Finding the Right Agency for You


Unscientifically, I'm convinced that we graduate with an awareness of 3% of all the agencies that exist. But with new forms of advertising and specialization happening in the industry, there's a wealth of options when it comes to choosing agencies to pursue. Working at an agency few have heard of won't affect your chances of working on big clients, being surrounded by top talent, or access to future opportunities. So many of the best people I know are living proof of that.

The hot agencies of the moment, all incredible in their own rights, are not the only places to start or continue your career. This isn't about settling—it's about opening your mind and widening the scope of agencies you explore and consider.

So how do you find the right agencies for you? Over the weekend, I ran a workshop that had participants think step-by-step through five qualifiers, resulting in a personalized set of criteria that can be used to vet potential agencies. Whether just starting out, or looking for your next gig, here are five qualifiers that can help you hone in on the best fit.

  1. Geography - This is an easy one. Do you know where you want to live? If so, commit and focus on agencies in that city. Willing to be flexible? Let the opportunities determine where you'll call home. 
  2. Size - You'll get starkly different experiences at a small, midsize, or large agency. One's not better or worse than the other—it's all a matter of personal preference. 
  3. Type - Most assume they'll end up at a full-service agency with in-house capabilities to handle all aspects and stages of advertising. But there are tons of specialized agencies where you can focus on something specific, like branding/identity, experiential/events, mobile, or youth marketing, to name a few. (This topic warrants its own email. Soon!)
  4. Must-haves - There are a couple things that are non-negotiable, like a boss from whom you can learn, and a system for feedback. Beyond that, think about your ideal work environment—how you like to work with people, how you learn, how you socialize—what are other must-haves specific to you?
  5. Your Why - It's common to question whether advertising is meaningful enough at the beginning and throughout your career. As you start your search, think about why you want to work in advertising. To influence culture? To solve business problems using creativity? To work with talented people and grow others around you? Find your why, and then find agencies that support it. 

Once you've got your criteria, it's time to find agencies to vet. Here are some googleable places to find shops you may not be aware of. Some sites even include filters (agency type, location) that can help you find exactly what you're looking for.

Pressure to find a job can make it feel like you can't be choosy. But you're not just looking for a job—you're looking for the start or next step in your career. It should be tailored to who you are and what's important to you. Getting specific about what you're looking for will help make the search less overwhelming, and in the end, more fruitful.

We're in this together,