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Yvette Pistorio

Corporate to Agency Life: Differences Between the Two

By: Yvette Pistorio | April 10, 2013 | 
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Corporate to Agency Life: Differences Between the TwoI come to you to talk about the differences between corporate to agency life because I’ve done both.

I worked on the corporate side for the first five years of my career.

Only recently (about seven months ago) did I join an agency.

Moving from corporate to agency life really showed me how different they are – and it’s not just billable hours, managing multiple accounts, being responsive at all times of the day and night, and client reports.

The pace, culture, day-to-day duties and tasks, income, purpose – really, everything is different.

Corporate Life

On the corporate side, things happen a lot more slowly. I forget where I read it, but the best analogy was when someone said it’s like being stuck at a red light. You’re waiting for the light to turn green; wait for it…wait for it…alright, maybe there is a mechanical issue with the light.

It takes longer to champion your cause, negotiate for resources, and see your projects through to completion. On the flip side, you have the opportunity to truly come up with an idea, follow through on your recommendations, and finish the project.

The good thing about a corporate setting: You have a much deeper understanding of the business, its culture, and the job role. It provides longevity and stability, but it lacks variety. There tends to be more conflicting objectives, not just between departments, but sometimes in your own team. And you have to become an expert at political maneuverings, which I found just annoying.

Agency Life

If you like a fun, fast-paced environment, collaboration, and continuous learning, agency life might be the right fit. Tasks and decisions come quickly. Actually, everything moves at a much faster pace.

There is continuous learning which is fun, but not easy. You get to work with a variety of clients and sectors, and you get to see a breadth of strategies. It requires you to know a lot about, well, a lot. Your clients expect you to bring your A-game every day, so there is a lot of note-taking and studying. You have to stay ahead of current news, trends, and technology. After all, your clients shouldn’t tell you what to do; you’re the expert.

An agency also affords you the opportunity to try your hand at different specializations. What that does, especially early on in your career, is give you the ability to find what you do and don’t like. An agency can also be filled with more experienced and wiser professionals who can help teach and mentor you.

On the downside, you aren’t privy to internal client discussions and sometimes are told about new initiatives much too late. You also most likely work longer hours, including nights and weekends.

Corporate to Agency Life

I can’t say I prefer one more than the other, because they are so completely different. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Neither side is cushier than the other, but I will say life at an agency has kept me on my toes and I’m never bored…ever.

Do you prefer agency or corporate work? Why?

About Yvette Pistorio


Yvette Pistorio is the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich. She is a lover of pop culture, cupcakes, and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. There are a gazillion ways you can find her online.

84 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

Great points, Yvette. I went from small, government lab...to large, multinational company...to large telecom...to large consulting company...to principal in a company.  Those large companies drove me nuts in regards to the speed of change; however, you had great job/salary stability and a safety net if you were a top performer.

Move to consulting, and there is no safety net or salary stability. If you are a top performer, and willing to move anywhere, you will always have work...but it can definitely be stressful.

And then becoming a principal of a software company just magnifies both the stresses and the rewards. Lots of that fast-paced collaboration, and you have opportunities to work on multiple subject areas/domains - so the mind stays sharp!

If I ever have to get another job after this one, I'd probably either own another one...or work for a smaller, boutique firm which would be the equivalent of a smaller agency.

annethewriter
annethewriter

This is an age old discussion that never gets tired as the industry morphs and new people enter. I 'practiced' PR for 17 years before going freelance and only 4 of those years were on the agency side. My first PR job right out of university was with Burson-Marsteller and I always say I got my training in the trenches! As everyone is saying, there are always pros and cons to both but I personally preferred the corporate side vs. agency side. I found that the pace didn't depend on corporate vs. agency but the leadership of the organization. When I worked for a newspaper where there were deadlines constantly looming, the PR/marketing/communications people were expected to react at lightening speed and projects had very tight timelines with high expectations.

I'm working independently now which is more like an agency, but I have the reins rather than being an entry level account executive as I was at the beginning of my career!

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

Agency life is all I know but I have been known to say at time I feel like the jack of all trade but the master of nothing LOL!

bradmarley
bradmarley

This pretty much sums it up. I've never really worked on the corporate side, but it seems like a lot of hurry up and wait.


However, in my current role, I serve only one client, so it feels a lot like working on the corporate side.

SavvyCopywriter
SavvyCopywriter

Great post! I actually switched from Corporate life to Agency life because I thrive in a more fast paced environment. Sometimes this has its drawbacks, but for the most part, I love it. And I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn't change where I'm at for the world. Thanks for sharing this!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks

@belllindsay So is it weird if I thank people for sharing my content on both my twitter handles?! Just curious...

TomPick
TomPick

Insightful post Yvette, thanks for sharing. Having also worked on both sides,  I love the flexibility and variety of agency life, but it can be hard always being the outsider.

KirkHazlett
KirkHazlett

I completely agree with the description of corporate PR benefits...I've always been more comfortable in a corporate setting because I've been able to be a part of the "Mother Ship" and can more fully provide advice and counsel based on my in-depth knowledge of "how the sausage is made." Agency life didn't do that for me. Great post!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Great points. If often takes our new developers some adjusting as well.  The biggest adjustments are working with what the client wants and billable hours versus doing extras they think will be better. Getting used to doing what the client asked and was quoted takes time. The other is multi-tasking, most programmers want to start on one thing and see it thru prior to moving onto the next. We do not have that luxury here, its switching gears all day every day!!

In the end, once they adjust I think (hope) they prefer the challenge of never knowing what their next project is and always being challenged by the lastest thing and always doing something new!

Kirk Hazlett
Kirk Hazlett

I've always been a corporate guy myself. Like being a part of the "Mother Ship" and being able to develop a solid understanding of all that goes into the development and presentation of our products or services. Agency life didn't do that for me.

Steve Kirstein
Steve Kirstein

You make several good points. As someone who has also navigated "both sides", it's my observation that most of these issues depend totally on the organization for which you work, rather than an agency or client model. There are slow, bureaucratic corporations but also very nimble, fast-moving ones - certain people thrive in one or the other - I prefer the latter. I also believe that the corporate longevity and stability, as you describe it, is a thing of the past.

As for agencies - agree with some of the other commenters that the politics can be equally onerous/dysfunctional. Your point that you have to be "on" all the time is true - and was a part that I particularly enjoyed - but I wish that your comment that "your clients shouldn’t tell you what to do; you’re the expert" was more the norm in practice rather than the exception.

Thanks for the post!

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@TomPick Thanks so much Tom! I love the flexibility and variety too. Keeps me on my toes.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@VZWandrea Agreed and I'm glad (and fortunate) I've been able to try both.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@KirkHazlett Thanks Kirk! I was way low on the totem pole in the corporate setting so most of the time I had to get approval from a number of people and things got pushed aside which is unfortunate. I have enjoyed both so far, it just depends on what you like more.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@sydcon_mktg Yes, constantly switching gears! One hour I'm writing about the manufacturing industry, and the next it's leadership or breastfeeding. I enjoy the variety. It keeps me on my toes and I get to learn about a bunch of different industries.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@Steve Kirstein My pleasure Steve! And I agree it depends on the organization. I have a mere six years of experience, so the post is based solely on that. I too wish the "your clients shouldn't tell you what to do; you're the expert" was the norm too. It's the norm at Arment Dietrich!

thomasknorpp
thomasknorpp

@IliyanaStareva things move fast, bigger impact, true ownership over what you do, exciting to work within and influence big companies.

TomPick
TomPick

@PattiRoseKnight  @yvettepistorio True Patti, but it seems that 9-5 is becoming quite rare on the corporate side as well. You'd have to work for the (rapidly shrinking) US Postal Service to get those hours these days. :-)

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

@Steve Kirstein Always...Sometimes when I ask a question, @ginidietrich will say to me: "You're the expert, you tell me." Lol! But it's good practice and makes the clients happy. 

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