Press-ganged into picking team players

David Bodmer’s response (MW March 13) to Iain Murray’s hilarious tirade amply illustrates the foolishness of being rude about recruitment agencies. It is doubtful that poor Murray will find a flock of agency personnel battering down his door should he ever want a job in marketing! Having learnt from his mistake, my contribution is, hopefully, faultlessly polite…

I’d like to add to Murray’s observations the peculiar obsession of employers (and, by extension, of recruitment agencies) with “team players”. The term has been in tediously widespread use since the late Eighties and it surprises me that it still crops up in the context of many direct marketing roles.

Team players are ten a penny. Most people are team players by default. We are, after all, pack animals with a strong herd instinct. But where are the employers and agencies which advertise for, ferret out, appreciate, value and place those rare marketers who are the opposite of team players?

Through experience, I know that small companies in particular can benefit significantly from a non-team player. A small company without a marketing department needs an individual who can take on the role from scratch without fuss, with minimal emotional and practical support. It needs a marketer who works autonomously in relative isolation, confidently making important decisions alone and redefining their role to suit the company’s changing needs. Someone who doesn’t fall apart if they don’t receive the direction and support they need from colleagues. Someone who relishes freedom and change. I don’t mean someone who can’t get on with people or work in a team, rather someone who doesn’t need to.

Perhaps this is why, throughout a very happy and successful 15-year career in direct marketing, I have not found an agency that has been of any help with permanent career moves. I’ve had to sniff out my own moves – six permanent jobs over 12 years – without help.

There are exceptions: the many excellent freelance agencies, which have a real understanding of what a non-team player can contribute. My skills and outlook were actually appreciated during the three years I spent freelancing via various agencies.

So I’d like to throw down the challenge to employers – especially smaller companies. Try a spot of independent thinking. Don’t always specify, or be persuaded into advertising for a team player, when you might need the exact opposite. Secondly, to recruitment agencies: it would be nice to see some appreciation of individuality. A more intelligent understanding of the needs of different-sized and -structured companies. Remember, there is an alternative to the teeming hordes of team players out there clogging the job market!

Kate Naylor


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