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Are you right for a small agency?

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With school back in session at colleges and universities across the country, it made me think back to my introduction to advertising course at Ball State University. On the first day of class, the professor asked us to write down the three companies we would most like to work for on an index card. Since I basically knew nothing about the ad industry at the time, I jotted down the only ad agencies I had heard of – Ogilvy and Mather, JWT and BBDO.

Four years and a bachelor’s degree later, I find myself working in the media department here at CurrentMarketing. Although we don’t have 20 branch offices nor 10,000 employees like JWT,  we’re just as passionate and creative as any shop on Madison Avenue. After all, we were recently named one fastest growing companies in America by Inc. Magazine. So the first lesson of the school year is don’t judge an agency by its size.

Many advertising students stereotype small agencies. Students seem to believe successful agencies are only those with hundreds of employees and a dozen national accounts. Some of the most successful agencies in the business today, however, are small independent shops, including Definition 6, Heat and Mono.

Considering the growth of small agencies across the country, many of the 1.65 million recent college graduates interested in pursuing a career in advertising wonder whether to apply at the large multi-national agencies or seek out employment at small independent shops? Although both types provide similar services, small agencies require individuals who not only love the business, but also consider the well being of the agency top priority.

To aid job hunters decide in their search for their first agency employer, I have put together a brief list of traits and skills that might help decide if they are the type of person that is right for a small shop, like CurrentMarketing.

1.Passion. Small agencies have no room in their headcount for those who lack enthusiasm. Smaller agencies need those who are forward thinking and never settle with status quo.

2.Efficiency. Smaller agency must maintain the highest efficiency in order to compete with the shops on Madison Avenue. Team members must be willing to perform a number of tasks at once. Two or more persons at a large agency often perform what one person produces at a small agency. If you are passionate about the industry, however, you will welcome this challenge with open arms.

3. Teamwork. The ability of a potential new hire to work well with others is important to any agency, regardless of size. With smaller staffs and limited resources, however, teamwork becomes essential at a small boutique. For example, large agencies might have a designated print services department. At CurrentMarketing and other smaller shops, print fulfillment is a team effort. From the president down to the secretary, we work as a team to accomplish any task from taking out the trash to packing items to ship to our beloved clients.

4. Determination. For small independent shops, the road to the top is long and narrow. If you want to work at an agency destined for greatness, you must be determined and committed to the company’s future growth and not just your personal aspirations. For small agencies to continue growth and retain their culture, they must employ those individuals who share in their dreams to make it to the top.

5. Proficiencies. Above all else, be good at what you do. Notice, though, that the desired trait for small agencies is proficiencies. In other words, to be a real prospect for an up and coming agency, you have to have a broad skill set. In these trying economic times, agencies big and small are looking for those individuals who can produce in several positions. At CurrentMarketing, for example, some employees are not only account coordinators, but also media buyers. It is this type of versatility that small agencies need from their employees in order for the company to grow.

Working at a small agency is one of the most rewarding ways to work in advertising. In fact, CurrentMarketing considers itself a 32-person family. For those of you seeking jobs, keep in mind that the advertising is not limited to the handful of agencies that make the headlines in Ad Age or those featured in your marketing textbook. History has shown that brightest ideas and best campaigns come from the smallest places.

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