Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Maria Sommer

Job Forecast Bright for Philadelphia Creatives
by Maria Sommer, 1 Nov 2006

Maria Sommer is the Branch Manager of The BOSS Group in Bala Cynwyd, PA. She has her BS in Marketing from Penn State University, and a Certificate in Digital Media from Moore College of Art and Design. She has 7 years of staffing experience, over 3 of those being in the Creative industry.


If you are a creative or communications professional working in the Philadelphia area and looking for a job, the outlook is good. And, if you are an agency or corporate communications department looking to recruit, there's equally good news on the hiring front.

Philadelphia has become home to an extremely creative group of designers, writers, and specialized talent who meet the growing demands of corporations and agencies seeking to fill positions in marketing, public relations, advertising, and design. As a recruiting firm whose role is to match talent with clients, we see a trend in the growth of business both within and outside the city, as well as the growth of a robust talent pool. Thus, the time is ripe for both to make the connection.

Left to right: Hal Shapiro, Maria Sommer, Conor Smith, Martin Caldwell, and Earl Weldon share a story.

Fueling much of this growth are the area's pharmaceutical and financial organizations that have boosted the area's economy and the job market in the past few years, as well as a surge in the number of advertising, marketing, and public relations agencies who service these clients. While both corporate and agency directors look to hire full-timers, many organizations find that hiring on a temporary basis is more attractive for financial reasons, the ability to pick and choose talent as needed, and having the opportunity to work with a candidate before making a permanent commitment.

For those on the talent side, this new business paradigm has presented a different way in which to work by offering flexible schedules and an opportunity to get a foot in the door of a Fortune 500 company or high-level agency. With so many temporary assignments available, it is conceivable that an interim worker can be continually employed as a full-time temp. For those who enjoy diversity and change, this work/life balance can be perfect.

So how do I make myself marketable in this new arena that is steadily growing, you ask? It can be done by examining existing skills, enhancing them, or in some cases learning new ones that are related to those you already possess. As with any paradigm shift in the workplace, job descriptions often change, as well as the roles and skills of those who fill them.

Left to right: Brendon Derr and Greg McMurchie

Here are the some of the current trends and top skills employers are looking for when hiring creative and communications professionals in Philadelphia:

Web Design: Talented web and interactive designers continue to be in demand on both the in-house corporate and agency side, but employers are increasingly looking for Flash designers who have ActionScripting experience utilizing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). While HTML experience is still important, those with experience in CSS are extremely marketable.

Graphic Designers: Demand is strong for graphic designers, particularly those with pharmaceutical background, both on the agency and corporate side. While Quark is still the standard for page layout design, the industry is seeing a shift to working with InDesign for two main reasons: It's economical as it comes packaged with the Adobe Suite, and it contains more advanced tools and applications. Photoshop and Illustrator are still widely used.

Corporate Communications: Strong writing skills are always in demand, but senior writers with a background in niche areas such as pharmaceutical and medical writing and editing are particularly sought after, as well as writers with finance, banking, and direct mail experience. Employee and internal communications, as well as experienced corporate public relations professionals also continue to be in demand.

Marketing and Public Relations: Advertising and public relations agencies seek account execs, especially those who have experience analyzing marketing campaigns and producing creative briefs. Positions for production managers and traffic coordinators are also wide open.

The Next Step To Getting There:

Portfolio: Having a strong and diverse portfolio of design or writing samples is extremely crucial and a "must" in today's competitive market. Most potential employers want to see work samples to assess whether there is a fit and to determine the experience level of the candidate. Periodically reviewing your portfolio and adding new work as it is completed is the easiest way to keep it up to date. Many designers are now moving to online portfolios, allowing them to demonstrate their work on their personal websites.

Skills Assessment: Determine where you want to go and what skills you need. If you are a writer, you may need to sharpen your style or become knowledgeable in medical or pharmaceutical terms in order to get your foot in the door. Further training or a refresher class may be an option, or taking on entry-level freelance assignments in a specific area is a good way to gain some experience.

CreativeConnects attendees network with local Creative professionals.

Networking: Networking is one of the most effective ways to learn about job openings and industry trends, and more importantly to build your base of resources and contacts. Networking should an ongoing practice , yet many people mistakenly view it as necessary when job hunting and give it up once they are employed, only to start the process once they are again looking.

Networking groups that are aligned with your industry are the best sources in order for you to be on top of trends and meet people who can share valuable information. The BOSS Group recently launched a networking initiative in Philadelphia titled "Creative Connects," which provides members of the creative and communications industry an opportunity to come together on a regular basis in a social environment.

Whatever your skill set, the current work outlook for creatives and communications professionals in Philadelphia spells flexibility, opportunity, and choice!

About The BOSS Group: The BOSS Group is a leading niche provider of on-demand creative, marketing, communications, advertising, web and proposal professionals. Currently serving 90% of Fortune 500 companies in their geographic area, The BOSS Group offers attractive freelance and permanent career opportunities for highly qualified professionals. The company is a certified Women's Business Enterprise headquartered in Bethesda, MD, with branch locations in greater Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, Northern New Jersey, Richmond, VA, and Baltimore, MD, and Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

CreativeConnects, a monthly networking event hosted by The BOSS Group

About Creative Connects: "Creative Connects," a monthly networking event hosted by The BOSS Group was launched in several regional markets this fall: Baltimore, Md.; Philadelphia, Pa., and Washington, D.C., and in New Jersey this past in January.

Creative Connects is a forum for professionals within the communications industry—marketing, public relations, advertising, web design, and creative services—to come together to network, share ideas, and to foster community and collegiality. There is no formal program or speaker and lite bites and beverages are the courtesy of The BOSS Group.

Creative Connects meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Manayunk Brewery, 4120 Main St., Philadelphia. Attendees are welcome to drop in anytime between 5:30-8 p.m. Program is free-of-charge and reservations are not needed.

Visit www.creativeconnects.com for additional information, or contact Maria Sommer at 610-668-3456 or [email protected].

Print Article Brought to you by: Maria Sommer | Branch manager for The BOSS Group in Philadelphia

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