Adulting Is Hard: Adjusting to (Agency) Life

Kathy-Vass-croppedBy Kathy Vass, Executive Director, Public Relations & Social Media

Not long ago, AdWeek published an article entitled, “How Millennials Are Changing the Way Ad Agencies Work.” The article takes an honest look at how 20-somethings adapt to agency life as they seek to improve what they believe to be inflexible systems and a general state of complacency.

Known for their tech-savviness and unapologetic penchant for being “disruptors,” Millennials that went to work for agencies, the article said, believed their firms were stuck in a rut that stretched back to the days of Mad Men. (Although many still have a hard time believing that three-martini lunches were real and routine.) They were, along with smoking at your desk and on airplanes.

We thought we’d ask a few of our youngest associates that have been with us a year or more for their impressions of agency and general 9-to-5 life before they started working and now that they’ve been at it a while. We promised anonymity, so we’d receive honest feedback; but for Millennials, that’s rarely an issue. Our respondents are from the media, creative, interactive and public relations departments. Below are the questions posed and some of the answers we received:

What were your impressions before working at an agency and what are they now?

My impression of the industry beforehand was that the pace may be challenging but the creative, energetic environment would prove to be rewarding and worthwhile. And after working for two and a half years, I still agree with my first impression.

I felt as though I had general knowledge about agency life because of the programs and classes I took in undergrad. However, there is a difference between facts and practical experience.

I worked at two agencies before coming to Jackson and each had their quirks. I think it is safe to say that most agencies have a casual, collaborative atmosphere, but few have the same team approach that Jackson has.

I think an agency is set up to jump through too many hoops to get something done. For big projects it’s great, but I don’t love having to go through a long process to get something simple accomplished.

Jackson-MillenialsWhat do you like most about your day-to-day work life?

I love the flexibility that agency life allows, but mainly I love that I don’t do the same thing every day. I am always working with a new client or a different account representative. My job is rarely mundane, and I have the chance to write for all different types of placements—from radio to outdoor, to video to professional speeches, to social media to magazine ads. I really enjoy the diversity of my role and the creativity I can have in my position.

The people. I think working with people that you enjoy makes all the difference. Working with trucks is not something I ever saw myself doing, but I like that, at an agency, you can have projects come up from completely different clients that help break up the day-to-day cycle of work. Agency life helps keep you from getting bored or worn out on one client.

What do like the least?

I don’t love being at a desk for eight hours a day. I would love to be more hands-on with clients and be able to get out into the community more, something that I believe is more readily available in corporate settings.

At an agency, you help clients with a portion of the puzzle, but at a company, I feel like you’re able to see the entire puzzle come to life.

Working with clients can sometimes be difficult, especially when there are a lot of differing opinions involved.

The commute.

Is the 9-to-5 life what you expected?

The 9-to-5 life is not what I expected. I thought I would dread coming to work, while it is actually quite the opposite. I love being in a routine.

For the most part, the 9-to-5 life is what I expected, but I didn’t realize how mentally tired I would be after a long work day.

It took some time adjusting to the 9-to-5 work day because it felt strange not having homework to do in the evenings. After hours, I felt the constant need to be doing something productive in my free evenings and weekends. Eventually I adapted and have enjoyed the flexibility of making my own schedule.

Do you believe your college coursework and/or internships prepared you for your full-time job?

There are parts of college that prepared me academically, but I did not feel completely prepared situationally. There is an entire language that businesses and agencies speak that I felt like I had to catch up on as an intern at my first agency. That internship prepared me immensely for my first full-time job, and I am so glad that I had that experience before taking a full-time gig.

I think my internships helped prepare me for my job, especially my internship at Jackson. Lol. I think internships are way more beneficial than college coursework in terms of preparing you for full-time jobs.

My coursework and internship did a great job of preparing me for the industry. I believe internships are invaluable in learning how an agency works and deciding if marketing is the right career path for you individually.

What has been your biggest adjustment?

Learning to carefully manage my time outside of the 9-to-5 hours. With other commitments and obligations, and just wanting to relax, time management has been of major importance during my first year working full-time.

The lack of free time throughout the day. I’ve finally adjusted to running errands or getting my workout in at lunch, but at first it was hard to balance being at work for nine hours a day and then getting everything else you need to do, done.

Taking on way more responsibility both professionally and personally has been an adjustment. All in all, adulting is hard; but after the adjustment period, it all gets easier.

Finding the right lumbar support to accommodate sitting in a chair for eight hours has been the biggest adjustment to working a full-time job.