Your career agency


Why We Needed to Reinvent Ourselves for a Messy Media Recruitment Market

10 MayBy Rob Forsyth

The media recruitment industry is exceptionally buoyant, extremely competitive and extraordinarily aggressive in the wrong hands. Having founded Ascent Solutions in 2007 and built up the agency over the past decade, I have watched the industry change with the privileged perspective of the insider. And it has changed a great deal. The emergence of social media means that absolutely everyone in media is ‘out there’, hands-on in the recruitment game – organisations and candidates alike - talking about upcoming roles, releasing jobs, courting candidates, publishing CVs…

Gone are the days of recruiters sifting through a black book of contacts, safeguarding them for the promise of a finder’s fee. Now everyone is open, and we are all fierce, protective ambassadors of our own brand, personal and corporate. The skill of finding a volume of pin-point relevant people for a role has gone. The challenge has shifted towards being able to engage and stay in contact with tomorrow’s top talent.

You’ve got to feel for today’s job seeker. Thousands and thousands of identikit jobs on LinkedIn, new job sites and bits of social tech launching every year, recruiters (in-house and agency) bombarding professionals with cold-call emails – it’s a cacophonous jungle out there.


It became obvious to me that we needed to create an agency that offered something unique to both clients and candidates. We needed to create an agency that truly added value, as experts in the market – dedicated and focused on developing careers, not just placing bodies in roles and cashing the cheques. And we needed a brand that made that difference clear.

You’ve got to feel for today’s job seeker. You may be one, and if not you’ll maybe be one in the future. There is so much noise and clutter.

Thousand and thousands of identikit jobs on LinkedIn, new job sites and bits of social tech launching every year, recruiters (in-house and agency) bombarding professionals with cold-call emails – it’s a cacophonous jungle out there.

So it can be nigh on impossible working out what company is the best cultural fit for you and sometimes what job will meet your career and lifestyle. 




A year on from that first soul searching moment, this month we launched NinetyThousandHours. We launched under a new brand to allow us to demonstrate that we are offering a service that will take that noise away. We want to give honest, down-to-earth advice to candidates and clients alike. We want to support candidates as they go through what can be one of the most stressful times in their lives. We want to help them to understand what role is best for them, what move transitions them towards their long term goals, which companies to pursue and which to politely decline.

At the heart of our philosophy is our aim to share our deep, hard-won insight into the industry that we love and are intensely passionate about.  We are able to stand confidently by our advice because we live and breathe the industry. We know the differences between one media agency and another, often imperceptible to the uninitiated outsider, and can give invaluable consultation to every candidate.




Understanding this issue, and knowing that our own company’s future success relied on us practicing what we were starting to preach, made us take a good look at Ascent Solutions as a brand. Straight away we realised that our brand position was not right – it didn’t say how different we were, it didn’t say ‘career agency’. 

We needed to shift our messaging to reflect the shift in our approach and the difference between us and other agencies looking to place people in jobs.

We swallowed the pride we had over the brand we had worked so hard to build up. But knowing that Ascent had given us the foundations on which to grow bigger and brighter, we started the work on creating our new brand.  In partnership with our marketing agency and, armed with a clear vision of the position we wanted to take in the market, we refined our core values, developed our key messages and – thus – NinetyThousandHours was born.


About 12 months ago, this situation had me thinking hard about whether we really needed recruitment agencies anymore. Was it time to find a new line of work?  What value were we offering hiring managers and companies? And what were we really doing to support and help the professional building their career in the media industry?

Most recruiters are still doing transactional recruitment - finding people for roles and charging their clients a fee for doing this. At the same time most organisations have appointed in-house teams to source and fill vacancies directly, cutting out the recruiter altogether.  I realised quickly that this new, emerging model has a shelf-life. There’s only so long that media professionals will tolerate being handled anonymously by commission-hungry recruiters when they could have direct access to the business themselves. Equally, there are only so many mismatched candidates the hiring manager will spend time with before it dawns on them that their day would have been better spent meeting the cream of a shortlist.





Straight away we realised that our brand position was not right – it didn’t say how different we were, it didn’t say ‘career agency’.

For the professional looking to develop their media career the problem is clear. Our research showed us that most of today’s media job-seekers are inundated with opportunities, but unsure as to how to move things forward. These guys are near-paralysed worrying whether this is the right time to think about their next career move, and whether this is the role that could catapult them to fame and fortune. It’s no wonder the noise is overwhelming. We also discovered how many people in media are dissatisfied in their current jobs. There is a plethora of talent toiling away in the wrong companies where their values are at odds with the vision or culture.

And here lies the other side of the problem.  The in-house HR teams and ‘spray-and-pray-approach’ recruiters taking to the social stratosphere with thousands of jobs are losing control of their brand. Flooding LinkedIn and Twitter, cold-calling candidates at lunch and in the evenings and distributing poorly written job descriptions has saturated the market. Essentially the talented professional now has the ultimate choice, and without deep industry knowledge they are picking from a flavour choice of vanilla, vanilla or vanilla.  The lack of a clear employer brand, the lack of a strong definitive voice in the recruitment theatre, is turning those career choices into a pot luck supper. And all too often these guys are picking the wrong role for them – dazzled by glitzy remuneration packages and misleading job titles -   and finding themselves, six months down the line, in a frustrating career cul-de-sac.


A bit of simple maths tells us that the average career will see us each spend 90,000 hours at work. It’s an enormous number. This is time we need to spend wisely, gaining fulfillment, developing our skills, making a contribution, enjoying ourselves and, hell yes, getting paid appropriately!

NinetyThousandHours says ‘career’. It infers to how we -  as a recruitment agency with a difference - understand the sheer, horrifying, wonderful length of the average career. It emphasises how that knowledge and understanding is at the heart of our brand. NinetyThousandHours is who we are; NinetyThousandHours is what we do.

Once the important work was done, it was (ahem) easy to turn this into a creative brand, a logo, a pallet, a website. And here we are – launched, out there, trading and enjoying our new look, thank you very much.

The future for NinetyThousandHours is an exciting prospect. We are in new digs at an outstandingly easy to reach office in Waterloo; we continue to counsel and nurture the careers of our candidates and offer an expert service to our clients; we are recruiting and growing our team. We currently work with some amazing brands and media companies and are, obviously, looking to grow this significantly over this year and into 2017. 

Follow us on Twitter to keep in touch, join us on LinkedIn to watch our progress, be part of our incredible journey and maybe, one day, we’ll be part of yours.

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