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Gearing Up for Agency Life: What to Expect

Working at an agency is amazing. The dress code is laid back, the employees are super creative, and the daily schedules are never boring.

However, agency life is nothing like what the movies promise.

Sure, there are swanky parties every now and then—but unless you’re Samantha Jones, you’re not the attendee at these soirées. You’re the one with the clipboard at the front door, or the coat check girl off in the corner (yes, I have been both of these roles more times than I can count).

So what is agency life really like? I had no idea until I dove in headfirst at my first agency in New York City. Now at my second agency, I’m what some would call an “agency-life-expert.” Okay—I don’t think anyone actually calls me that, but for the purposes of this post I’ll pretend they do.

Whether you're transitioning from the in-house world, or are a brand new graduate looking to enter agency life, there are a few house rules you should understand before entering the agency world.

Agency Life House Rules

House Rule #1: Stay Organized.

Many companies will have an agency standard that employees must follow to keep everyone organized and on the same page. You should absolutely follow your agency’s rulebook—but you can also find tips, tricks and tools that work best for you.

See if your agency has a project management tool that helps deliverables stay on track. If you need help organizing your time, your email, or even your life, research available apps that help you do that—and pick the one that works best for you.

For more tips to stay organized at an agency, check out this blog post.

House Rule #2: Learn How to Multitask.  

Working at an agency often means you’ll have more than one client. However, each client will think they are your only client (even when you explain they’re not), and they will expect to be treated as such.

So, the only way to survive this predicament is to learn how to multitask like a pro. (Tip: At my agency, we adhere to scheduled Productivity Blocks to increase our efficiencies. Try to block out certain parts of your day from common distractions—such as emails, texts and social media—so you can focus on each task at hand, and then move on to your next project).

House Rule #3: Embrace Technology.

To be a successful, modern agency pro, you need to embrace technology.

You must learn about it, adopt it, crave it, and forget what life was like before you had it. In other words, technology is your new BFF.

In all seriousness, technology is invented—and reinvented—to make our lives easier (well that, and to make the inventors a lot of money). At PR 20/20, we immerse ourselves in technology to help us do our jobs better, measure our efforts more accurately, and bring added value to our clients.

House Rule #4: Be a Team Player.

Your agency can often feel like your home-away-from-home—which makes your coworkers your pseudo-family. And, according to Lilo & Stitch, “family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” At your agency, that means you need to occasionally roll up your sleeves and help out your teammates.

Agency work ebbs and flows all the time. Some months are insanely jam-packed with a never-ending list of to-dos, while others are much more manageable. During your slower days, weeks, or even months, make sure you’re raising your hand to help out your agency family. Chances are, those people will lend a hand when you need it later down the road.  

House Rule #5: Sometimes, It’s Okay to Say “No.”

At some agencies, part of the culture is working absurdly long hours. Other agencies stress the importance of work-life-balance and encourage employees to recharge their batteries. I’ve worked in both types of environments, so I can confirm they exist.

While house rule number four tells you to be a team player, it only holds true if you actually have availability to help out. If helping out leaves you feeling burnt out, it’s time to learn how and when you should say “no.”

In my opinion, the most important house rule is to find an agency you love, and offers a career you feel passionate about. While no two agencies are identical, there are many similarities that make this lifestyle very different than other career paths (…in a good way, of course).

What other house rules are important to adopt in an agency setting? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Source: Allie Gottlieb


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Angela Masciarelli
Angela Masciarelli (@ang_masciarelli) is a consultant at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency, specializing in public relations, content marketing, search marketing and social media. She joined the agency in 2013 after spending two years as an account executive at a New York City PR firm.

Angela Masciarelli