Key challenges facing professionals looking to advance their ad ops career

Good ad ops people are always employable. 

It’s one of the first things we tell our new consultants when they start work with us.  If you happen upon an ad ops person who’s looking for a new job, drop everything and make sure you talk to them.

With such demand for these candidates, it’s a little counter-intuitive to think that it can actually be a real challenge for ad ops professionals to find the right next step when they’re in the job hunt. 
And yet that’s the reality in the market – in our experience at least.

When an ad ops person dips a toe into the job market, what are their experiences and challenges?  And how can they overcome them?

First of all, let’s reiterate – this is a candidate-starved marketplace.  That is a challenge in itself. As a job hunter, finding yourself faced with a plethora of opportunities can often be even more difficult than having just one or two options.  After all, it can be difficult to get down to the truth about which option is best for you.  And when employers are starved of talented candidates, they can be tempted to tell a few little white lies – to convince you that they’re offering the very best that you can get.  It’s difficult to cut through the noise and work out where you stand.
This candidate starvation has led to another challenge.  In any industry where talent is in short supply, employers often have no choice but to accelerate the progress of their team up the ranks.  In practise, this simply means that people with comparatively little experience can take up senior positions in a shorter time-period.

Very nice indeed for the individual whilst they’re happily employed.  But what happens when such a candidate enters the job market?  Often, the gap between experience and job title can be all too obvious in the eyes of prospective employers.  This can lead to a difference in expectations – the candidate expecting to move up the ranks, the employer feeling more cautious and offering a sidestep.

Let’s not forget, too, the reality of life in an ad operations team.  Often short-handed, regularly facing high-pressure, tight deadlines, and technological nightmares, all members of the team, no matter how senior in title, are expected to get stuck in to make sure the process runs smoothly.
This can create a challenge too – if you’re trying to advance your career into the more strategic, high-level realms of management, it can be stifling to have to spend your day fire-fighting tactical issues.

Of course, you’ll no doubt gain a reputation for being a safe pair of hands, and a great manager to boot.  But if you’re tactically indispensable, then you’re unlikely to be taken away from that side of the business.

And what could be more challenging than learning a new technical system every time you start a new job?  Ad servers are complex beasts, massive pieces of technology with their own unique quirks, flaws and usefulness.  Think you’ve mastered one?  You’ll not necessarily be able to transfer that mastery straight across to another.

That’s a challenge – employers, looking to redress a shortfall in their internal skill sets, are unlikely to want to spend a great deal of time training a new starter on how to use their basic systems – especially if that new starter comes at an inflated price and with expectations of seniority.

How to overcome these challenges?

Well, being aware of them is the first step.  If you find yourself dragged into tactical issues constantly, then try to find new systems and processes to reduce the frequency with which this occurs.

If your knowledge of ad serving technology is becoming one-sided, take the time to make sure you’re familiar with new developments.

Bear in mind that, when you’re in the job market, your experience counts for more than your job title.  So focus on selling your skill sets on your CV and during interviews.  And don’t get hung up on title and perceived seniority when you’re choosing your next move – think about the team, the direction the business is moving in, and what they can offer you in terms of progress and opportunities.

And finally, do your research.  Recruiters, like Propel London, can help with this.  But in a busy recruitment marketplace, it’s crucial you make the time to do a little digging yourself.  Ask opinions of your peers, check businesses out, and make sure you’re making the very best career choices that you can.

Sometimes, of course, that can actually mean staying where you are for a little longer…