What to Expect From Your First Agency Job

Lauren C

Today’s blog post comes to you from Lauren C.  Lauren is currently a Media Supervisor at Carat in Detroit, MI. Graduating from Michigan State with a B.A. and M.A., she declared an Advertising major at freshmen orientation and didn’t look back. Outside of work, she is trying to make a side hustle out of a love of Michigan beer and a bottle cap art Etsy store.


Don’t be dazzled by the office perks – the people make the culture

Ping pong tables! Beer on tap! Cool rooftop! Other things that sound “millennial-friendly”! 

One of the best things, and arguably one of the most unique things, about working at agencies is their dedication to one of Corporate America’s favorite buzzwords: culture. Agencies look to foster creativity, and appeal to creative individuals, often doing so through perks like the above.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The ability to drink a beer in the afternoon (friends and family that work in other industries will never understand this one) and the idea that you could blow off steam on the ping pong table during a stressful day is great. But, that’s not the reason you will love your agency job.

The reason I love my job is the people I work with, which, at the end of the day, is what truly makes an agency culture. Their positivity when it comes to tough situations, their senses of humor, and their openness to new ideas drives the atmosphere. When choosing your first agency, focus on the personalities of those interviewing you and those you interact with. Those personalities are truly the best indicator of an open, creative culture – not a cool rooftop.

Sometimes you’ll feel like the least creative person in the room

Coming out of college, I considered myself (and still consider myself) an extrovert. Seriously, I’m the girl who asks to present. I also considered myself (and still consider myself) a creative problem solver.

Coming into an agency, it feels like everyone is this uber-creative, highly-confident rock star. On one hand, this is fantastic. You’re surrounded by people with similar energies and working styles to yours. On the other hand, it can be intimidating. You’re surrounded by people that are unafraid to share their ideas and opinions, and it can be difficult to speak up as the newbie.

Collaboration and working in teams is a big part of agency life, so meetings with 10 of these rock stars in a room are not uncommon. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • I’ve never heard people gossiping after a brainstorm about someone who offered up silly ideas
  • Creative thinking, especially in group settings or on the spot, is a skill that takes practice
  • If your ideas aren’t the ones the team ultimately moves forward with, that’s OK. Think about why that idea was chosen and use that to fuel your next brainstorm opportunity

To enhance your creative thinking and collaboration, take advantage of opportunities to join in on brainstorming or ideation sessions whenever you can, and try to speak up a bit more each time. 

It’s true what they say – it’s not a 9-5 job

I heard this at every advertising talk I went to during college, but it’s hard to wrap your head around what this really means until you’re in it. Sometimes, this idea manifests in actual time at the office – there will be late nights. Sometimes, this idea manifests in terms of time spent thinking about your job – your client, your work and your tasks.

Part of this is due to the collaborative nature of an agency job. More often than not, project timelines are not your own, and are dependent on the needs and efforts of clients, vendors and your colleagues.  Those needs can change with little notice, and you will be expected to adapt and deliver, whether it’s 11 AM or 6 PM.  Additionally, you’ll also catch yourself having your work hat on off-duty, with brands and advertising being around you all the time.

Sometimes at agencies, working late can be worn like a badge of honor. “Oh, that must’ve been fun… I was here at the office wrapping up until 9.” I can admit, I’m sometimes guilty of this. However, at the end of the day, if you can get all your work done between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM, that can be an equally impressive badge of honor.

If this makes you nervous, don’t let it sway you from taking an agency job, just keep it in mind. It’s a fair topic to broach with your team in the first week, or even in an interview, to set, and manage, expectations (What is the average work day? Am I expected to be reachable outside of business hours?).

Everybody knows everybody

The agency world is a competitive, small industry, and you’ll get used to seeing people jump to different agencies or “sides” (vendor, client, agency), and often, jump back. When working at an agency, you never know who could be you next boss or your client’s best friend.

The lesson for this one is to respect, be kind, and build relationships with everyone you come across. Of course, I’m a big believer this one should carry across industries, but an important reminder to never burn bridges.

It’s not your average corporate office

All in all, this is what I love about working in an agency setting. I swear it’s not the snack bar. It’s looking around and seeing no cubicles, no suits (at least most of the time!) and the fast-paced hustle of a team. The collaboration and passion is infectious, and it helps those not-so 9-5 days.