Oct 21

Agency life vs. in-house: What I’ve learned so far

Public Relations Agency

It’s amazing how much time flies when you’re having fun…and when you have a lot on your plate. Last week, I pulled up my calendar to schedule an appointment, looked at the date and realized I have been on the Sabo PR team for six months.

My experience working at an agency has been an excitingly chaotic whirlwind. Prior to joining SPR, I served as an in-house marketing coordinator for a local technology company. During my years in that position, I got a good sense of what it’s like to lead an organization’s communications efforts.

Looking back, it’s hard not to compare my in-house position to the one I hold now. Although I am applying a majority of the skills I had previously used, my day-to-day schedule is much different than it once was. Following are a few of the main differences I have noticed between in-house and agency life.

Time management

Over the past six months, I’ve come to realize that a day can change in the blink of an eye. A set-in-stone schedule can turn upside down with a single email or phone call from a client. Granted, I had plenty of days that didn’t go according to plan when I was in-house, but I’ve found that the probability increases when you add a stack of clients to the mix.

For this reason, flexibility is a key characteristic you must possess if you are thinking of entering the agency life. If you are a person who lives by the calendar and needs structure in their working life, in-house might be more your style.

Communication

This goes without saying, but you don’t have unlimited in-person communication with clients while working at an agency. If you have a question about a project, you can’t pop your head over a cubicle or take a walk down the hall to get an answer right away. This was one of the biggest adjustments I learned after joining SPR – you have to plan ahead for communication with clients while laying out a timeline for a project.

On-the-fly learning

When in-house, you are usually submerged in only one industry. The on-boarding process typically includes orientation, extensive industry training and job shadowing that spans over several weeks.

When working at an agency, you have to become an expert in everything – and must do so in short periods of time. This is ideal work if you’re like me and enjoy constantly learning about different industries, trends and ideas.

If you enjoy deep diving and becoming one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about an industry, in-house might be best for you. If you’re passionate about dipping your toes into a little bit of everything, agency life might give you the most fulfillment.

Variety of people

At an agency, you meet a variety of people with different roles, backgrounds and messages they want to spread to the masses. From doctors and lawyers to security consultants and motivational speakers, you meet new faces on an almost daily basis.

This creates a unique opportunity to learn people’s stories you might not have had the chance to hear outside of the role. With that being said, there is a trade-off when compared to working in-house at a larger company. Would you rather be the person everyone at a large company knows or the person a wide variety of clients know?

If I’ve learned anything during my communications career so far, it’s that in-house is great and agency life is great – one is crazy and one is a fraction less crazy. Neither of the two are better than the other – it comes down to what you are looking for during your day-to-day work week and what will make you smile every time you sit down at the computer and begin typing.

Leave a comment below letting us know your experience working in-house vs. agency.


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