The other day, I was having coffee with a friend in one of the city’s cafes, where a woman caught my attention. She had her phone in her hand and was pacing back and forth as she discussed her corporate crisis with whoever she was talking to on the other end of the line. I was not indenting to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear parts of her conversation. The urgency of in her tone just made her speak loudly.
She was speaking in both English and Arabic, with the panic in her voice rising with every passing minute. What I deduced from her conversation was that she was hit with the impact of an unhappy client. The client was probably even threatening to stop working with her and her team. By the end of her phone calls, she was stuck with the need to find someone to fix the bad quality of work submitted. Although it was the Eid holiday, the client didn’t seem to care, as he or she obviously wanted the content to be fixed on that same evening.
A few minutes later and after three more pacing phone calls, she stormed out of the cafe in a frenzy. I can’t say that I felt glad for her. In fact, she inspired my sympathy.
She was definitely a strong woman. She even reminded me of my days working for PR and advertizing agencies. After all, it is only when you are working for the sole purpose of satisfying a client that you find yourself forced to leave your friends behind in a cafe on the Eid Holiday to solve a problem that may even cost you your job. However, to speak in agencies’ favor I must say that the whole work environment they provide is an education on its own. Now that I have been out of the agency scene for three years, I can say that people who have spent a few years working for agencies hold an unmatched work ethic they should be commended for.
Some of the best lessons I have learned in my life I can attribute to the eight years I spent working in agencies of advertizing and PR. There is no sugar coating to the work dynamic you find there. Once you enter an agency you know that your job, your career success, and your annual raise depends on your ability to keep client complaints to the minimum. You instantly learn that the client is not always logical but he is always right. You even find that agency people tend to respect deadlines because they learn quickly enough that ASAP means precisely that, today means in a few hours, and tomorrow means 12 am of the same day you are working.
Working for an agency, you become the person who is able to think on the spot without second guessing your word choice, because you simply don’t have time to second guess. You become the person who is able to work and produce under pressure , even if that pressure means editing a 70-page document after working for over nine hours. You also become the person who is able to laugh off any complaint, and finally you learn to appreciate all the late nights, the stress, the pressure, and even the sometimes upset client because all these lessons prepare you for life.
Agencies combine the stressful and the glamorous under one roof. They could be as glamorous as they are seen on the show “Mad Men” and equally as dark. But above all they teach you a few life lessons you wouldn’t learn anywhere else. Spend a few years of your career in an agency and you learn fast enough that money is power. On the upside, this dynamic makes you seek perfection in everything you do. It makes you stop questioning things too much. You also learn that you are not entitled to anything really, and that you are either forced to accept situations as they are or you could just choose to leave. No one will apologize to you for hurting your feelings. So, you go into life knowing it really isn’t that fair.
However, believe it or not people who have worked in agencies stand out in any crowd because they can do any work outside the agency setting in record time and to high perfection. Their sense of responsibility is impeccable, and their attention to detail is unmatched. Any job outside the agency becomes a piece of cake to them. I can even say that any creative person should spend at least a year of their career in an agency because their ability to think creatively can only amplify itself there.
Although, I do not see myself working as an employee in an agency at this point in my life, I will always be grateful to the many life lessons I learned working in one.