Graduating to Agency Life


Congratulations – you’re about to graduate college and apply all that you’ve learned to the real world.If you thought the rigor of higher education was tough to transition to, heading into a career at a PR, advertising or marketing agency could be your next big hurdle.

It’s a gratifying career path. I can tell you that.Agency life brings more opportunities for collaboration, client experience and a social environment than most workplaces.But, it’s not easy, especially for first timers.

There are many great and spot-on lists about having a career in PR or working in an agency, but here are a few things I wish someone had told me after I graduated. Maybe you’ll find a few good nuggets in here too.

1.Agency life means you’re at the mercy of two people: managers and clients.Not all managers are great, not all clients are great.Over time and longevity, both will work themselves out.Reach out to the right people before you leave.

2.A job that comes with mobile email means whether you like it or not, you’ll be expected to be on it.It’s the hardest and saddest part of our industry, but a work life balance is yours to own and yours to create.Sadly, much of client relations happen after hours – whether you’re tweeting over the weekend at a customer service issue or you’ve scooped a story or interview based on breaking news.Balancing this to the best of your ability is all you can really do.True agency lifers will tell you – these ways of helping your clients will get you promoted and celebrated.

3.Being proactive shows everyone on your team that you’re here to win it. Whether you’re sending around a reporter’s new job post, or defining award qualifications ahead of your manager asking you, it will be the difference between you being a coordinator forever and an account executive in the first year.

4.If you don’t know how to proofread, return your diploma. While we all make grammar mistakes, don’t make the stupid ones.Spell YOUR name correctly, your client’s name correctly and for gosh sakes – use Google.

5.Whoever said “no question is a stupid question” is, in fact, stupid.Ask smart questions; this means that before you ask what time zone California is in, check Google. Smart questions are important to your learning, but when something is in plain sight, you tend to only make yourself look unprepared.Agency life celebrates the young professional who is not only resourceful, but also stealthy.

6.Building relationships will get you everywhere.The best thing I learned in my early years of PR life was that whom you know is important.Ironically, years later, as I manage an agency, almost nearly all of the business comes from referrals.Inside your first agency team, spend time with your direct manager, but get to know the ones above them. Don’t be afraid to ask a VP or Director to lunch.Try to attend as many senior-level meetings as possible and comment on what is going on.You never know where these people will end up one day and while they are colleagues you can use the relationship as a chance to get ahead.

7.Problems, drama and tears are nearly 100 percent guaranteed.If someone says differently, they are lying.Try to control your own image internally, be smart about where and who you associate with and do your best to grow a thick skin for constructive criticism.Remember that for as many mistakes as you make, your managers are probably making just as many too.We all come from a learning place, even when you are at the top.

Agency life will be draining, daunting and thankless.If you want to be the next undiscovered talent, or the young professional with the corner office, you have to work your butt off to get there.Agency life is never the place where your job promotion is going to be handed to you.

Perhaps my best piece of advice though, which could probably be applied to any job, is that you are only as good as your team. Work well with others, give credit where it is due and roll up your sleeves to get the job done – no matter what the job is.