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.
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.
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?