Time to leave your ad agency? 6 questions to ask yourself.

Person sitting at a desk

In the incestuous world of ad agencies, people rarely settle at just one. Accounts change; needs change; money, titles and opportunity call. So it’s no wonder agency people hop from place to place.

If you are considering a move or even wondering if you should settle in, here are some questions to ask before you jump the fence.

What’s my plan?

Make a plan. Put things on paper, even if they are clear in your brain. It makes it more actionable, and an easier way to be accountable to your career. Do you want automotive or fast food in your book? Are you ready to manage? Create a clear directive that plots out your career. You don’t need to hop around to hit those goals, it can happen in your own agency. All you need to do is ask. And if the answer is not what you want, then it may be time to look around.

feet jumping in the air

Do I like the people here?

Look up from your laptop. Better yet, take a walk. Remove yourself from the sometimes narrow perspective your desk tends to create. As you wind around the cubicles, the action figures, the ironic posters, look into the eyes of the people you see. Are they happy? Stressed? Unfulfilled? Are they making a difference? People are the most important asset an agency has, and if you are not connecting with the people, it’s impossible to connect with the work.  When you get back to your seat, take a second look. Do you respect the people on your left and right ? If not, find a place where you do.

What do I love more, advertising or life?

Ad people are narcissists, plain and simple. We love to see our work celebrated. But, we also love life, and how those experiences can be brought back into the work. It’s important to figure out what matters more to you. Blue-chip work for an incongruent ECD and not having much of a life, or having a life and not producing boatloads of notable work? Yes, these are not mutually exclusive, but there are agencies that don’t offer a real work/life balance. For some people that’s OK , But for others, it’s unsustainable. Plot where you find happiness in this work/life spectrum and see if your agency connects on that same axis.

What stirs my soul?

Oftentimes, we get caught up in the work and don’t take a moment to think about what we need to happily succeed everyday. For me, it’s about feeling creatively challenged. Other people may be motivated by money. Some put life first and work second, so freelance is a great chance to travel and not be bogged down by traditional schedules. Or, you can start your own agency. Whatever makes you happy, make sure you know what it is, and that you are getting it. If not, find a place where you will.

Empty conference room in an office

Am I too content?

Working at an agency is like being in a relationship. And like human relationships, the relationship with your company must be constantly evaluated, and not just by the veneer they show. How do they treat their people? Not with outings and things like that, but how do they really treat their people? Are they paying them enough? Do they give bonuses to all that deserve it? Does your ECD or account lead respect you? Are they diverse? Do they value you and show it? Are they firing the wrong people and keeping the ones who should be fired? Are they open to change? Does everything move too fast or in slow motion? These are questions to write down and ask in your quiet moments, away from the office. It’s easy to grow content with stability and a paycheck, but it could also zap the life out of you.

Black and white image of a high school locker

Am I ready to start over?

Moving to another agency is like moving high schools … in the middle of the year … with a giant zit on your face … wearing Crocs. And we all know how tough it is to be the new kid with or without rubber clogs. If the problem in your current situation is something you can discuss, save yourself the grief and do that first.

Because starting over is literally starting over. All the relationships, equity, overtime, hard work, great ideas, lunches will be behind you. All the times you went on Facebook only to like your boss’s pics will be for naught. All the real or rehearsed selfless acts from your past that won favor on your current job, will be forgotten–tossed out like the errant pushpins you left behind in your cube drawer. Those earned moments are not transitive. You will need to rebuild your relationships in human capital, and prove yourself to a whole new group of people.

Oh, and you are an outsider, so don’t forget about what an outlier always seems to bring: Competition.

woman asleep in a bed

Before you make a move, though, sleep on it. For a few nights. Maybe even at your desk and see if anyone cares. Ask around to people who work there, and do your research. Leaving takes courage and a fresh start somewhere else may be in order, but a wrong decision could send you down an unfulfilled path.

And once you go, never look back.  Life’s too short to put it in reverse.

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