How to be Entrepreneurial at an Agency – One Millennial’s Perspective

September 19, 2014

The next generation of workers – millennials – seems to be everyone’s concern, especially the media’s. If you Google “millennials” and “work” you will be hit with a barrage of reports on how to attract and retain millennial employees, many of which contradict one another. In some cases, the advice is sound: a healthy social media presence does make a difference, sure. In others, the advice seems like it would apply to all generations: more direct communication, transparency, and idea-soliciting.

So rather than dive into an analysis of other perspectives on the millennial employment experience, I will share my own, which I’ve found resonates with peers also developing their careers.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the idea of being where psychology and culture converge – and when I learned there were people who get paid to explore this territory, I just about died. Strategic Planners. Insight Experts. Trendspotters. Were these roles for real? However at that time, most of them were for high-level employees, not for entry level bright-eyed grads like myself.

Coincidentally, through a friend’s recommendation, I happened to learn of an agency called Emanate – and boy did I love these people. I quickly switched plans from a career in advertising and decided to launch myself into the world of PR; where strategic planners were few and far between. Since then, it’s been a wild ride. I’ve been an account person, a creative catalyst, an insights/planning specialist and now (my latest evolution) a millennial expert. All within seven years.

This may seem unique but, when I look to my mentors within Ketchum, I’ve noticed that almost all of their careers have had interesting twists and turns. Many have been here for 15, 20, even 30 years. Serendipitous moments of opportunity where they were able to jump to a new region, or specialize in a new skill that fulfilled both a personal passion and agency need.

Based on observing their experiences and mine, I’ve developed the insight that a blend of patience, loyalty, passion and a good eye for white space can allow a young adult to carve their own niche within an agency. Allowing young professionals to achieve a sense of individuality and satisfy self-starter desires (traits often attributed as high on the millennial value-set) while also reaping the benefits of stable and long-term development.

So my message to fellow millennials in agency life: don’t be afraid to seek advice, explore new territory, and leverage personal passions in the workplace. Balance patience with persistence. Sure, it’s a little bit of a dance, but the pay-off can be tremendously rewarding.

I loved my previous roles. I love my current role. I love the idea that every day I can envision limitless possibilities for what future roles I might explore. When you believe that the journey is the destination, the experience never ceases to be enthralling.

Sarah is a VP of Insights & Strategic Planning, working closely with team leaders to catalyze the planning/creative process and develop key research-based and target-relevant insights that help lead to clear strategic vision. In essence, people fascinate her and she figures out what makes them tick so brands can intersect with consumers in a meaningful, mutually profitable way. Recently named to the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in Marketing & Advertising, her focus on millennials has become a core area of Ketchum expertise. A committed cultural enthusiast, it’s hard to find something that doesn’t interest her. You can follow Sarah’s random musings on Twitter @sarahjane047, PSFK, and her blog, So Five Minutes Ago.