As I round out my first year at a full-service communications agency, I finally understand why some refer to “agency life” as “boot camp.” The fast-moving pace and wide variety of clients has certainly brought its challenges, but mainly, it’s brought a sense of excitement into every workday. Now that I’ve had a year filled with experiences in this industry, here are four pieces of advice I have for new agency professionals.
1. Be open
Working at an agency is more than just getting your foot in the door; it gives you the opportunity to fully dive into the world of public relations, social media and creative storytelling. The only way to get the most of this experience is to embrace being uncomfortable and opening yourself up to new things. One way to do this is by expanding the types of client industries that you work with, even if you don’t have an automatic interest in the topics.
You should articulate which industries you are passionate about, but I encourage you to not limit yourself to only working on the most familiar industries. Working at an agency gives you the unique opportunity to get a taste of so many different areas, so embrace it! In fact, experience is the only way to learn what you would actually like to work on in your career—you might be surprised!
2. Make connections
I, like many new professionals, started my career 100% virtually. As cool as it is to work within walking distance of your refrigerator, a significant portion of your on-the-job-skills are typically gained by watching how other people do things. Thankfully, Fearey set me up well for these challenges. Every team member made it clear that I could reach out if I needed to shadow them on a process or project.
Still, PR requires more technical skills than many people realize, and each agency has their own way that they like things done. I realized quickly that the best way to learn from your colleagues virtually is to form a connection with them. Unfortunately, doing this takes more effort than it would in the days of “water cooler chats,” but it’s still possible. I find it helpful to ask for phone calls over email or Slack chats whenever I can, because it gives you the chance to have a deeper conversation and point of connection. I also recommend asking for a lot of feedback on your work, because it’ll show your colleagues that you care about improving, and it’ll make sure your work is on the right track.
3. Choose an agency that matches your values
Something I love about PR is that you have a lot of power to shape people’s perception on topics. Therefore, I believe it requires a lot of responsibility.
As a new professional, you do not always have much control over how the final client narrative may be positioned. While your voice is still impactful, you should make sure that you are comfortable with the mission and goals of your clients. I chose to work for Fearey because I identify with the work culture, and because I trust the ethics of those clients that I work with, so I feel confident that my work is being used to advocate for issues I care about.
Your first year in a career will play a big role in shaping your path, so I encourage you to make the most of it. I am a firm believer in being humble enough to learn from and understand those around you, but that doesn’t mean you should lose your presence or independence. Even as you undergo learning and growth, don’t forget that you got hired because your input and skills are valuable. A team is most effective when there is a balance between diverse thinking and collaboration.