A beginners’ guide to agency life: how to thrive in your first month
Written by Ben Southworth
Excitement. Nerves. Terror. Starting out in a new job can be a blur of emotions. The first days and weeks pass in a flash and before you know it, you’re a month in wondering where the time has gone.
Having spent six years in-house, my first day in agency life was in many ways a step into the unknown. I’d worked with many agencies in my career to date, but what happened between client calls, whether brilliant or baffling, was always a mystery.
But now, six weeks into my career on this side of the client relationship, I’ve learnt a lot about how to hit the ground running. Here are my dos and don’ts to help you thrive in your first month at a communications agency.
Do – get to know your colleagues
Everyone wants to make a great impression on day one. You have probably spent the entire commute envisaging the slickest press release, or perfectly shaping the best content plan for a new client. But adjusting to a new workload can be more overwhelming than you may expect, and the reality is that just getting through the day is an achievement in itself.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make a great first impression though. Between the inevitable cries for IT support, make sure to proactively introduce yourself to as many of your new team as you can. These strangers will become your safety net, your cheerleaders, and maybe even your new best friends. A little effort now goes a long way later!
Beyond this, getting to know your teammates helps to build trust and, once you do get stuck in to your work, will give you a better understanding of how your new company operates, giving yourself the best chance of success.
Do – raise your hand
Nothing will endear you more to your new team than showing enthusiasm to support their work. When there are chances to help, offer to help. Whether it is taking part in an ideation session or helping to draft and review content for an urgent deadline, helping others will help you become part of the team.
Say yes to tasks that you feel confident with and offer your time for activities where you are looking to grow. Throwing yourself into something unfamiliar in a new job takes courage, but the advantages are plentiful; it forces you to develop new skills, teaches you that you are more capable than you think and, of course, improves your CV.
It’s also essential for you to grow in your role. A recent survey found that 74% of employees felt they weren’t reaching their potential due to a lack of development opportunities, so seek them out and take your learning to the next level.
Do – communicate
Open communication helps to set positive, healthy working relationships with your new colleagues. It also helps your colleagues to understand your skills and to recognise that you respect theirs.
So, let people know when you are comfortable and when you are stepping out of your comfort zone. Tell your boss that you can take on an extra task but that you will have to deprioritise something else. Thank your colleague for their support on a piece of work.
Don’t – panic
Starting a new job can be overwhelming. With almost 60% of UK employees facing imposter syndrome, you are not alone in worrying if you are good enough. You are in the majority!
The early weeks in a new job require a lot of learning. Trying to take on board information about multiple new clients and industries can leave you drowning in reading alongside your mounting to-do-list.
Don’t be surprised if tasks you are used to doing in five minutes take longer at first as you familiarise yourself with new audiences and campaigns. This is all part of the onboarding process. To help get through this tricky period, try to:
- Breakdown and prioritise your tasks
- Take breaks to maintain focus
- Always celebrate the small wins – these are the foundations of your long-term success!
Don’t – be afraid to ask for help
It can be scary to admit that you need help when you want everyone to see how great you are. Yet sitting there with a piece of work you don’t understand and stress levels rising higher and higher is not good for anyone.
Your new employer doesn’t expect you to know everything; in fact, they know that you don’t, and they hired you anyway! Use the first weeks in your new role to ask as many questions as possible and don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘could you clarify this’.
I guarantee that every one of your colleagues has a unique skill that you can learn from.
Don’t – forget why you have been hired
As you try to gain a foothold in a new role it can feel like an uphill battle, so remember to lean into your strengths. Bring your previous experience and individual thought process to the table to offer an external view to your team.
When your employer was looking for someone to fill a gap in their team, they decided that you have the skills, potential and experience they need. So express yourself and show them why they made a great decision.
Enjoy the ride
When you start something new, you have already made the most difficult choice to leave your comfort zone and explore a new opportunity in life.
So, whether you are starting tomorrow or are already two weeks into your new role, take a deep breath – you’ve done the hard part. Now you just need to enjoy the ride! There are going to be highs and lows, but your new team will be right next to you through them all.