Best Career Entry Point: Agency or Corporate?


As pending graduates begin planning for their 2012 job searches, the question I hear most is:  “What’s the best starting point for a career–agency or corporate?”  I weighed in on a LinkedIn discussion about this topic today, and decided to add some points here.

Although most of my career has been spent in corporate jobs, I have become a firm believer that the best training ground for PR talent is in an agency setting.  In most cases, you’ll receive the broadest experience from an agency position.  Larger corporations generally assign new hires into specific aspects of PR–media relations, digital, internal communications, etc.  While the work can be very fulfilling, the narrower experience doesn’t translate well to an agency setting–unless the agency is searching for a specific expertise. 

Agencies also offer more job opportunities as corporations continue to outsource cost center-related functions.  Corporate downsizing over the past decade has helped spur the growth of agencies since critical communication activities still need to be performed.  When corporations decide to add to their PR teams, they increasingly look to their agencies for talent.  They know agencies generally do a good job of training employees, and most agency employees have learned the importance of agility and multi-tasking. 

If  you’re in a corporate position and think you might eventually want to join an agency, you should make a special point to develop and maintain a network outside your company.  This network can help validate you with those who might be skeptical of your ability to move from a corporate to agency position.

5 comments on this post.
  1. Perry Chlan:

    Entirely agree with Ron’s direction even though corporations may pay more for entry level professionals. If you can, don’t bye pass the agency opportunity for a few thousand more that a company may pay…in 5-7 years you will gain very valuable experience than can make you even more marketable.

  2. Culpwrit:

    Perry makes an excellent point–some entry-level corporate jobs pay more than agencies. Over the past few years agency starting salaries have become more competitive so the difference is insignificant compared to the experience opportunity.

  3. Steve Doyal:

    Another avenue for broad-based experience: a small non-profit staff. You’ll have responsibility, accountability and will learn to accomplish a lot with tight resources — experiences that will serve you well in life and throughout your career.

  4. Ray Bennett:

    I have been fortunate to intern at some great agencies. I agree this is great advice. I loved the opportunity to work on different accounts and brainstorm for different clients. Agencies also force your mind to grow as you get to discuss ideas and learn from so many different people.

  5. Urban Petersen Southeast Missouri State University:

    I agree with the article, my dad is in corporate with a retail store for 35 years and he has noticed that out sourcing is becoming more and more prevalent in the past 10 or so years. Any way they can cut cost’s they will. I am currently looking for a job out of college and as much as I would like to take a job that pays better it is also important to think about the variety of experience you can get from a job before deciding between the two.

    Urban Petersen
    Southeast Missouri State University

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