5 minutes with… Caro Armstrong
Portfolio Recruitment has been a loyal longtime partner of Design Assembly. Their support helps us support our community. The portfolio team are creative industry recruitment specialists, they live and breath Aoteraoa design. Portfolio connect clients with talent in our industry in permanent, contract and freelance capacity, across creative, strategic, digital, client service and production. We love collaborating with their team and checked in to learn more about Caro Armstrong, and her journey from agency to recruiter.
Hi Caro, thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
How long have you been at Portfolio Recruitment and what is your background?
Where had you worked prior?
I think it’s been 7 years! Time obviously flies when you’re having fun!
I fell into advertising when I was 20, working at a great agency called Mattingly and Partners. I was working on the Farmers visual merchandising manual. The old-school days of using Pagemaker, bromides and film seps! I progressed to a client service role and was blessed to have such an amazing career over the next 15 years at agencies like McCann and Lowe. So many great times, amazing people, long hours, and fond memories.
So why recruitment?
After I had my third child I was ready to get back to work and wasn’t sure what my next move might be. I had met Debbie (our Director here at Portfolio) in passing at my kids’ childcare centre so got in touch. It never occurred to me that she might be looking for someone with agency client service experience who could help with recruitment of these roles. The rest is history!
Do you have a placement that stands out to you as being memorable?
There have been some memorable moments (both good and bad) that’s for sure!
The most rewarding placements come from working with clients and candidates who truly value what we do. The enduring relationships we have built with many of our clients over the years means we have a great understanding of what they need, both from a skill and culture perspective.
What do you enjoy most about working with our creative community and your role at Portfolio Recruitment?
Meeting amazing clients and candidates is the best part of the job hands-down. So many inspirational people out there with amazing stories to tell.
As the Consultant across client service and non-studio roles, how have you seen the jobs you place change over the years? How much more diverse are the roles from traditional Account Management roles?
I work on any roles that are not ‘hands-on’ creative, so that covers client service, project managers, strategists, traffic/studio/production roles, marketers, content producers, UX designers… and the list goes on. Roles and titles have diversified over the years. There is more of a split between client service and project management, and in recent years more diverse titles that in some cases need interpretation (for example Engagement Director, Business Director, Experience Director).
Do you feel those roles in studios and businesses will continue to evolve and what do you see has been the major factor in the creative industry that has driven the change in those roles?
The world is always evolving, but Covid has obviously hit us all hard this year, and for now, there’s a feeling that things will be different than ever before. We’ve had to adapt, simplify and consider new ways of doing things. I’ve also noticed people are supportive of one another and understand everyone is doing their best to survive through these difficult times.
Digital media and the growth of social media content has been a huge drive in the development of many roles. Touchpoints for creative are no longer just print and websites and people in these management roles have had to evolve and develop along with technology and how the world consumes information. This has had a huge impact on the variety of roles we see today.
How do you feel the market is tracking now after two lockdowns? And what are your hopes for the creative industry moving forward?
It seems nearly everyone is feeling the impact in some way. It’s been an interesting challenge meeting many people who have lost their jobs due to Covid. Tough, and quite emotional at times. But many of our clients are busy and things seem to be picking up. I’m hopeful we’re through the worst of it and can move on to some positive times ahead!
What strategic skills do you see as being most critical for AM/PM roles at the interface between clients and creative services today?
While it might sound cliché, some of the fundamental skills required in these roles haven’t changed much – being highly organised, listening, thinking strategically, diplomacy, pragmatism, authenticity and a genuine service ethic. It goes without saying that developing knowledge across digital is also critical.
What words of wisdom do you have for people looking to move into – or find their next Account Management role?
For those starting out, work hard to do the basics really well, with a positive attitude. From there you’ll be given more responsibility. Don’t start out expecting the world, and take the opportunity to demonstrate your strengths. Remember fastidious attention to detail is critical, as well strong organisation skills and a genuine service ethic.
For those wanting a change, in the current climate, I’d suggest patience is going to be a big factor. Have an open mind, keep yourself busy and take every opportunity you can to upskill along the way.
Finally, I am stealing one of your colleague’s favourite questions (always a bit of fun and super insightful when getting to know someone!) Cats or Dogs?
I love them both, but definitely dogs for me. Perhaps a bit too much.