Is Working At An Agency Right For You?

A woman being hired for a job working at an agency.


You’ve got a point of view and a drive to create. You’re interested in marketing and have a suspicion you might be well suited to succeed in an agency environment. Agency life attracts many creative professionals hoping to break into the fast-paced world of advertising. But is working at an agency right for you?

What is a marketing agency?

So what does a marketing agency do? Marketing agencies help companies maximize their return on investment in marketing. Agencies partner with clients, providing guidance and clarity on advertising spending and strategy.

Types of agencies

Agency services can vary significantly depending on the type of marketing agency. Each agency has its own unique service offerings for clients and unique career growth opportunities for employees. When searching for an agency career path, consider the different types of marketing and advertising agencies

Infographic depicting the different types of marketing and advertising agencies.

Digital Marketing Agency

Digital marketing agencies specialize in all things digital and are pioneering the world of digital marketing in the 21st century.

A digital marketing agency might be a good fit for you if: 

  • You’re looking to break into the digital world.
  • You’re fascinated by Google Trends.
  • You hope to work in an industry where you’re surrounded by constant innovation.

Full-Service Agency

Full-service agencies work with all channels of advertising. From print advertising to radio commercials to budget management, a full-service agency is designed to help clients navigate the complex world of marketing and brand strategy.

A full-service agency might be a good fit for you if:

  • You’re not sure exactly what avenue of marketing you want to specialize in.
  • You want to experience a little bit of everything at a larger organization.
  • You’re excited by the idea of working with many different departments.

Creative Agency

Similar to a full-service agency, creative agencies can generally work with clients across all channels. However, creative agencies’ main focus is to serve as an artistic consultant, creating eye-catching and effective brand design and graphics.

A creative agency might be a good fit for you if: 

  • You’re looking for an artistic career.
  • You don’t mind letting an in-house team manage the numbers and strategy.
  • You love Superbowl half-time ads.

PR Agency

Public relations agencies help craft a narrative around a brand. These firms, and the folks who work in them, focus on facilitating public understanding of a company or product.

A PR agency might be a good fit for you if:

  • You’re a fantastic communicator.
  • You’re captivated by branding catastrophes and the way companies respond to them.
  • You may have considered majoring in journalism.

These are just a few primary examples of the many different types of marketing and advertising agencies. If you’re pursuing a career in an agency, it’s worth knowing what type of agency interests you most. But agencies aren’t the only place where you can gain valuable marketing experience.

Agency Vs. In-house careers

Infographic depicting the decision between choosing a marketing agency or an in-house approach.

While some companies choose which type of agency to hire, others avoid that conundrum entirely by opting for an in-house marketing approach. Sometimes, a companies’ passion for keeping marketing internal may outweigh the many advantages of working with a marketing agency.

The decision between in-house vs. agency marketing is an important one for both prospective employees and prospective clients. If you have second thoughts about an agency career path or want to cast your net wide, it’s worth considering in-house marketing as an avenue to gain experience.

What is in-house marketing?

In-house marketing is the term used to describe the process of using company resources and personnel to design and execute marketing campaigns internally.

In-House Career Pros:
  • Close proximity with the company/product you’re marketing.
  • Generally, a more predictable workflow, slower pace, and greater consistency in your projects and the people you work with.
In-House Career Cons:
  • Consistency can become boring, and in some cases, slow personal and professional growth.
  • If you’re a person who feeds off pomp and circumstance, expect much less in an in-house role. While you might have more autonomy, you will likely have less visibility.
Agency Career Pros:
  • Variety of people and projects.
  • Fast-paced workflow, where no day is quite like the last.
  • Ability to “level-up” very quickly and across multiple domains.
Agency Career Cons:
  • The variety can feel chaotic to some personality types.
  • Little control over which clients and industries you’ll be working with.

Agency Culture

From Mad Men to The Devil Wears Prada, agencies have an infamous reputation in media. However, like most things, the reality of agency life is much less titillating than multi-million dollar productions portray it to be.

Instead of fear-mongering a misleading narrative around advertising agency culture, do your due diligence during the interview process to uncover what the culture is like at the agency in question.

Important Interview Questions to Uncover Agency Culture:

  • How many hours per week do employees average?
  • How many PTO days per year do employees use on average?
  • Tell me about a time when someone felt excluded or uncomfortable, and explain how your agency navigated that challenge?
  • How many clients can I expect to manage?
  • Would you say that your culture leans more towards competitive or collaborative?

Questions like these should give you a good feel for whether or not any learned fears around advertising agency work culture will apply. For example, while the general misnomer is that advertising agencies expect their employees to work long hours, that’s not always the case. Many agencies have shifted to promote a healthy work-life balance and do their best to ensure that employees still have time for hobbies, home, and travel.

How to get a job at an advertising agency

When you’ve considered all your options and decided that advertising is right for you, the next question is perhaps the most important: how do I get a job at an advertising agency? Like most jobs, the qualifications for hire involve a mixture of experience and attitude. And like agency culture, the process and requirements for landing a job vary by agency and role you’re applying to within the agency.

While there is no silver bullet to ensure you land your dream job, there are some nuanced steps you can take on your journey that may help you reach your destination.

Before You Apply:

  • Develop your Linkedin profile and network.
  • Pursue freelance jobs like social media management or blogging.
  • Build a website showcasing your best work.
  • Polish your resume, and pass it around for feedback.
  • Obtain certifications in your chosen field.

You’ve Chosen Your Agency, and You’re Ready to Submit Your Application

  • Review your chosen agency’s portfolio of work, and know their voice.
  • Take a look at your chosen agency’s values.
  • Send a follow-up email, or make a follow-up phone call.

Congrats! You’ve Got An Interview

  • Reach out to current employees over Linkedin.
  • Research title salary range and job requirements.
  • Craft your list of questions to ask during the interview.
  • Practice your elevator pitch, but keep it conversational.

Make Your Dreams a Reality

Landing a job at an agency requires you to understand the agency you’re applying to. But more importantly, landing a dream job requires you to understand yourself. The journey of self-discovery is never-ending, multilayered, occasionally exhausting, and always deeply rewarding. Leaning into your unique strengths will help you get a job and succeed in your role.

Wherever your path takes you, there are endless possibilities in the world of marketing, and it’s your world to explore. While you’re at it, check out our careers page for a list of open positions you might be a good fit for.

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