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When landing my first marketing job is it better to start agency side or client side and how hard is it to switch?

I am a masters student studying marketing and data science. #marketing #management #business #data #agency #client #adtech #socialmedia


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Maggie’s Answer

Hi, Hannah! Congrats on the masters program- I know that can be a lot of hard work.

This is a great question. I think it all depends on what you want to do. Take this time to explore all of your opportunities. Tap in to your network and connect with alumni, friends, etc. that are both brand side and agency side. Ask them questions about their career- what they like, what they don't like, etc. to better understand what a day looks like in their seat.

Personally, I started my career at an agency. In my experience, I learned so much during my time as I was able to work on various accounts. Eventually, I was fortunate to make the jump to a sports team. I know that a lot of the skills I learned at the agency, put me in a position to succeed in my future role(s). So, it is entirely possible that you can do both during your career.

Just remember, these are exciting times! Don't put too much pressure on yourself trying to land the "perfect" job. You learn just as much (if not more) from something you don't like/ enjoy, than what you do like. At the end of the day, work hard, learn as much as you can and be the teammate everyone wants to work with. Best of luck to you!

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Elizabeth’s Answer

Hi! My first digital marketing position was a two-year internship in college on the corporate side. Then my first job out of college was in digital marketing on the agency side. Now I'm back to corporate again. All that to say: there is value in both, switching back and forth was no big deal, and there's no need to feel like you have been locked into one forever!

There are pros and cons to each, in my experience. A corporate position tends to be more stable and often pays better, but the 9 to 5 pace can get redundant and you don't get as much variety in your work. An agency position offers a lot more variety from day-to-day (often giving you exposure to a lot of industries) and the fast pace is fun; but the culture isn't as stable which can lead to uncontrollable HR issues, and you're expected to work a lot more hours. I'd recommend getting experience in both, if possible, so you can be well-rounded and experience what each one has to offer!

Best of luck, whichever direction you take!

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Thanyadhorn (Thanya)’s Answer

Hi, Hannah! Great question.

When I spoke to people in client-side as a student, many of them advised me to start my career at an agency. Most also began at agencies, and although work there is known to be longer hours and less pay, they were able to learn a lot and experience what it's like to work with clients in different industries during their time there.

There is no right or wrong answer to your question - both agency and client side provide valuable learning opportunities and work experience. In terms of transitioning, as Elizabeth mentioned, I think this process is pretty seamless. I personally started off in market research at an agency working with 2 tech clients and then transitioned to work client-side in data analysis for studio entertainment, so that also goes to show that yes - switching is possible! Especially if you're working in the same type of role (e.g. market research), your knowledge and work will definitely apply to roles on the other side. If anything, you will be even more knowledgable, as you'll have had greater visibility from both sides as opposed to someone who's only done either agency or client-side work.

I'd advise you to take advantage of any good opportunity that comes your way. In my experience, it may be a little easier to find a position at an agency immediately out of school, since they tend to hire more consistently (bringing in new classes of analysts each year), while the hiring cycle client-side is more inconsistent and work-flow related. Another pro to agencies is that they tend to promote more quickly - I've known companies who promote people to Senior Consultant level after just 2 years. Either way, make the most of any role you're in, and I'm sure you'll do great!

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Karen’s Answer

Good for you! I would start at the company you like the best, that's a fit for your skills and personality. Every company has a culture, and choosing that is more important than you think. I work at Verizon, and we have an achievement culture, with high accountability. That's my personality, and I have been here 30 years, so it's a good fit. When you find work that fits YOU, great results happen... when great results happen, it's easy to build your resume with different experiences at different companies... client side, or agency side.
The best advice I ever got is to think about the job you want to be in on the day you retire, and work BACKWARDS from that... what jobs did you have to have to get there? How long do you have to stay in that role? And make yourself a timeline... your career moves will become clear!
All the best to you!

Thank you so much! Hannah C.

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Pam’s Answer

Such a great question! I started my career on the agency side before switching to brand side. I happen to feel that you learn so much on the agency side, and get exposed to a variety of brands and clients and type of work. When I hire folks for my team now, I look to see if they had agency experience first. Bringing a 'client mentality' to the brand side is very important.

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Michael’s Answer

First, any job in marketing – either on the agency side or the client side – will teach you a lot, very quickly, early on in your career.

Starting off in your career, look for a role or a company that will expose you to as much variety as possible. Usually that means an agency job, but I was fortunate to start my PR career at a company that gave me a lot of variety because it was growing, leanly staffed and operated with a very entrepreneurial culture that meant you could help out wherever you saw opportunity to contribute something that a team needed. A job at a PR, Marketing or similar agency will expose you to a variety of clients, different projects and teams, and hopefully using many of your skills and learning new ones.

Put simply, find the opportunity that gives you the most variety possible.

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Gina’s Answer

In my opinion, if you are uncertain what you want to do specifically, an agency is a great place to start. If wold afford you to see so many different aspects of marketing-- digital, print, SEO/SEM, analytics, copywriting.... Not only will it make you completely well rounded, it will hopefully give you better focus on what path you want to go down. From there , you could always go to the client side if you wanted.

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Ryan’s Answer

Both have advantages – and if it’s your first job, remember, you are not locked into it for life. Getting a start on either side is great, b/c it gives you experience. Your ability to switch will be based on the quality of the work you do, the strength of relationships you build and your ability to see the same issue from different sides. If you start on the agency side – great. Learn what matters most to clients. If you start on the client side, be a great listener so you learn how ideas come to life and get implemented.

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Fabio’s Answer

Hi Hannah,

On my current project I work closely with many stakeholders from our marketing teams. Most members of our media department have started their careers at agencies to learn best-in-class practices and have excelled since their departures. Hope this helps!

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Jen’s Answer

Good question! I started on the agency side and then went into the client side. In my opinion, I think it's easier. You can step out of the wacky schedule and environment of the agency. Being a the client side is a little more predictable and stable.

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Sandy’s Answer

Great question! I started my marketing career at an agency. A wonderful way to learn about a variety of strategies to promote companies. After 5 years, when I felt I had enough acquired skills, I moved to corporate and have been happy there ever since. However, I will add a suggest. Make sure you don't get too comfortable. I've seen young people stay at a company too long and hinder their opportunity for growth. Shifting every 2 years is a good strategy as long as you're moving up.

Marketing is a lifelong learning career as things shift and change. Learn something new every day!!

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Bernard’s Answer

Hi, I think it really depends but I would say as a general rule being in the agency side will enable to give you broad exposure to different industries vs working in a single company. That being said, working in a company will be able to provide a deeper lens into the marketing process of that specific company. Hope this helps

Thank you so much I appreciate it! Hannah C.

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Fabio’s Answer

Hi Hannah,

On my current project I work closely with many stakeholders from our marketing teams. Most members of our media department have started their careers at agencies to learn best-in-class practices and have excelled since their departures. Hope this helps!

Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! Hannah C.

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M’s Answer

This depends on the career opportunity. I would recommend being open to both options. There is a lot of fluidity between agency side and client side. Just start somewhere, figure out what you like and switch if you don’t like it. Most people like one vs. the other more. The roles can be similar. Some differences are that the agency is more focused on client services. Based on your areas of study, you might be more interested in data analytics, and you'd have this experience with multiple clients at an agency. With only one brand, you’d go deep into their campaigns only, where with an agency, you have the option to touch several clients.

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Pam’s Answer

Such a great question! I started my career on the agency side before switching to brand side. I happen to feel that you learn so much on the agency side, and get exposed to a variety of brands and clients and type of work. When I hire folks for my team now, I look to see if they had agency experience first. Bringing a 'client mentality' to the brand side is very important.

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Rohit’s Answer

Hi Hannah,

I am someone who has worked on the agency side and then switched over to the client side. It took me time to make the switch.

But i found it to be worth it..

The agency side of things helped me learn to handle mutliple brands/client and projects of varying complexities. At any given point in time I was managing a campaign (large visibility) and at the same time getting a PowerPoint presentation in line with the brand guidelines for the client's marketing manager!

This kind of exposure to multi tasking is immense.. Yes, it required me to stretch and work long and crazy hours but trust me it was worth it. It is an immense learning experience. I reached a stage where I was adept in agency operations. This learning later helped me when i switched to the client side. Managing agencies was part of my role in the client side and I could talk shop with them. They knew I know how to get it done, and they did not have any negotiating room on topics like timelines for specific deliverables. Be it with the communications agency, the media buying partner or the digital marketing agency, it helped them as well, that I as a client was happy to solve challenges with them and not let work get prolonged.

To make the switch, I took more time for most marketing managers tend to work with the same employer for long tenures. As someone mentioned earlier, it is a stable jb, one can expect fixed hours and it could lead to lesser burn out, possibility of greater work life balance etc but that would also mean lesser job openings for the agency guy :)

Hope this helps you..

Regards
Rohit


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Dino’s Answer

Congrats on your Masters and thank you for asking such a great question! There is no right or wrong way of starting your career. It really depends on what you are more passionate about. I suggest writing down pros/cons for each to help visualize.

Personally I started working on the agency side and 3 years ago moved to the brand/corporate side.

In my experience, on the agency side, you are closer to the advertising and creative development. You get to learn about creative strategy and how to make campaigns come to life. It is also fast paced and at times could be long hours. However, if you are passionate about the work, the hours shouldn't be a major concern.

On the client side, you are typically responsible for marketing a specific product/service. You are closely tied to the business and overall enterprise goals. The big "ah-ha" moment for me was that as a marketing manager on the corporate side, I am responsible for the entire pizza, versus the agency i'm responsible for one slice of the pie.

I will say that working at an agency has helped me greatly in my role as a marketing manager. I am able to effectively write creative briefs based on my agency experience, and how to give creative feedback/direction. You will learn quickly that building a solid relationship with a creative team is key to your success.

Good luck!

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