Why working for a consultancy is the best thing that can happen to you when you’re in learning mode
It does not matter if you’re fresh out of school looking for your first real-life work experience in marketing, or if you come with some years under the belt from traditional in-house roles, chances are you will learn much more and much faster in a consultancy setting. Why you ask? Well, here are some thoughts.
First up, diversity
Your in-house tech stack – as impressive as it may be – will fall short of the tech and tools you’d be exposed to working for a consultancy. Looking at our team, our members work with 3-5 clients a year at least. All of them have their individual challenges, technology, team setup, budgets, goals etc. In a corporate world, those aspects will most likely not vary all that much. Also fun and an effective setting for learning are the different industry sectors agencies tend to work with. In our case, we have clients that cover local non-profits to global tech giants. We work with banks, jewellers, car manufacturers, travel agencies, insurances, telecom and logistic corporations and anything in between. In agencies, you may get to work with a funeral home and night club in the same week - needless to say, that is a lot to take in and handle, which will help shape you into a well balanced, multi-skilled, all-around marketer. And the more diverse your team, the better: more people to learn from and with!
Corporations are notoriously slow in adapting to, never mind driving change (may not be true for all, but many). By nature, successful agencies must be flexible, fast and agile. Deadlines are tight and things are happening much quicker. You’ll learn a lot about time and resource management as well as teamwork. It is not uncommon to juggle various projects and deadlines – all while making sure the clients feel like you are giving them your full attention. With this speed of operations, it is critical to stay committed to excellence. Which leads us to number 3.
Thirdly, a different kind of accountability
In a traditional, hierarchical corporation environment you have a lot of responsibilities: for the quality of your work, well being and productivity of your department and/or the health of your organisation overall. Your performance is tied to KPIs, expectations from your superiors and measured by familiar standards across your peers and probably various departments. Well, in an agency you have that times x (x being the number of clients you handle) and you are no longer just accountable for yourself, but your team, business partners and in some cases 3rd party vendors. It’s a completely different set of reliabilities and dependencies to get used to, experience being your teacher.
Fourthly, dealing with ambiguity
Working in a consultancy will turn this challenge into a strength. You will learn to work with limited amount of input, drawing conclusions and finding solutions with a fraction of the information you would want to have to make sound decisions. Initially, you’ll want to work off assumptions, but soon you’ll learn to ask the right questions and tap into the right resources. You will develop routines to acquire or access the data you need to move your project forward and delight your client with your work. The initial project scope may be as unclear as the team structure, support and deliverables, but that gives you an opportunity to actively negotiate the work and nurture the relationship with your customer – another valuable lesson for life.
Here comes the but
Alright, it would not be a balanced article if I didn’t mention some potential downsides of agency life. Yes, sometimes you might put in more hours or odd hours. In corporations, you often set your own pace, things will get done eventually, the level of dependencies is lower, and expectations are different. Working with clients, I might send out info on weekends or respond to emails while on vacation. I don’t have to, but it feels more natural than responding to your boss while out of the office. Clients have less visibility into my schedule and I certainly want them to know they are in good hands. Also worth mentioning maybe is the fact that career progression and “climbing the ladder” can be more straight forward in traditional organisations than in a consultancy. I’m by no means saying you can’t have a career in consulting, I’m just saying it will be different.
There’s more structure in corporate, but more fun in consultancy life. Maybe you won’t retire in an agency, but the learnings will be invaluable for your career. The speed and variety of projects, as well as the experience you gain from working with a large number of clients, make this step attractive for new and more tenured learners. Depending on the type of consultancy agency, you may also work with a super diverse team that is more than happy to share their experience (and workload) with you.
If you want to learn more about how we’re doing things at Peregrine, get in touch or swing by our office to talk to our team. As always, we’re interested in your point of view and questions.