Recruiter Celeste Gudas Says Freelancers Are Happier

They're also in high-demand, says CEO of 24 Seven

Celeste Gudas says this is the year where if you’re working in the marketing business, it’s just understood that you have digital skills. But the founder and CEO of recruitment firm 24 Seven adds that while digital integration is changing the nature of everyone’s job, specific digital job skills remain in big demand from agencies. Gudas, whose firm produces an annual Job Satisfaction and Salary Study, spoke to Adweek about the macro trends shaping recruitment today.

Adweek: What industry jobs are in big demand right now?

Gudas: Well over 50 percent of the jobs we’re placing now, both full-time and freelance, are digital. We’re seeing continued integration of digital into marketing, but at the same time companies are looking for specialists in mobile, e-marketing, social marketing, and community managers. There’s a need for digital strategists, people who really understand how to make it work for clients. Good project managers, who have digital on their resume, are in demand because of the growing project orientation of work. [Also], clients are frequently looking for good team leaders, account management positions. We’re also being asked to find talent from different geographies. New York-based agencies are looking for people from Europe, Asia and South America because with social marketing you can speak on an international basis.

Are there enough people out there with the digital skills that agencies and marketers need?

The talent pool has opened up on lower-level and mid-tier jobs, but the upper-level ranks are challenging because demand is for senior-level talent with digital skills. Schools are doing a better job at preparing graduates for the job market. So, lots of teams just out of school are able to work on mobile marketing as well as anyone who is in the marketplace. At the mid- and lower level, we see a better quality of candidate coming up. At the senior level of management, marketers are really looking to become more integrated, but it’s still very hard to find the right match for clients. It’s evolving too quickly; we’re finding that challenging. That’s why we have so many positions to work on. Everybody is struggling, both on the corporate and agency sides, about how to structure their teams.

What are the biggest changes out there?

We’re finding (overall) digital salaries are increasing more quickly than any other category we survey. We’re also seeing that folks who are digitally savvy know that and they’re coming in with more confidence and can pick the companies and agencies they want to work for. Freelancers are generally happier than non-freelancers about work and life balance and they feel they have more control in their career path than full-time employees. I wouldn’t have thought that. I had a preconceived notion that freelancers would prefer to have a full-time job and that they view freelance as an interim thing. They’re more optimistic about overall job satisfaction and they feel they’re actually getting better training by being able to move around and learn from different teams.

How’s the market for freelancers?

We don’t have enough candidates to fill the freelance demand now for people with the right digital, technology, analytical skills or project management experience. But a lot of that is mid-level. We have a nice group of senior level consultants—they are always in high demand and the market is looking for more freelance at the senior level.

Does the demand for freelance reflect the uncertainty of the current economic climate or is it a fundamental shift in industry hiring trends?

There’s still a strong degree of uncertainty in our economy, in the international economy and around the cost of health and employment benefits. That’s steering companies to use freelance where they can so they have more flexibility to expand and contract. It is a time of churn and companies are trying to figure out what to do with advertising and marketing, trying to keep up with all the new digital channels. Agencies are trying to ascertain what their clients want to bring back in-house, how much they want to leave with agencies. All those uncertainties make for anxieties in the marketplace.

How’s the compensation for freelance these days?

We generally find people can make the same on a pure hourly basis as they would make on a fulltime basis but some of the perks and advantages aren’t attached.

This is an industry that has always put a premium on youth and that’s the case more than ever because of technology. How should older execs reinvent themselves?

Employers want to see how you utilize your own social media platforms. That comes up in interviews more and more. They’re talking about how comfortable you are with it. They want to see that you have a presence and that you have a point of view about it. I used to hear senior executives say, "I don’t know technology. I leave it to my kids." If you’re going to be in marketing in any form today, you have to be a believer and understand it.

Any thoughts about dealing with Millennials and how their career ambitions differ from Boomers?

Millennials are looking for mentorship, guidance, career paths that are both short-term and long-term. Short-term, they’re very much into a flexible workforce, they’re into having fun at work and all the perks that come with it. At the same time, they’re looking for growth, but it has to be at a more rapid pace. So, they’re looking for the mentor that is going to show them the pathway to this growth. If they don’t see that, they’re more likely to move and change jobs. That’s been challenging in that there’s a sense of entitlement that comes with it and it's been difficult to integrate all the generations together in the workforce. Having said that, Millennials have a tremendous amount of energy, optimism, enthusiasm and are really intelligent. But they require more focused management.