I’ve been here a month, and it’s already apparent no one here wears a suit as well as Don Draper does.
Before I became Content Director at Orpical Group, I was nervous about entering the consulting agency world.
Consulting was not my specific background, so I wasn’t sure if I could easily integrate into the culture. But I knew how to do the job, and the work looked fulfilling, so what was there to lose?
I remember the first call between myself and a company representative. A woman named Michele had called me during a brief reprieve from my constricting schedule of unemployment to hold my first interview. I was overcome with the nauseating combination of anxiety and eagerness only felt during job interviews and middle school dances.
Was I familiar with WordPress? Yes, I was. Did I have proper transportation? My legs were functioning. Was I a fan of routine? To this, I answered “no” with an expectation of friction, but apparently, mine was the perfect answer. “Good,” she said. “Neither are we.”
She was not lying. No hour since I’ve entered this industry has been identical to another. Each objective, project, and client requires nuance; a different shade of creativity colors each solution.
The abstract issues alone are enough to fill a calendar’s worth of work. Devising content philosophies, crafting brand identities, assessing respect in a market, and finding a client’s voice require immense work simply to find the best angle of approach to a problem. On my second day at work, we scratched our heads for hours trying to find a way to make “securing your web domain” sexy. That’s par for the course here.
Agency work is an exercise in capitalist artistry, and it can be equally exciting as it is daunting. To actually harvest these abstractions, agencies need to perform an innumerable amount of minute, technical tasks, requiring knowledge of software and programs across nearly every aspect of the business field. I soon learned the best work experience I had was my education itself, as every day involves being introduced to new clients in various fields and industries, all with their own histories, nuances, and aspirations.
My days became a process of turning vague wishes into billable deliverables. What tangible labor produces a brand that people remember as trustworthy?
To best accomplish these goals, I needed to grow my skill set and my mindset. Thankfully, my environment encouraged this growth. Each day after work I would spend a chunk of my free time looking up skills, practices, and behaviors I could absorb to further benefit our product. By taking the time to invest in my self-improvement, I was making every aspect of my work stronger. By sharpening my copywriting, design, or marketing skills in the evenings, I was seeing improvements in aspects of my work where I would never have considered them applicable.
Coming out of school, my biggest reservation was the notion of losing my education. With no plans to pursue a masters degree, I had considered my undergraduate experience to be the last time in my life where my sole purpose, day in and day out, was to learn. I thought once people entered the “real world,” they had to shelve their dreams of mastering new skills in lieu of producing positive margins for their bosses. In my mind — no matter what field I ended up in — my time to grow had passed.
I was afraid of becoming a drone. Some mindless, water cooler small-talker with a khaki-colored soul. But instead of wading into adulthood, I’ve been thrust into a deep end where it’s not just hard to tread water, but damn near impossible to not learn the butterfly before breakfast.
In consulting agency life, I found a culture where constant learning is more than a motivational poster — it is a necessity, for you and the company, to be valuable. Everything from keyword analysis and meta descriptions to case studies and logo design requires me to be a smarter, faster, and overall stronger student than I’ve ever had to be.
The consequences of my education are even greater now than they once were. The more I learn, the better I can personally help our clients; we never forget that they’re real people, with real visions, values, families, and dreams. When we do good work, their lives are better. They benefit from me advancing myself. Before this job, all my education had always been solely for my own benefit. Now, I can see a positive impact of my growth on the lives and success of others around me — most notably, our clients.
If you think I’m inflating my experience, I promise you I’ve considered the possibility. Maybe all my excitement over the drastically deep pool of opportunity before me is just a new hire’s overreaction to new job growing pains. Developing and executing a content strategy that reflects the identity of a national brand and advances it within a marketplace can’t be this dramatic, right?
I think facts prove otherwise. My coworkers, whether they are industry newcomers or veterans, all exhibit the same symptoms I do. They’re reading self-improvement books and gossiping over a well-designed website. They’ll burst into the room or blow up the Slack channel brimming with passion for a new project. They’re still finding ways to learn, to grow, and to be better people, and it’s the work that’s empowering them to do it.
I’ve learned opportunities for personal growth and development need to be seized in life, not expected. Working in an agency will push you, and frustrate you, and take you out of your comfort zone so often you won’t remember what’s under your resume’s “special skills” section anymore.
But despite all of that, I’m growing, and helping people, and making a difference, all the while improving myself.
With a month under my belt, I’ve begun to see where I can take my own career with a finer clarity. I can grow in this industry beyond what I thought possible in a professional setting. Most importantly, I have autonomy over the direction of my growth.
With growth come goals. While the skills I entered the company with have been honed, new directions of advancement are appearing constantly. Whether it’s boosting my proficiency in graphic design or expanding my coding languages, there’s always more for me to do, and more ways that I can make a positive difference in people’s lives.
That’s the best thing that I have discovered about the consulting agency life; there are no ultimate goals. Our personal growth, as well as our business, is a continuous process of improving. There are short-term goals, like completing case studies or improving a social media account’s ROI, but they come in tandem with the improvement process. Every day I work to better myself produces stronger content, which produces stronger results, which makes more successful businesses, happy clients, and a better version of myself.
It’s the kind of culture I worried I wouldn’t be apart of again. Lucky for me, I found it.