Sparking - Moving you forward

Do you want to show up more creatively for your clients and your colleagues, your family, and your friends?

Do you want to default to thinking about opportunity versus focusing just on problems?

Discovering Hope is full of proactive steps you can take right now, to achieve a more positive mindset or to help maintain the positivity you already have

Getting Positive reveals that more optimism is close at hand

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Sparkin Blog

SPARKIN is an executive recruitment agency with a difference. We care more about your optimum fit than about making a placement! We are focused on aiding and abetting your career progression and optimization. Our primary target audience is strategic planners of all persuasion. We work with allies in key centers in the United States and around the globe. Our experience is based around the importance of relationships and becoming an expert at building them and through them attaining personal and career goals.

Miami Ad School Derek Parkin Empathy Award winner

Many congratulations to Zach Behrmann the newest Derek Parkin ‘Empathy’ Award winner and the recipient of $1500 cash prize and three coaching sessions.
It was great to speak with Zach as well as having sessions with the other students. What a pleasure talking with a group of truly curious individuals.
Congratulations to all the students: Magnus de Pencier, Kumar Derrow, Ian Falcon, Abbidee Fraser, Divesh Mehta, James Murphy, Veronica Pedraza, Phoebe Scherer and Jonanna Ying.
Also, big thanks to all the lecturers: Christopher Owens, Alicia Damiano, Nancy Chang and Craig Sabbatino.
This award was judged through input both with students and the lecturers.
And, thank you also to Manolo Garcia, the fulcrum around which the boot camps happen.
Why this award? At SPARKIN, we would like to see many more empaths in the world.
The ability to work seamlessly and effectively, starts with a determination and ability to effectively understand others. This ’empathetic’ ability is key for effective strategic problem solvers as it is for a functioning society!
Our world could really benefit from folks suspending their beliefs, being truly curious and genuinely trying to put themselves in the shoes of others, believing there’s something to be learnt through every interaction.
#parkinempathyaward #Miamiadschool #careeroptimisation #empathymatters

Strategy Jobs Market Update – June9th, 2023

Strategy hiring Latest June 9th, 2023
‘Functional hiring’ predominates at the moment as opposed to ballsy risk-taking investment of whole teams.
Where the hiring is happening? In replacements for those leaving the business, by agencies that have won business, for clients insisting on a personnel change or, perhaps for a maternity/paternity fill.
Clients are cautious and even AOR work I hear feels more project focused, more performance oriented at the moment. Yes, even clients wants to keep their jobs!
A whole lot of anxiety – It’s palapable – Yellow skies don’t help the sentiment!
Stay positive. For yourself if not for others or better still stay positive through others.
While I’ve always kept my sanity through physical exercize, I’ve increasingly found that the best anditote to anxiety caused by job uncertainty, (and I hear it and feel it via all the conversations I have most days) is to focus on helping/being kind to others.
Being kind? This doesn’t even mean taking up swathes of time in the service of others, but simply being kind when you interact or, being less unkind than you’d typically be!
Do this and you will feel better about yourself and consequently less anxious. Be kind/be who you want to be, and you may also find that the things you want to manifest happen a little faster too:)

Give yourself a break and feel good by being kind.

Identifing an Employer Who Values Strategy/Planning

When you’re in demand, you might be told things that don’t entirely resemble the reality of the culture or the work/It’s not always straightforward knowing whether a would-be employer, truly values what you do.
Below are some questions (open-ended typically provide more information for you) that I’m sure many of you ask, but there might be one or two that you don’t, that could get the clarity you need.

Q’s about department size/growth/effectiveness
What is the ratio of strategists to employees?What has been the principal cause of the growth of the function (strong leader, client demand, other)Does the business enter/and or win effectiveness awards?
Q’s about the seriousness with which strategy is taken.What role does the CSO play as part of the leadership team?How does the CSO or other department head, advocate for planning?Q’s about training/development What off-the-job training is offered to strategists in addition to on-the-job training?How is mentoring carried out for strategists?

Q’s about work processIs there an ECD sign-off for a brief/Is strategy a core part of getting to great creative work

Q’s about agency outputs and the role of strategy to deliver themWhat types of pure strategy projects do clients request?Can you provide examples of the types of projects clients request? Typically how long are these engagements?

Q’s about business development and the role of strategyHow involved are strategists in the process of pursuing new clients?

Q’s about clients/How they value strategyDo clients request strategy or is this something the agency insists on as part of its process?Are there any clients requesting not to have strategic input? If so, why?What do clients see as the role of strategists?

Q’s about creative outputHas most if not all work that has won creative awards been based on strategic input?And a few others:What are the biggest challenge for strategic work here?How many strategists have worked on this account in the last year?/Since the agency had the account?What is the turnover rate for strategists here/For the agency in general?

What other questions would you ask to know whether the job on offer was a career-defining one for a strategist?

All the best,Stuart         

SPARKIN Works with Bernardos to Promote Empathy

In 2021 SPARKIN began working closely with Barnardo’s, to develop a 10-year, UK-wide award program to promote the power of empathy and its ability to transform young lives.
A big thank you to the hard work of Barnardo’s staff and particular thanks to Chris Alexander and his team, who has made possible the establishment of an award that will expose over 150,000, 13 -19 year-olds, to a message designed to inspire, engage and empower young people to act empathetically.
The first award winner, judged by a mixture of service center staff and children, assessed nominees against criteria including:
#Showing the ability to be present for others in both joy and sorrow, bringing no judgement and a spirit of openness when communicating with others as well as treating others with dignity and kindness.
We’re excited to announce the first recipient of the ‘Shepley Empathy Award,’ is Ryan, a 13-year-old from Merseyside (identity protected for legal reasons) who will receive a plaque along with a cash prize of 1000 pounds ($1300). “Well done Ryan!”

All nominees will receive certificates of recognition and thanks. “Well done to all of them too!”
“Children and young people are both the hope and inspiration for the future. At Barnardo’s, we want to support them to make the change they want to see. We are pleased that ‘The Shepley Empathy Award’ is a vehicle for them to be recognized and celebrated. – Christopher Alexander, Relationship Manager, Barnardo’s.”
For the last decade, SPARKIN has advocated the importance of empathy in the advertising/communications business, creating the ‘Parkin Empathy Award’ for the strategic planning community.

The importance of empathy in advertising is key but absolutely pivotal in the development of all children, particularly those in care.

We hope to continue to bring this award to other areas of society.
#empathy #barnardos #effectivecommunication

Parkin Empathy Award Winner

Many congratulations to Quinn Husney, the newest Parkin ‘Empathy’ Award winner and the recipient of $1500 cash prize and three coaching sessions.
I spoke with Quinn and all the other students, a really thoughtful and dynamic group. Congratulations to all the students: Saad Al Abbassi, Mariona Iturrate, Luciana Gutsztat, Molly Brunett, Emma Stearns and Jennie Wang.
A big shout out to all the lecturers who I know from talking with the students, inspired and brought about newfound confidence:
Chris Kwak, RP Kumar, Mario Moiso, Christopher Owens, Yvette Quiazon, Kristen Knape, Tony Smith, Alejandro Oszjust and Imani Flowers.
At SPARKIN, we would like to see many more empaths in the world.
The ability to work seamlessly and effectively, starts with a determination to understand the perspective of others.
This ’empathetic’ gene is key for effective strategic problem solvers as it is for a functioning society!
This award was judged through input with both students and the lecturers, not the school.
A final thanks to Manolo Garcia, the fulcrum around which the boot camps happen.
#parkinempathyaward #MiamiAdSchool #inclusiveeducation #careeroptimisation #sparkinsearch #empathymatters
All 31 recipients:

The Great Agency Talent Crunch

The great agency talent crunch – It’s happening for two reasons:
1. Changed mindset of employees – As the attached article states, the events of the last 18 months have lead to ‘permanantly altered lifestyle changes.’ ie) In what I’ll call ‘the great awakening,’ many of us previously who had no time to contemplate our navels have had a chance to get life in to perspective and become clear about what we don’t want/what we can no longer tolerate, be it the commute or the lack of meritocracy, lack of diversity, or just the incessant meetings and pitching of new business.
2. Meaningful work/Positive use of time – Many of those that have left the agency world have left the business altogether but more have decided to freelance, they are waiting to see if the business will change/keeping their options open. They are waiting to see whether the agency world can become more sensitive to the needs of staff and their desire for personal growth and to have a positive daily experience versus being treated as expendible automatons in entities fixated on short term profit; They are hoping there will be more flexibility in working arrangements, more inclusive working environments, and hoping to find places that walk the talk of new business pitches, where the oft talked words, ‘our employees are our culture, are our business,’ are words that are lived and breathed. Time will tell.
#Talentcrunch #Awakening #Greaplacestowork

The number one reason strategists are leaving agencies

One key reason why employees are resigning in numbers is poor management, but what a difficult time to manage! And what truly exacerbates great managament is two agency dynamics that are putting strain on even the best leaders:
Agencies are financially too short term focused – Not just public owned agencies but many private ones too, that copy the public approach – there has not been enough reinvestment into the business. The employee experience has become way too transactional.
Agencies are pitching too much new business – Incessant new business pitching at agencies is a key reason why agencies lose so much business, which in turn needs to be replaced, versus focus on consistently bringing the best ideas to existing clients. This is bad for clients and overworked employees, whose jobs then become vulnerable. Constant uncertainty does not make for a great place to work and it makes it very difficult to make the investments that would help to
create an amazing place that individuals want to work in.
Many strategists, in the ‘great resignation,’ have through COVID 19, simply woken up with a clearer sense of what they will tolerate. And because of this, agencies have been hemorrhaging people.
Strategists deciding whether to work full time. Focus on two key things and you can have a decent experience:
Go to work for an agency that truly values what you do – Strategy
Go to an agency that has five quality people including a great: client, creative team, account lead and manager. If you have
those (whichever the agency) you can still have a good experience.
#strategyplanning #Careersuccess #Manager

Shepley Parkin Award / Kings College London

Congratulations to Nikki Kerderagi Small, the inaugural winner of the Shepley Parkin Award,

for second year medical students at Kings College Hospital London.

For the last several years we at SPARKIN have focused on promoting empathetic ability

in the media business but understanding the perspective of others is key for all areas of society,

one key example, medicine. To that end, we’re excited to announce a ten year commitment of

a thousand pounds per annum to promote the importance of empathy, by rewarding a medical

student that has proven themselves not simply to be bright but truly effective when it comes to

hearing/understanding others, so crucial for effective patient care. Read about the award and

recipient Nikki here.

The biggest Threat to Agencies and Your Jobs

Planners and strategists, “Agencies are scrambling to attract talent amid shortage.” The article summarizes that talent shortages exist because:
– Skills shortage – A lack of the right skills,
– Greater flexibility/virtual – ‘Talent’ wanting greater flexibility
– Burn out – employees wanting to get out of the business.
What the article doesn’t mention is the core reason for this talent shortage, a breakdown of the psychological contract,
a phrase coined decades past highlighting, ‘to maintain a positive employee-employer relationship employers pay particular attention to the ‘human side’ of a working relationship, rather than the purely commercial or transactional side.’
Yes, the problem for the business is short termism, which is why agencies increasingly use freelancers, treating people like commodities; Even when they are full time, (again due to short termism) there has been a chronic lack of willingness to train/invest in the next generation of strategists.
The good news – For any planner seeking their next career challenge, there are many great people in this business and some basic rules for identifying a great next career move for you, beyond that is, simply looking at the obvious names, this I’ll cover in my next newsletter.

Parkin Empathy Award Winner – Trevor Kroon

Congratulations to Trevor Kroon, ‘Derek Parkin Empathy Award’ recipient.
The ability to work seamlessly and effectively, starts with a determination and ability to effectively understand others. This learned ’empathetic’ ability is key for effective strategic problem solvers as it is for a functioning society!
It was a pleasure talking at length with all the students at the latest Miami Ad School Planning Bootcamp on Friday, and to announce the award winner.
I’m very much looking forward to working with Trevor, who will receive $1500 and three one-hour coaching sessions.
This award is judged by the students on the course as well as the instructors, not by the school or SPARKIN.

Congratulations to all of them for all their effort and notably Manolo Garcia for making the course seamlessly happen.
Around a Father’s Day weekend it was also a great personal gift to be able to present this award, in honor of my/mjjx&c’s father.
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Rekha Yadav