There—I admitted it.
If you asked me how I felt about working in an agency about this time one year ago, the answer would have been different.
Back in 2007, when I started working in a full-service healthcare communications agency, specifically in the PR group, I didn’t know what to expect.
It took a few years of different projects and clients– some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t– for me to figure out that agency life wasn’t for me.
And that’s okay.
Some people are better suited for the constant change and customer service for the clients that is necessary for the agency setting. That just wasn’t for me.
But since I’ve changed back into an in-house setting—in a completely different industry and communications focus (a medical school alumni relations department)—I’ve come to realize something: I am glad I worked in an agency for the time I did.
I realize now that I learned some valuable lessons and practices that the agency setting imparted on me:
Working within an agency, you have to work with and rely on lots of people—from the account team, to the traffic manager, to the creative director and graphic designer. It’s important to develop a rapport with these people and to navigate via interpersonal skills in order to get a project done.
Because of that experience, I am more cognizant of my interpersonal skills and identify how best to work with others.
I have gotten a reputation as “the queen of charts” in my new job because for every project I work on, I have a project management chart to go with it. It’s ironic because if there was ever one thing I cursed the clients for, it was for the never-ending stream of Excel spreadsheets we had to draft and maintain again and again.
Now, I am using many of the same templates to ensure my projects are organized and my team is informed. How’s that for humble pie?
Remember how you had to prepare for anything for your client, especially when at an on-site meeting or when traveling? Just recently, I was with a marketing colleague for a film location scout with a production crew. In addition to sending a summary email of our locations to the team beforehand, I printed copies of the schedule for everyone and also brought copies of our interview schedules in case we had some down time for a meeting.
And you know what? All of those copies came in handy! You can never be over-prepared for anything…
Measurement, measurement, measurement
I am so glad I had clients who harangued us constantly for benchmarks to accompany our strategy proposals. I used to roll my eyes if I had to benchmark or set metrics to one more tactic because it was an ongoing process.
However, working in a role that supports a fundraising capacity, I find myself constantly looking for ways to quantify and measure alumni relations. I have become the client asking my colleagues to help me set the metrics and benchmark my strategies.
As much as I was miserable at times in my agency life, I have really come to appreciate that experience because it has done me more good than I could have expected.
The lesson in all this?
Even a job you think you hate can actually be helping you. You just might now know it yet.
What do you think? Anyone else benefit from agency experience? Or have you had a job you hated but have come to appreciate after a career change?
Image courtesy of a very clever agency with a good sense of humor.