In line with previous trends, the strategy job market has experienced a serious spike as we gather momentum for 2019. From candidates who are starting to seriously prioritise their New Year's’ resolutions of finding a new role, to client organisations looking at the project load for the coming year, and realising they will need to add talented strategists to plug capability gaps, there’s a good reason the job market has grown 2.8% compared with the same period last year!
So what sets these strategists apart? We’ve noticed some common trends, and identified four key strategy skills which are most in demand on the market:
1. Customer experience, marketing and consumer trends
We all know that the customer is always right - and when it comes to FMCG, retail and financial services businesses, this mentality infiltrates to the ground layer of growth strategy, product development and international expansion.
Candidates who have worked in technical customer experience projects - including customer journey mapping, market segmentation, and product orientation - have the pick of the crop when it comes to strategy roles in these consumer focused industries. Strategic marketing is also a hot topic, particularly in the digital space, as organisations continue to compete online for customer’s attention.
Qualifications and accreditations: the best qualification here is experience! But if you are working in the CX space, and want an industry recognised certificate or award for your resume, check out CCXP.
2. Stakeholder engagement
A no-brainer, really; to be effective in a strategy function, you need to manage stakeholders with ease, charm, and gravitas! This can be one of the most challenging obstacles when moving from an external consulting role, because being embedded in a corporate role is a whole different kettle of stakeholder fish.
Each industry has a nuanced style which is going to work best, so you’ll need to adapt based on the sector - and of course the individual business - which you are joining. By way of example, the method of engagement required in an investment banking or private wealth business will differ dramatically from that on a mine site, or e-commerce startup. Tailor your approach based on who you are working with, as well as the subject matter of the projects, and you’ll find you win friends and avoid alienating people.
Qualifications and accreditations: There’s nothing official that you can obtain to demonstrate this skill - however, leaving previous colleagues on a friendly basis, and obtaining glowing references from prior managers, is the best way to demonstrate you’re a stakeholder guru.
If you are a business looking to hire - consider asking prospective candidates a few questions around stakeholder management, and even presenting a hypothetical case study about how the candidate would respond to conflicting demands.
3. Data analytics
If you think Python belongs in the jungle and a Tableau can be found on the stage of your local theatre - you could probably do with a bit of upskilling in this department. Technical data science generally sits in a department separate from strategym, however, over the course of the last quarter we have seen the two functions converge.
The most in-demand professionals in this space are those who can act as ‘translators’ - that is, understand the complex visualisation tools and mountains of customer data, and turn these into actionable insights and commercial advice for the business.
The Head of Growth at an online consumer platform recently told me that “SQL is the new Excel” - and all aspiring strategists in Silicon Valley are learning to work with it. More and more, clients are asking for “highly analytical” or “data-literate” strategy consultants to join the team.
Qualifications and accreditations: Unlike other skills on this list - there are plenty of technical certificates, degrees and diplomas that can be pursued in this area. Check out General Assembly’s range of coding, data science and analytics focused course programmes, or the 100% online options offered by RMIT.
4. M&A and corporate development
Finally, in a buoyant deals environment and booming local economy, investment and acquisition is the flavour of the month/quarter. Particularly across industrial and infrastructure businesses, corporate development and M&A initiatives are intrinsically wrapped up in the strategy function - so candidates who can work across both areas are in high demand!
Those with backgrounds in transaction services, financial modelling, investment banking or similar have the critical commercial and financial skills to make deals happen. A stint in strategy consulting or corporate strategy teams will round out a high level, macro driven view of the most profitable markets - and the quickest path to business growth.
Besides being a hallmark of most successful strategy teams, corporate development has the benefit of being interesting, engaging, and a potential pathway to the lucrative Private Equity space.
Qualifications and accreditations: Again, experience is the winner in this particular environment, but for those looking to beef up financial modelling skills will find a suite of courses available through Kaplan, CCE and alternate education providers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the strategy market, and accessing our exclusive commentary on trends and insights, get access to our 2019 Salary Guide!