As communications professionals, deciding whether to hang on the inhouse or agency side of the fence is one of the most common decisions we face. For those of us who are a fence sitter or perhaps just like to try everything once, transitioning between the two can be a challenge. More often than not, we hear the stories of people beginning in agency and then transitioning into inhouse – but less so do we hear from those who go the other way.
Though it feels like much longer, a few short months ago I made the jump from a career within inhouse communications and marketing roles over to the flipside – agency. If I were to do it all again, here are the tips I would share with my former self on how to flourish through this complex change.
My mum always used to tell me to ‘soak it up’ and at one point or another in my career, it finally made sense. Though it was never more prevalent than in this transition. Like so many new experiences, whether coming in as the intern or an Account Director at an agency, it’s important to swallow your ego and show true commitment to learning the ropes. You’ll need to remind yourself that there’s no such thing as a dumb question over and over and over.
In my first few weeks at P4 Group, I was likely considered the ‘quiet girl’. I sat back and listened to as many conversations as I could, read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and simply learnt all that I could from those around me. My colleagues would be quick to tell you now that this quietness has well and truly warded off now – but at the time, it was vital for my learning. Being thrown into a totally new way of working means you can be quick to second guess your natural working style. The more I learned from others, the quicker I started to feel confident in finding my own way of working.
There are so many experiences you’ll need to learn in an agency environment. Things that are second nature to those around you can seem like daunting, confusing feats for a newbie to agency-style. From logging time on client tasks through to presenting proposals, all the newness can often leave you sitting in that ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ feeling.
In these moments, it’s critical that you remember what you know. Looking around the room, just as there are many experiences those with agency experience will have that you do not, there are so many – potentially even more – learnings that you can bring from your inhouse experiences.
Remember that diversity in an agency is like tonic to gin – it’s a key ingredient! Diverse opinions, experiences and skillsets are how true market-leading agencies thrive, so leverage your differences not as shortcomings, but as opportunities for all the new things you can bring to the table.
With an in-house role comes exposure that can’t be matched in agency. You are exposed to – and often working closely with – decision makers and executives well beyond the marketing or comms team. You will likely know the line of approvals and hierarchy of decisions like the back of your hand, and you are well and truly exposed to the entire organisation. When switching sides to agency, one of the biggest challenges faced can be getting a grasp on your clients without this innate understanding of their organisation.
While you will only ever be privy to the information your client is willing to share, putting in the hard yards in those early days to build strong relationships with your clients will make a big difference to how quickly you hit the ground running on accounts. I have found that it all comes down to treating each and every one of your clients as though you are their inhouse team. Despite it being a buzz phrase, working as an extension of your client’s team is well and truly the greatest way to quickly build trust and in turn, quickly see great outcomes.
Whilst the age-old debate of whether those inhouse are cut out for the pace of agency or not will likely continue on, there’s no questioning you will need to focus more of your energy into organisation.
Remember that you are essentially going from working on the equivalent of one supersized client to two, three, four, five and beyond, so organising your time and knowledge across a broader range of topics with naturally be a hurdle. Whether it’s lists, calendar blocks, a note pad or a full suite of software, make a decision, find a system and stick with it as quick as you can. The more you can leverage the tools around you to help break down each complex client into achievable goals and needs, the quicker you’ll arrive at the day where you just get the hang of it!
If you’re interested in hearing more about a career in PR, connect with our team of experts today, get in touch with our Communications Director, Laura Carlin via [email protected]
Written by Caley O’Neill