What I Wish I Knew In School
Three things to prepare you for working in an advertising agency after college
Working in an advertising agency can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Among other things, it requires a unique blend of creativity, analytical skills, and strategic thinking. If the idea of working in a fast-paced creative environment excites you, here are three things that’ll help prepare you for agency life after graduating college.
1. Time management is everything
When working in an advertising agency, you often juggle multiple projects across multiple clients. But it’s important to make sure your clients always feel like you are giving them proper care and attention. Just last week, I had three separate month-long content calendars due for clients with various needs and expectations. Times like this can be challenging if you’re not able to effectively manage your time and workload.
If I could give you one piece of advice for effectively managing your time, I’d say start now.
Time management looks different for everyone, and it might take a few weeks or even months of trial and error before you find a system that truly works for you. I’m a pen-and-paper kind of person, so I rely heavily on to-do lists and planners. Writing a to-do list each morning helps me stay on track throughout the day. Plus, nothing is more satisfying than crossing a completed task off the list.
If I could give you one piece of advice for effectively managing your time, I’d say start now. If you’re still in school, use a planner, calendar, or notebook to map out major assignments and tests for each class, and start creating a weekly or daily to-do list to keep track of your assignments and other upcoming deadlines. Developing a time management system that works for you will take some time and effort, but starting that process now will only help you in the long run.
2. Learn to communicate with multiple groups of people
Along with splitting and managing your time among multiple clients, it’s equally important to know how to communicate with various groups of people. More likely than not, your coworkers, managers, and even clients will have different communication styles than you. While you might prefer stopping by someone’s desk to pick their brain about an idea, your coworker may need time to collect their thoughts before they’re ready to share. Learning how to best communicate with your team and clients will take time but is vital to the success of your relationships.
A great way to experience working and communicating with different groups of people is through group projects. Now I know that not everyone is a fan of group projects, based on past experiences or unsuccessful results. However—rather than thinking of group work in a negative light—reflect on that experience and build on it. A tactic I learned from one of my communication studies professors was to create a clear and realistic set of expectations at the start of any project. While your team may prefer different styles of communication, talking through preferences and expectations early will set your team up for success.
3. Valuable experience can be found in many places
It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of self-doubt when searching for your first full-time job after college, by thinking you don’t have the proper experience. However, you can gain many valuable and transferable skills from part-time jobs, internships, and student organizations throughout your college career.
The great thing about college is that it is designed to give students opportunities that nurture growth. If you’re someone interested in video production, try joining your campus news station or competing in a local film festival. I was interested in public relations and social media, so I joined my campus’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. Through this pre-professional organization, I had the opportunity to talk with various industry professionals, run a campaign from start to finish, and gain valuable leadership experience.
Join a student organization that relates to the industry you’d like to work in—or simply one you’d like to learn more about.
If you haven’t already, I’d strongly recommend joining a student organization that relates to the industry you’d like to work in—or simply one you’d like to learn more about. More likely than not, this can open the door to internship opportunities and even full-time jobs after graduation.
Before coming to EPIC, I had no experience working in an advertising agency and, to be honest, I’d only even heard about agency life and what it entails a handful of times. In writing this, I’m hoping other college students with little agency knowledge or experience can gain useful insight and begin to implement some of these suggestions before graduation.
Alex joined EPIC in 2022, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in General Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.