24th October 2014

A Beginner’s Survival Guide to Agency Life

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Ever since people found out that I was studying Marketing, the first question they asked me was ‘agency or client side?’ As an avid fan of Mad Men, I blurted out that it was my dream to be Don Draper. I wanted to work in an agency fighting to win over top clients, sipping on whisky in the early morning in a tall glass tower block, amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. I did of course see an incredible opportunity in being able to work with such a diverse range of clients on different projects, and in an environment where creative is king. And despite the fact I wasn’t able to drink whisky to my heart’s content in a glass skyscraper, agency life really is exactly what it says on the tin: fun, inspiring, fast-paced, energetic, creative, young and fresh.

During the two months that I’ve been working at Creode so far, I have learnt a lot, adapted to agency life and gone through countless notepads. Working as a Project Manager, there might be some things that I’ve picked up, which are less relevant for developers or designers, but as agencies are such collaborative environments, I’m sure most will find something useful in this blog.

 

Yes Man

I’m not necessarily talking about saying yes to a skydive when you have a chronic fear of heights. This is about grasping work opportunities with both hands. It can prove hugely beneficial to say yes to those opportunities that come your way. Whether they are within your ‘job description’ or not, as a Project Manager, having the experience of completing a task yourself can help you to understand the workload of others within your agency. Offering to do extra tasks also eases the workload on colleagues and shows that you are a true team player.

 

Communication is Key

Clear and comprehensive communication with team members and clients is essential for a successful project. When you first start at an agency, it’s important to get to know how each of your colleagues works and how best to communicate with them- whether via email, internal messenger programme, face-to-face or with a phone call. It’s even more important to ensure you communicate well with your clients.

Using correct spelling when communicating is also critical. This is not just something to consider when contacting clients, but colleagues as well. It might not seem overly important – after all as long as you send a message, colleagues can overlook the odd spelling error – but swap ‘being done’ with ‘been done’ when discussing the status of a project and it could send you into unnecessary overdue-deadline-disarray.

If you want people to communicate with you, it goes without saying that you need to be an effective communicator yourself. Understanding how to communicate proficiently goes hand-in-hand with being well organised.

 

Organise, don’t Agonise

If you can multitask with your eyes closed (or have a love for writing it all down on postit notes), then agency life is for you. It’s incredibly fast-paced and unpredictable. There’s never a dull moment and you’ll be constantly challenged. Due to its unpredictable nature, it’s crucial you organise yourself well from the beginning. It might take you a little while to find the right way to organise yourself, especially since you’re working with a number of different clients, but there are so many fantastic tools online now, you’re sure to find one that suits you.

If your company doesn’t have it already, it’s worth suggesting they install an instant messenger programme such as HipChat or Lync for Outlook. This allows you to have more instant communication with colleagues, rather than relying on email, but it also means that you’re not interrupting their workflow (like you would be if you were to walk over to their desk and exhale a very obvious ‘excuse me’ cough).

It’s important you find a system that can be as flexible as your workload will be. Being able to click and drag tasks to different dates and times will prove essential when you start receiving ad-hoc tasks that require an urgent response. While flexibility is key, a handle on prioritising tasks is also essential, or you will find yourself pushing tasks further and further back to make room for demands.

 

The Social Hub

Alongside everything I’ve learnt about working in a digital agency, Creode has a great social atmosphere. While we don’t bring industrial lawnmowers into the office (we’ve all seen how that turns out in Mad Men), we do enjoy dabbling in a bit of office cricket, having a post-work chill out at the pub, or attending local industry meet-ups.

Agencies are a great place to work because of the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Working in such a collaborative atmosphere, colleagues need to gel, and this is something employers look for when recruiting newbies, so you’re bound to get on with your co-workers! Though I’ve already learnt a lot in my time at Creode, in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop learning – but isn’t that the fun of it?