – the small wins count in life.  Let it give you the confidence to believe that even if it doesn’t work out this time, it will!

So what’s the one thing you can do to help yourself to secure an in-house role?

If you are on the lookout for a new role, then you need to keep in touch with your favourite search consultant and let them know what you have achieved recently, and what you are open to moving forward.  Help yourself by making sure that you are front of mind by calling or dropping them a line every quarter.  In a market where roles are prized, you need to keep them up to date so they’re thinking of you for their shortlists.  Just to give you an idea, we have over 21,000 contacts on our database so don’t assume your name will come up first. 

What don’t most corporate comms professionals do well when looking for a new role?

They don’t use their network well.  You can be proactive yet discreet.  There will be two or three people in your network who are very well networked themselves and would put out some feelers for you because they like you/rate you.  Perhaps you have worked with them previously?  Take these fans out for a coffee/glass of wine and be upfront and exact over what you want.  Trust them.  We all like to help each other, so ask for their support and then you have people working for you in the background recommending you.    

Other tips: keep your CV up to date with your achievements so you don’t forget them; make time to network as it will serve you; and stay in touch with people who can help you.

You may not realise that 70% of our success at The Works Search has come from placing high performing senior corporate and financial professionals in-house in London.  Please do get in touch on 0207 559 6597 or email sarah@the-works.co.uk if you would like our support to secure a hidden gem. 

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